When we travel as a family in Japan, we try to taste the most iconic food in the area that we’re visiting. Over our two very fun days in Nagoya this past summer, we got to try some of the most famous Nagoya food.
Of course, it would be impossible to try everything Nagoya is known for, but we tried to squeeze in what we can in two short days. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing recipes for some of the Nagoya food we tried on the blog.
Famous Nagoya Food
Are you ready for the culinary adventure? Come join us on this fun journey tasting various food in Nagoya.
Atsuta Horaiken (あつた蓬莱軒)
We arrive in Nagoya just in time for dinner. It was really special because we got to meet a JOC reader Cyn who currently lives in Nagoya and enjoyed dinner together (and she gave me this beautiful apron I wore for this video! Thank you Cyn!).
One of the most famous food in Nagoya is eel (unagi) so we met at Atsuta Horaiken inside the Matsuzakaya department store. Atsuta Horaiken was founded more than 140 years ago and is considered one of the best eel restaurants in all of Japan, and they are known for their trademark Hitsumabushi (ひつまぶし).
What is Hitsumabushi you ask? It’s actually a set meal (Teishoku 定食), consists of eel over rice, garnish (green onion, wasabi, and nori), pickles, miso soup, and dashi soup for your eel over rice. For the eels, they are prepared and brushed in their secret tare sauce, grilled over binchotan (備長炭) by experts with many years of experience.
Fresh wasabi is offered at the table to enjoy with the meal.
Chilled sake in ice, the presentation was simple and elegant.
Assorted sashimi, most of the vegetables used for decoration are edible.
Here is how you enjoy Hitsumabushi, there are 4 steps:
- First, enjoy the taste of eel with rice by themselves.
- Second, enjoy the eel with a little bit of green onion, wasabi, and nori seaweed.
- Then, enjoy the eel as Ochazuke-style (with dashi soup poured in).
- To finish, enjoy the meal with your favorite way.
The eel had amazing flavor and definitely much better than what I could prepare at home. It was a delicious meal and it was so nice getting to know Cyn.
Besides eel, Nagoya is the most famous for its chicken. Many yakitori restaurants in Japan would advertise they source their chicken from Nagoya. In Japan, some chicken are raised to such a high standard they can be enjoyed raw. One of the largest chicken chain restaurant from Nagoya is Yamachan (75 stores across Japan). We tried it before with friends in Tokyo and it was so yummy. Since we were in Nagoya, we had to try Yamachan where it was originated!
The menu at Yamachan is mostly food that goes well with drinks like small Japanese tapas dishes. We tried a variety of dishes below and to be honest, they were all pretty average. If you are going to Yamachan’s, stick to the wings and enjoy as many as you can. Skip the rest. 😉
The seasoned chicken is deep fried, then lightly coated in sauce. It’s a bit salty, spicy, crunchy, juicy, and simply irresistible. 5 wings costs ¥430. An average adult can easily eat 10-15 wings.
There’s an instruction of how to eat the mid-joints. The Japanese people like having detailed instructions for everything…
Miso katsu skewers.
Tsukune with yakitori tare.
Chicken skin wrapped gyoza.
Misokatsu Yabaton (みそかつ矢場とん)
Besides eel and chicken, another well known Nagoya specialty is pork cutlet (tonkatsu) with hatcho miso sauce called Miso Katsu (味噌カツ). Miso Katsu Yabaton has more than 60 years history, and their hatcho miso sauce is what they’re are the most well known for. If you are in Japan, there are 13 locations you can visit including two in Tokyo.
We had really high expectations because
- who doesn’t love juicy fried tonkatsu
- we always eat ours with tonkatsu sauce so this is different.
The restaurant had a line going out the door even after the lunch hour rush was over, so we waited for a bit before being seated.
Finally, when the pork cutlet came out we couldn’t conceal our excitement. We ordered the half sauce half plain so we can enjoy both (see image above). The first taste was a bit shocking, as our brains are programmed to taste tonkatsu sauce but instead, it’s a strong and distinct miso taste. The pork was deep fried well and a pretty generous portion, but honestly we couldn’t get why people loved it so much. Our stomach and taste buds were a bit confused, as we tried figure out what is it that we missed.
Fast forward 3 months, and as I tested Yabaton’s copycat recipe at home, we ate miso katsu quite often. Something incredible happened; we started loving it. We actually begin to enjoy the hatcho miso sauce with our pork cutlet and it was nice to have something different from our standard tonkatsu sauce. The Miso Katsu recipe is coming soon. I hope you try it out for yourself!
One of the famous Nagoya food that I was looking forward to eat was Tenmusu. They are rice balls with shrimp tempura as a filling. Such a fantastic dish by itself, yet I’ve never tried this combination and I looked forward to trying one in Nagoya. I’ll be sharing this recipe in my next post, so I’ll keep it simple here.
Tenmusu at Yamachan
Ogura Toast 小倉トースト
Ogura Toast is simply a toast topped with butter and sweeten azuki bean (Anko or Ogura). This combination is a regional favorite and you don’t see it elsewhere.
Luckily the hotel we stayed had a free breakfast at an executive floor where they have DIY Ogura Toast. The hotel recommended to put a whipped cream on top. I was quite surprised how delicious this was! Another red bean paste recipe that I’ll enjoy!
Ogura Toast made by me at the hotel
As we spent 2 joyful days in Nagoya (posts about things to do in Nagoya coming soon), we decided on trying one more Nagoya food before leaving – Taiwan Abura Soba (台湾油そば) or often called Taiwan Mazesoba (台湾まぜそば). Since the main store of Ginbare55 was right across the street from our hotel so it was super easy to get to.
In the noodle, the toppings include ground pork cooked in chili pepper and soy sauce, chives, green onion, bonito flakes power, and a raw egg yolk. You mix the noodle with the toppings.
The menu was very simple, there are 4 types of noodle with different toppings you can choose from.
Just like the Hitsumabushi, there are instructions on how to enjoy Taiwan Abura Soba.
- First, mix and eat the noodles.
- Add vinegar and la-yu (Japanese chili oil) and enjoy.
- While it’s hot, enjoy eating noodles.
- Add seasonings at the table and customize your noodles.
- Enjoy it with steamed rice.
The noodle was not “great” or “special” for us. Maybe our expectation was too high or we haven’t quite acquired its taste. We had similar noodles in Taiwan which comes with a bit of soup and make easier to eat. The Taiwan Abura Soba was really dry and we drank a lot of water with the dish. Maybe if we tried it more time we’ll enjoy it more.
In case you’re curious, Taiwan Abura Soba (Mazesoba) has nothing to do with “Taiwan” and it’s original Nagoya food.
I hope you enjoyed our quick food tour through Nagoya. If there are any interesting Nagoya food you’ve tried you think I should try next time I visit, please let me know in the comment box below.
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