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Sample the Final Contenders of Japan’s Premiere Local Dish Grand Prix

Konnano Arunda 47CLUB is a site where you can order products handpicked by regional newspapers nationwide. It will hold the “Zenkoku no Chiho Shimbunsha ga Eranda! Konnano Arunda! Taiso 2017” (Selected by Regional Newspapers Nationwide! Great Find! Grand Prix 2017) on October 16th (Monday), with this year marking the fourth time that this event has been held thus far. In this competition, six representative products that have won preliminary regional contests – wherein Japan was divided into six blocks – will be presented as the final candidates. Regional newspapers throughout the country will then hold a vote on them. Out of the 35,000 products sold this year, the product that the newspapers declare as the best “Konnano arunda!” (literally means “there’s this thing!”) will be awarded the grand prize. Below are our findings after actually tasting these six representative products that are overflowing with regional colors and surprises.

Why Is It Clear?! Red and White Celebratory Tomato Juices

The winners of the Hokkaido/Tohoku block were Delicious Tomato Marushibori “Premium” and “Tsuyu Shizuku” from Delicious Farm. These juices come from a particular variety called Gyokuko Delicious. It is also known as the “maboroshi no hinshu” (phantom variety) due to the difficulty in cultivating it. Marushibori (whole squeezed) is a premium juice that uses only tomatoes with more than 10 times the usual sugar content. Tsuyu Shizuku (drop of dew), on the other hand, is made by slowly and carefully filtering tomatoes to create a clear juice that packs a punch! Its transparent appearance is unlike any other tomato juice on the market. The Marushibori is very thick, and will make you feel like you are actually drinking ripe tomatoes. Meanwhile, the Tsuyu Shizuku is so clear that you won’t believe that it is made from tomatoes! However, when you take a sip, you’ll surely be shocked by its tomato taste! Both these juices do not contain any additives or salt, so you can enjoy the real flavor of tomatoes.

Red-Hot! The Special Shonan no Akai Hoseki

Representing the Kanto block is the “Red Pitaya to Acai no Cheese Tart” (red pitaya and acai cheese tart). The beautiful body of the Shonan no Akai Hoseki (literally meaning “red jewel of Shonan”) that fascinates everyone at first glance is made from the super fruit called “red pitaya”. This fruit is loaded with Vitamin B, Vitamin C, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, including vegetable fibers. This tart has the right amount of chewiness and a unique texture. You have to try this cheese tart that is not just delicious, but that also fuses three elements together: beauty, deliciousness, and health!

Nostalgic Yet New! Versatile Rice-Based Sweets from Niigata

For the Hokushinetsu block, the rice sweets (yucali) – Sasa Dango and Shirayuki Kirara – were chosen as representatives. Yucali has been loved in Niigata for over 100 years. Though it looks like konpeito (small sugar candy), it is actually an exquisite delight that has crunchy yet soft rice at the center, and comes in cute colors and shapes. Each rice ball measures only 5 – 6mm, but pop one into your mouth, and sweetness will explode through it! Sasa Dango contains two types of yucali: yomogi (mugwort) and anko (red bean paste). The yomogi has a refined kind of bitterness that adults love, while the anko has exquisite sweetness. Eat them together and you’re in for a surprise – the flavors of Niigata’s famous dish, Sasa Dango (rice cake wrapped in bamboo leaf), will spread through your mouth! The Shirayuki Kirara has four kinds of yucali inside: mitsu (honey), shiso (Japanese basil), yuzu (citrus), and matcha (green tea). It will fill your mouth with a mild sweetness. These sweets may be tiny, but they are so tasty that you won’t find it hard to identify each flavor!

Safe, Secure, and Low Calorie! Konjac Chiffon Cake?!

The representative for the Tokai/Kinki block is the Konjac Chiffon Cake Plain. The fifth-generation female entrepreneur of Yukarian thought about ways to get more people to eat handmade konjac, which is how she came up with the idea of using konjac in sweets so that even young people would enjoy eating it! Capitalizing on the expandability and water retention power of konjac, the Konjac Chiffon Cake is a kind of cake that is made without any baking powder. You won’t find anything like it elsewhere! It makes use of grapeseed oil, which is good for your health. The konjac is kneaded to reduce calories by 30%. Chiffon cake is something that people tend to indulge in, since it is quite a light dessert. Since there are fewer calories in this konjac-based chiffon cake thanks to the konjac, you can heartily munch on it without any worries! You won’t taste the konjac at all, so even those who do not like konjac can still enjoy this cake.

A Soft Fusion of Mochi Made at 4:00 AM and Curry!

The representative product of the Chugoku/Shikoku block is the Kinetsuki Mochi Curry. Born from the novel idea of putting curry on freshly made kinetsuki mochi (pounded rice cake), this is a curry product that can be eaten using chopsticks. President Okuda, a bistro chef who always thought about wanting to “revitalize the region through the development of the 6th product*”, developed this dish in cooperation with local farmers. In order to reproduce the softness of freshly pounded rice cake, they had to be speedy. Farmers would pound rice cakes starting around 4:00 AM, and then deliver them that same morning! They have created a product that makes them puff up in pride, claiming that “it remains soft even after 120 days, which is right around the expiry date”.

*This refers to the final product that was created from the company's revolutionized industrial process, which involves acquiring the produce, processing them, and distributing the final result.

The Curled Up Viper is Thrilling!

Finally, representing the Kyushu/Okinawa block is the Habu-iri Habu Sake (sake with a habu viper inside). While people may be afraid of the poisonous snake, it is still regarded and appreciated as an ingredient that has medicinal benefits. The coiled habu viper with its fangs showing is really a thrilling sight! The power of the habu snake – which is considered mysterious as it can live for more than 100 days with only water for sustenance – is extracted by soaking the viper in 59-degree alcohol made from sugarcane. It is then combined with 13 kinds of fragrant herb alcohols (with awamori – a strong Okinawan rice liquor – as the base) to create the habu sake from Nanto Brewery. It is aged in storage for a long period of time, and uses mild-tasting habu extract. Since it incorporates plenty of fruit herbs, it has a kind of scent and taste that will make you feel like you are drinking brandy.

The champion of last year’s competition was said to have enjoyed a 400% jump in online sales after it won the award. We just can’t take our eyes off this year’s Konnano Arunda! Taisho that showcases a collection of specially selected products from all over Japan!

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 10.14.2017]

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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