Foodie hotspots: Saga, Karatsu, Yobuko, Kanzaki, Ureshino hot springs, Kanzaki.
Foodies Look Out For: Crab, squid, somen noodles, odd sea creatures from the Ariake-kai sea, yudofu tofu hotpots.
The Basics: Saga may be small, but it has provided a disproportionate number of the nation's successful industrialists and entrepreneurs, has distinct links with Korea, especially though the coastal town of Karatsu, and is home to the traditional ceramic powerhouses of Arita and Imari.
Foodies Go Saga: Japan’s smallest prefecture boasts excellent crab cuisine using the gazami or Takesaki-kani crab from the Ariake-kai sea served as sashimi, grilled, or in zosui. The Ariake-kai is the location of Japan’s largest tidal flats, and the huge expanses of mud teem with bizarre looking, (some may suggest, odd-tasting) marine life.
Try the prehistoric mekaja a rare type of brachiopod (it is also called the 'green shamisen shell'), or the bizen-kurage jellyfish finely sliced and served as sunomono, the warasubo ray-finned goby, or most famous of all, the bog-eyed, multi-finned mutsugoro mudskipper. It can be added to miso soup, or skewered from head to tail while still alive, and grilled over charcoal with a sauce of shoyu, sugar and water. That said, no one in Saga eats much mutsugoro anymore, not least as it has become the Ariake-kai’s logo in fighting the developments and pollution that threaten the sea. It still crops up in eki-ben station lunch boxes, though.
Rather more-conventional fare is yobuko-ika, squid from the north-coast fishing village of Yobuko, eaten as sashimi or tempura, or Kanzaki town’s kanzaki-somen noodles. A visit to Ureshino onsen hot spring is incomplete without trying yudofu made using the alkaline thermal water that especially tenderises the ingredients.
The Saga Budget Gourmet
Back in the mid 1970s a Saga city kissaten (coffee shop) invented something called ’Saga Sicilian Rice’. Quite why and how remains lost in the mists of time, but today there are over thirty places serving the dish of grilled meat, a salad and mayonnaise all atop rice (!). Majenba, was created in Oji city. In the local dialect, it means 'have to mix it up', and means pretty much any kind of noodle, with local produce, mixed into a thick, soy-based garlic sauce. Caveat emptor, is all we can say.
FGL Favorite Tipple: Munemasa Shuzo's barley shochu, Mizunomai, has been developed especially for the international market, and is a light, clean, gently sweet high alcohol shochu.
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