Nagoya Meibutsu – Nagoya Meishi
"What are you doing this weekend?"
I am heading to Shizuoka!
"Oh! Will you eat strawberries?"
Huh? No, I wasnt planning on it...
"Really? How about Unagi!?"
What? No... I...wait... why?
"That's what you eat in Shizuoka!"
When you travel in Japan, you must know the proper thing to eat! It will be the first question upon your return, "how was the roasted sea slug?" If you didn't eat it... you will have done your trip wrong and be shamed in the eyes of your Japanese co-workers... that may not be wholly true, but chances are they really will ask. In Japan, no matter how remote and small, there is a special, famous "meibutsu," which everyone seems know off the top of their heads.
Meibutsu is a Japanese word for famous regional cuisines, though it could also be a number of handcrafted or other items besides food, which are associated with specific places.
You can find many lists of Nagoya meibutsu, sometimes called Nagoya meishi online, they generally include:
- Miso Nikomi Udon
- Ankake Spaghetti
- Ogura Toast
- Curry Udon
- Taiwan Ramen
- Nagoya Cochin Chicken
If you are going to live in Nagoya, you need to try the food. Here are a few options for you.
Hitsumabushi is a style of eating unagi, or BBQ freshwater eel. Unagi is pretty much the best thing ever, but I strongly prefer "nagayaki" style to the needlessly complicated hitsumabushi style favored in Nagoya. You can find a more detailed guide here. Hōraiken near Atsuta-jingu s the most famous spot to try this Nagoya specialty.
Miso Nikomi Udon
Misonikomi is an udon noodle soup made Nagoya in true style with hatcho-miso, a salty red miso paste made by fermenting for no less than 24 months. True hatcho miso comes from Okazaki, and is very popular.
Misokatsu is a pork cutlet smothered in thick red miso sauce. People in Nagoya are nuts for red miso, while people in the remainder of Japan will not touch it. This is basically a bowl of rice topped with fried pork and smothered in red miso sauce. The best place to try this is Yabaton, which reportedly started the dish and at the very least has been serving the dish to rave reviews for 40 years.
Tebasaki is sort of like a Japanese version of American Buffalo Wings. They are chicken wings tossed in a spciy sauce and deep fried. It is a nearly perfect accompaniment to beer or saki, and really is a signature dish of Nagoya. It is even more so the signature dish of an incredibly popular izakaya called Yamachan. This is the best place to start as it is the orignal, but Furaibo is also a solid popular option as well. Please note that you should pay attention to how it is eaten... there is "a way" to do it if you want to look like a local.
Tenmusu is basically a rice ball with shrimp tempura inside, and it is probably my favorite Nagoya food. Tenmusu is is a little bundle of delicious that is a little smaller than your run of the mill "onigiri" or rice ball, and it is readily recognized by the seaweed wrapping and a little bit of shrimp popping out of the top. Its simple, but good, especailly from Jiraiya.
Ankake Spaghetti is sort of a Japanese style spicy spaghetti, typically with well over cooked noodles.
Ogura Toast is pretty much red bean paste on toast, which sounds terrible but is actually pretty good. The toast is buttered, and then spread liberally with this sweet bean paste. A side note about Nagoya, we have a great coffee shop culture here, which features the "morning set," where you can get some toast and snacks, maybe an egg, with coffee for between 300-500 yen all over town. You will find ogura toast as an option in many of these "morning sets," the concept of which is also a Nagoya tradition especially at Komeda Coffee, which may or may not offer ogura toast, but is a Nagoya tradition in its own right.
Taiwan Ramen originated not in Taiwan, but here in Nagoya. It can simply be thought of as "spicy ramen," and it is quite good. The best place to try it is the originator of the dish, Misen in Imaike.
Kishimen is like an udon noodle, only it is broad and flat instead of round and... not flat? The food's relationship to Nagoya dates back to the edo period, and there really isnt much to say about it. If you like udon noodles, you will like this. I prefer them. Try some!
Nagoya Cochin Chicken
Nagoya Cochin Chicken is a special breed of chicken developed here. Its apparently quite good, and there are many shops that offer it. Its chicken, if you like chicken you are probably going to like this chicken!
Photo: flickr.com "世界の山ちゃん 金山中央店" by Yusuke Kawasaki (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified