Skip to main content

Japan's Tasty Secrets - Itadakumasu!

I've been perusing a new booklet just published - Japan's Tasty Secrets - covering a myriad of regional food favorites in Japan. Complete with a map, color photographs, and good basic descriptions it quickly moves the reader beyond the stereotypical sushi and rice (although these are also present in fantastic forms) to flavors, textures and ingredients that embody Japan through the seasons. Beginning with favorite Japanese foods eaten all across the country the booklet includes a large section on signature regional favorites that in some cases have been served for hundreds of years.

The short descriptions include a bit of story (as all good food does) to further whet the appetite. Knowing it is difficult to grow rice further north in colder areas such as Nagano makes the popularity of soba (buckwheat noodles) clear to me at last. (Buckwheat requires a shorter growing season and is a good source of nutrition.) Imagining food shortages after WW2 gives the Ikinari dago (sweet potato dumplings) a different flavor, as does knowing that Karashi rennkon (lotus root stuffed with spicy miso) started being served about 300 years ago. The sheer variety of ingredients - tofu, wild and tame vegetables, duck, chicken, pork, salmon (meat and roe), pufferfish, trout, wild boar (seriously), beef, konnyacu, ginger, garlic chives, chestnuts, etc. -shows that this list only scratches the surface of a rich culinary history.

Even if a traveler can only stay in Tokyo, this handbook opens a door to a variety of tastes that can only be found in Japan. (To be frank, eating here can sometimes be intimidating, but this booklet will take the edge off.) Organized by the Rural Development Planning Commission, a division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, (and translated by Adam Fulford), the booklet is meant to encourage exploration of the countryside. (Something I would highly recommend, too!) Information on getting a copy before coming to the country is available here, but it can also be found at Japan's international airports.


Roanne said…
Thanks for the link. I have downloaded the booklet and look forward to giving it a good look next week after finals. The peek that I did take is really interesting. I can't wait to share w/ Kurt!

Hope that you are doing well.
Talk to you soon.
Martin J Frid said…
Looks like a fantastic booklet, I'm going to have to get one asap. Indeed "mouthwatering" stuff.

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro