aichi: Nagoya and beyond

Miso Hungry, Miso Udon

Foodie hotspots: Nagoya (Osu Kannon, Kanaya, Yaba-cho, Takaoka, Chigusa ward, Showa ward, Nagoya and Meitetsu Stations, Imaike, Nishiki San-chome), Okazaki city, Toyota city, Ichinomiya city.

 

Foodies Look Out For: Misonikomi udon noodles; miso pork and miso pork on rice; Hitsumabushi eel cuisine; kishimen noodles; Nagoya Cochin chicken; Nagoya Ramen; wagashi Japanese sweets.

The Basics: Nagoya, Japan’s third or fourth largest city, depending on whom you listen to, is very much at the heart of all that is Aichi. With a little bit of Toyota, Ichinomiya and Okazaki thrown in. Nagoya gets bad press as being something of an 'ugly duckling', but we've always found it welcoming, fun, and.. good value. Prices are noticeably lower here than in other major Japanese cities. 

080405_nagoya_csl_sakura Nagoya Castle during Sakura Season

Foodies Go Aichi:

Aichi has long been known for its miso and it’s at the heart of much of the Prefecture’s cuisine. Top of the popularity charts since time immemorial are three dishes: miso nikomi udon, miso katsudon and, sans miso, hitsumabushi.

Misonikomi udon is a hearty, filling hotpot, with Hatcho miso dissolved in a katsuobushi fish stock. To this is added chicken and vegetables, and udon wheat noodles. Cooked in an earthenware pot or nabe, it is heated until piping hot, and just before serving a raw egg is cracked into it. Voila. Similar dishes elsewhere in Japan that use dashi stock rather than miso go under the name nabeyaki udon. Not surprisingly, Aichi people find the whole concept weird.

You can find misonikomi udon throughout Aichi, but those in the know head to Nikomi no Takara in Osu Kannon, on Monzenmachi-dori street opposite the huge Komehyo second-hand store. Miso-nikomi_kishimenMisonikomi Kishimen, photo by Woinar

Miso katsu is breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet in an akamiso red miso-based sauce. When served atop white rice, donburi-style, it is known as miso katsudon. Try it at the Misokatsu Yabaton Honten in Nagoya’s Yaba-cho.

A visit to Hatcho Miso no Sato in Okazaki will tell you everything you need to know about the stuff. The nearby Maruya Hatcho Miso company offers fun tours of their museum and plant.  

Hitsumabushi is the Aichi take on eel cuisine, its version of unadon, aka unagi donburi, grilled eel on rice. Here the eel, most likely caught locally, is slit along the belly and grilled without steaming. It is served in a unique manner. Firstly, you just enjoy as it is; then you add negi green onions and a seasoning such as wasabi, sansho pepper, or nori seaweed; thirdly, you pour dashi broth or green tea on top, to create a zosui-syle rice soup. Finito. 

Try it at Atsuta Horaiken Honten near Tenma-cho station. They have been serving it since 1873. Maruya Honten in Tempaku ward is another specialist. It has a much more conveniently located branch in the Meitetsu Department Store main building.  Sanpuku, a minute’s walk from the South exit of Kanayama station, has been serving it under the title kamamabushi since 1950.

Nagoya is as noodle mad as the rest of the nation. In its case, the white wheat noodle of choice is kishimen, a flat variety. We’ll give you ten guesses what flavoring is mostly used in the soup. Oh OK, we’ll fess up. It’s miso. Kawaiya just off Sotobori-dori street North of Takaoka station dates back to 1951. Miya Kishimen Jingu-ten, in the grounds of Atsuta Jingu Shrine, is hugely popular.

Aichi is home to the Nagoya Cochin, a breed of chicken that ranks, alongside Akita’s Hinai-dori and Tokushima’s Awao-dori as Japan’s finest. Find it at any yakitori specialist, and if you are lucky, in the ubiquitous tebasaki grilled chicken wings, the latest food craze to sweep Nagoya. It’s also good in oyako donburi, chicken and egg on rice.

The Osu Kannon district is an especially happy hunting ground for such good, inexpensive bites, sometimes even with a Brazilian-Japanese flavor (Osso Brazil is particularly famous). For many years Brazilians have come to Nagoya and environs to work in the Toyota car plants and related factories, and Osu Kannon is one of their favorite haunts. If you want to try a good, old-fashioned izakaya, check out Suehiroya.

On the wagashi Japanese sweets front, the local variety is uiro, a steamed desert made from uruchi non-glutinous rice, containing green tea, kurozato black sugar, azuki beans or kuri chestnuts.  Osu Uiro, Aoyagi-Sohonke and Mochibun, founded in 1659, are famed makers. Dainagon (find it in the Meitetsu department store) is an azuki sponge cake, and Owari Komachi is a kind of pie with sweet red bean paste. Head to Nagoya’s Mitsukoshi or Matsuzakaya department store basement food floors for comprehensive selections.

 

The Aichi Budget Gourmet

Ogura toast; Sugakiya ramen; Tenmusu tempura onigiri; Chicken miso katsu burger, miso katsu bento, Taiwan ramen.

 

The Ramen Professor Recommends: Looking for something a little different? Check out Kourai Dojo in Chigusa ward. It opened in 1959, and has been wowing the locals with its Menma Ramen ever since. It is based on Chinese medicinal food, is accompanied with homemade koraininjin su ginseng vinegar and spicy ra-yu sauce. Kouyouken img_0

Koyouken in Sakurayama, Showa ward, near Nagoya City University has followed in Kourai's footsteps since 1976. The menu is by size: sho small, chiku medium, bai large and the enormous kotobuki. You've really got to like your bamboo shoots though. If you don't fancy the trek out to Showa ward, Shinkourai in Naka Ward near Hisayaodori station offers a rather more genteel take on the same theme.

Nagoya has happily embraced Taiwanese style ramen, thanks largely to the success of Misen Imaike Honten, which prides itself in offering the best tebasaki chicken as well as spicy torigara broth noodles. It's a minute's walk from exit 9 of Imaike station, and is only open in the evening. The branch in Nagoya station is open all day.

Beyond Nagoya, Tsukemen Ikki and Ba-bara and especially Nihonbare in Okazaki, Chuka Soba Hanamaru in Ishinomiya and Nanaya in Toyota city get good reviews from the locals. Kuheiji sake nagoya

Kuheiji is an excellent Nagoya sake

FGL Favorite Tipple: Try to seek out Nagoya's Kamishibito Kuheiji Junmai Daiginjo, a betsuatsurai 'special order' luxury, creamy, elegant sake that has found favour amongst top French chefs. Kintora Junmai and Yamamori Shuzo's Takanoyume, and Ichinomiya's Kinginka and Houraisen, are all good bets.

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John F. Ashburne

John F. Ashburne

Editor-in-Chief Foodies Go Local