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  • A culinary journey through Japan

    unagiSampling a country’s cuisine is an essential part of the travel experience, but in today’s world you don’t have to cross half the globe to taste one specialty or another. You can find Chinese, Indian, Japanese or Mexican food at almost every street corner. But as any foodie knows, if you want to be sure that you’re tasting the authentic stuff, the safest way is to get it straight from the source.

    Japanese food is widespread around the world, and you can find Japanese restaurants from the USA to Eastern Europe, but there are some things that you will only find in , say, a crowded street in Tokyo or a maybe peaceful village in Osaka prefecture. Here’s a list of interesting local tidbits and morsels that you should definitely taste when visiting the country of the rising sun.

    Konowata – Hokkaido

    A Hokkaido specialty, konowata is a type of shiokara, a type of Japanese fermented seafood. Some people compare the taste of shiokara to that of cured anchovies, but shiokara can be made from almost any imaginable sea-creature, for example, from sea-cucumber.

    Konowata is actually made of sea-cucumber guts, and it is considered to be an acquired taste even among the Japanese. Some bars specialize in shiokara, so this is the likeliest place where you can eat some, accompanied by a bowl of hot rice and a cool beer.

    Gyutan – Touhoku

    gyutanChinese cuisine is very versatile when it comes to using almost all parts of an animal’s body, and the Japanese are not far behind. Gyutan is very popular in Touhoku, where you can find it anywhere from street vendors to fancy restaurants. Gyutan is beef tongue, prepared in a variety of ways, grilled, stewed of sashimi style, that is raw. The best gyutan around is said to be found in Sendai.

    Inago no tsukudani – Kanto

    inagoThe Kanto region is so diverse that it’s difficult to pinpoint one single representative dish for the entire area. However, one of the most interesting dishes is inago no tsukudani, a dish of grasshoppers stewed in sweetened soy sauce. This dish can be encountered mostly in rural areas in Nagano, Yamagata and Gunma, and might be a bit hard to find in Tokyo, for example.

    Sobameshi

    Sobameshi – Kansai

    Kansai is famed for its noticeable dialect, humour, preference for light soy sauce and love of food. Kansai cuisine is just as famous as Kanto cuisine, and there are many typical dishes which have spread in the entire country. Sobameshi is a mix between fried rice and soba noodles, which might sound a bit weird, but it is delicious, and often sold as a cheap take-away.

    Kakuni – Kyushu

    kakuniIf you visit Kyushu, you should try the kakuni, a local specialty made of  stewed pork-belly. Doesn’t sound very appealing, but it looks and tastes much better than it sounds. The cubes of pork belly are simmered in rice wine, sake and soy sauce, until they become so tender that they can be easily eaten with chopsticks.

    Goya champuru – Okinawa

    goya champuruOkinawan cuisine developed in a lightly different direction than that of the other Japanese islands, mainly because of the American and other foreign influences. Spam is actually a very important ingredient in Okinawan cuisine, as strange as that might sound.

    Champuru, a dish borrowed from Indonesia, is a mixture of many different and often unlikely ingredients. Goya champuru contains Spam, pork belly, bitter melon and tofu, among other things.

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