Wakayama Prefecture’s Best-Kept Secrets: Kue Nabe, Meharizushi & More
Wakayama prefecture is known for its delicious food, and one of the most famous dishes is the wakayama ramen. It’s located on the Kii Peninsula in the Kansai region on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Wakayama.
The wakayama ramen is a local version of ramen characterized by a strong delicious taste and a soft texture. The broth is made by boiling pork bones for a long time, and the noodles are served in a separate bowl with toppings like char siu, green onions, and soft boiled eggs.
Let’s look at the culinary history and unique ingredients of wakayama prefecture and why it’s considered one of the best ramen dishes in Japan.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Discovering the Culinary Delights of Wakayama Prefecture
- 2 The Delicious Wakayama Ramen: A Must-Try Dish
- 3 The Delicious Kujira no Tatsuta-age: A Staple Dish in Wakayama
- 4 Meharizushi: A Local Delicacy of Kumano Region
- 5 The Irresistible Delicacy of Kue Nabe: A Local Winter Dish
- 6 The Tangy and Sweet Kishu Plum Sauce of Wakayama Prefecture
- 7 The Soy Sauce of Wakayama Prefecture: A Flavorful History
- 8 The Pristine Ume of Wakayama Prefecture
- 9 The Kumano Beef: A Local Brand of Premium Beef in Wakayama Prefecture
- 10 Discover the Distinctive Taste of Sansho Pepper in Wakayama Prefecture
- 11 The Sweetest Treat: Mikan from Wakayama
- 12 The Unique Vegetarian Delight: Koya Tofu
- 13 Wakayama’s Tuna: A Prized Catch
- 14 The Famed Bonito Flakes of Wakayama Prefecture
- 15 Conclusion
Discovering the Culinary Delights of Wakayama Prefecture
Wakayama Prefecture, located in the Kansai region of Japan, is known for its rich culinary culture. The region’s cuisine has been influenced by various factors, including its geography, climate, and history. Wakayama’s cuisine has a long history, dating back to the Edo period, when the region was known for its rice production. Over time, the region’s cuisine has evolved, incorporating new ingredients and cooking styles.
The Main Dishes of Wakayama
Wakayama’s cuisine is diverse, with a variety of dishes that are popular among locals and visitors alike. Some of the main dishes of Wakayama include:
- Katsuobushi: This is a type of dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna that is commonly used as a seasoning in Japanese cuisine. Wakayama is known for producing some of the highest quality katsuobushi in the country.
- Tonkatsu: This is a dish made from breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets. Wakayama’s version of tonkatsu is known for its crispy texture and rich flavor.
- Kishu Plum Sauce: This is a sweet and sour sauce made from pickled plums that is commonly used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine. Wakayama is known for producing some of the best kishu plum sauce in the country.
- Kue Nabe: This is a hotpot dish made with long-tooth grouper, a type of fish that is commonly found in the waters around Wakayama. The dish is typically served with a variety of vegetables and tofu.
- Meharizushi: This is a type of sushi that is made by wrapping vinegared rice and chopped seafood or vegetables in a pickled leaf. Wakayama’s version of meharizushi is known for its unique flavor and texture.
The Unique Cooking Styles of Wakayama
Wakayama’s cuisine is also known for its unique cooking styles, which include:
- Yakiniku: This is a style of Japanese barbecue where diners grill their own meat at the table. Wakayama’s yakiniku is known for its high-quality beef and pork.
- Boiled Dishes: Wakayama is known for its boiled dishes, which are typically made with a variety of vegetables and seafood. The key to these dishes is the broth, which is made with a variety of ingredients and spices.
- Grilled Dishes: Wakayama’s grilled dishes are typically made with high-quality beef and pork, and are known for their rich flavor and tender texture.
The Final Verdict
Wakayama’s cuisine is a unique blend of traditional Japanese dishes and local specialties. The region’s cuisine is worth trying for anyone who loves food and is looking to experience something different. Whether you’re a fan of seafood, meat, or vegetarian dishes, Wakayama has something to offer. So, if you’re ever in the area, be sure to spend a few days exploring the region’s culinary delights.
The Delicious Wakayama Ramen: A Must-Try Dish
Wakayama Ramen is a type of Japanese noodle dish that is popular in the Wakayama Prefecture. It is a unique and local version of ramen that is characterized by its strong and delicious taste. The dish is usually referred to as “chuka soba” or “Chinese noodles” in Japan.
What are the Ingredients?
The main ingredients of Wakayama Ramen include pork bones, boiled beef, and a special sauce made from chopped onion and other seasonings. The dish is also topped with char siu (roasted pork), green onions, and soft-boiled eggs. The soup is characterized by its rich and flavorful taste, which is achieved by boiling the bones for a long time.
How is it Served?
Wakayama Ramen is usually served in a bowl with noodles and soup. The dish is fully customizable, and people can add different types of ingredients to suit their taste. Some of the common toppings include seaweed, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts. The dish is also served with a side of rice, which is called “chahan.”
Where to Find the Best Wakayama Ramen?
There are many ramen shops in Wakayama Prefecture that offer different varieties of Wakayama Ramen. Some of the best shops include:
- Menya Hanabi
- Wakayama Ramen Kio
- Ramen Kobo Ebisu
Each shop has its own unique style and recipe, so it’s worth trying different places to find your favorite.
How is it Different from Other Ramen?
Wakayama Ramen is different from other types of ramen in several ways. Some of the main differences include:
- The soup is made from pork bones and beef, unlike tonkotsu ramen which is made from pork bones only.
- The soup is characterized by its strong and delicious taste, unlike the lighter taste of chuka soba.
- The dish is usually topped with char siu and green onions, unlike other types of ramen which may include different toppings.
Why is it Considered a Must-Try Dish?
Wakayama Ramen is considered a must-try dish because of its unique and delicious taste. The dish has a long history and has been featured in many local restaurants and shops. It is a suitable dish for people who prefer strong and flavorful dishes, and it is a great example of the variety of Japanese cuisine.
How to Cook Wakayama Ramen?
Cooking Wakayama Ramen can be a bit tricky, as the degree of boiling the bones and the sauce recipe varies from store to store. However, there are some simple steps you can follow to make your own Wakayama Ramen at home:
- Boil pork bones and beef for a long time to make the soup.
- Add chopped onion and other seasonings to make the sauce.
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions.
- Place the noodles in a bowl and pour the soup over them.
- Add the toppings, such as char siu and green onions.
The Delicious Kujira no Tatsuta-age: A Staple Dish in Wakayama
Kujira no tatsuta-age is a dish that has been around for a long time in Japan. It is said to have started during the Edo period and has been carried on as a tradition ever since. The dish is made by marinating white meat, mainly whale meat, in soy sauce, ginger, and sugar. The marinated meat is then coated in starch and fried until crispy. The dish is typically served with a sweet and spicy sauce.
Ingredients and Preparation
The ingredients for kujira no tatsuta-age are simple and easy to find in any Japanese kitchen. The dish mainly consists of whale meat, soy sauce, starch, ginger, and sugar. However, there are certain differences in the way the dish is prepared depending on the town or region.
To prepare kujira no tatsuta-age, the whale meat is thinly sliced into small pieces and marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, and sugar for a certain period of time. The marinated meat is then coated in starch and fried until crispy. The dish is typically served with a sweet and spicy sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper.
Meharizushi: A Local Delicacy of Kumano Region
Meharizushi is a traditional Japanese dish that is popular in the Kumano region of Wakayama prefecture. It is a type of sushi that is made by wrapping rice and pickled vegetables in grape leaves. The dish is stuffed with various ingredients, such as fermented soybeans, mushrooms, and fish.
Where can Meharizushi be enjoyed?
Meharizushi can be enjoyed both cold and warm and is often served as a snack or side dish. It goes well with a cold beer or warm sake. There are many places in the Kumano region that specialize in Meharizushi, such as the Mehariya restaurant in Hayatama. In addition to Meharizushi, the restaurant also serves other traditional dishes that use local ingredients and greens.
During my travels to the Kumano region, I had the opportunity to try Meharizushi at a local restaurant. The dish was served cold and had a refreshing taste that was perfect for the warm weather. The grape leaves added a unique texture to the dish, and the pickling of the vegetables gave it a tangy flavour. The olive oil glaze added a nice contrast to the milder taste of the rice and vegetables. Overall, it was a delicious and memorable experience.
The Irresistible Delicacy of Kue Nabe: A Local Winter Dish
Kue Nabe is a traditional dish of Wakayama Prefecture, made with the wild Long-tooth grouper fish that is indigenous to the eastern waters of Japan. The dish is a hotpot that is typically eaten during the winter months when the fish is in season. The Long-tooth grouper fish is known for its soft flesh and sweetness, making it a perfect ingredient for this concentrated and flavorful dish.
How is Kue Nabe Prepared?
To prepare Kue Nabe, the Long-tooth grouper fish is sliced into relatively thick pieces and cooked alongside tofu, shungiku (a type of edible chrysanthemum), and inside bean sprouts in a pot. Spring onions and eggs are also added to the pot, and the remaining warm broth is served alongside the dish.
Why is Kue Nabe So Delicious?
The sweetness of the Long-tooth grouper fish is concentrated in the broth, making it irresistible to anyone who tries it. The soft flesh of the fish adds a delicate texture to the dish, while the tofu and vegetables provide a balance of flavors. The dish is perfect for warming up during the cold winter months and is a must-try for anyone visiting Wakayama Prefecture.
The Tangy and Sweet Kishu Plum Sauce of Wakayama Prefecture
Kishu Plum Sauce is a condiment that is made from the Kishu Plum, a type of small, sour plum that is grown in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. The sauce is made by simmering the plums with sugar and vinegar until they break down into a thick, tangy sauce.
How to Use Kishu Plum Sauce
Kishu Plum Sauce is a versatile condiment that can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some ideas:
- Use it as a dipping sauce for grilled meats or vegetables
- Drizzle it over sushi rolls or sashimi
- Use it as a marinade for chicken or pork
- Mix it with mayonnaise for a tangy sandwich spread
The Soy Sauce of Wakayama Prefecture: A Flavorful History
Soy sauce is a staple condiment in Japanese cuisine, and its origins can be traced back hundreds of years. The technique of making soy sauce was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks who returned from China, where it was originally used as a byproduct of miso production. The monks stepped up the production of soy sauce in Japan, and it quickly took root as an important ingredient in Japanese cooking.
The Birthplace of Soy Sauce in Wakayama
Wakayama Prefecture is located on the coast of Japan and is filled with historical sites and plenty of local delicacies. One of the most prized condiments of the region is soy sauce, and the small town of Yuasa is considered the birthplace of soy sauce in Japan. This special sauce is made using a technique named “saishikomi” that takes a longer time than the regular “koikuchi” sauce.
Visiting the Soy Sauce Museum in Yuasa
For travelers looking to experience the history and flavor of soy sauce in Wakayama, a visit to the Soy Sauce Museum in Yuasa is a must. This museum is located in a historic shophouse and includes a tour of the local soy sauce factories. Visitors can learn about the special technique used to make soy sauce in Yuasa and even try their hand at making their own sauce. The museum also gives visitors ample opportunities to pick up bottles of this prized condiment to take home.
The Sacred Mountain and Frosty Story of Soy Sauce
The famed sacred mountain of Koya in Wakayama remains a pilgrimage site for devout Buddhists, but it also has a frosty story dating back to the early years of soy sauce production. It is believed that temples on the mountain would freeze soybeans outdoors during the winter to preserve them. When the beans thawed, they were used to make soy sauce, giving it a unique flavor that is still prized today. This story is just one example of the rich history and unique experiences that Wakayama Prefecture has to offer.
The Vegetarian Delight of Soy Sauce and Tofu in Koya
In addition to its use as a condiment, soy sauce is also an important ingredient in many vegetarian dishes in Wakayama. Koya tofu, a special type of tofu made in the town of Koya, is prepared using soy sauce and is a favorite among vegetarians. The town of Koya is also home to many Buddhist monks, and visitors can experience the vegetarian cuisine of the region by visiting one of the many shojin ryori restaurants in the area.
Getting to Wakayama and Exploring the Region
Wakayama Prefecture is easily accessible by train via the JR Kuroshio Limited Express from Osaka. The journey takes about two hours and is a great way to catch a glimpse of the beautiful coastal scenery of the region. Once in Wakayama, visitors can explore the historical sites, sample the local cuisine, and experience the unique flavors of soy sauce that make this region so special.
Courtesy of Wakayama Tourism Bureau.
The Pristine Ume of Wakayama Prefecture
When it comes to preparing ume, having fresh and natural ingredients is key. The pork used in the dish must be of the highest quality, and the miso must be carefully selected to ensure the perfect flavor. The resulting dish is delicate and delicious, offering a perfect example of the fine work that goes into preparing traditional Japanese cuisine.
The Modern Twist on a Classic Dish
While Ume has been a staple of Wakayama Prefecture for a long time, it has actually found its way into the world of modern cuisine as well. Many chefs are now using Ume in new and innovative ways, offering a fresh take on this classic dish. Whether you prefer the traditional preparation or a more modern twist, Ume is an ideal ingredient for any dish.
The Kumano Beef: A Local Brand of Premium Beef in Wakayama Prefecture
Kumano beef is a premium brand of beef that is found in Wakayama Prefecture, specifically in the southern region of the prefecture. The breed of cows that are raised to produce Kumano beef is called Kumanogyu, which is a breed that was improved by incorporating the pedigree of Matsusaka beef cows. The cows are raised in the Hinoki root region, which is known for its spiritual significance as it is part of the Kodo pilgrimage route.
Kumano beef is known for its exquisite marbling, which gives it a rich and delicate taste. The meat is leaner than Matsusaka beef, but it still offers a great value for its price. The savory flavor of Kumano beef is largely underrated, but it is definitely worth trying.
The Certification Committee of Kumano Beef
In order to recognize and promote the brand of Kumano beef, a certification committee was formed. The committee ensures that the cows are raised and fed according to strict standards, which includes a diet that is rich in locally grown feed. The committee also ensures that the cows are raised in a stress-free environment, which contributes to the quality of the meat.
Where to Find Kumano Beef
Kumano beef can be found in various forms, such as yakiniku (Japanese-style barbecue), steakhouse, and even in a burger at a diner. Some of the best places to try Kumano beef are in the cities of Nachikatsuura and Shingu.
Here are some cuts of Kumano beef that are worth trying:
- Kumanoogyu steak: This is a premium cut of Kumano beef that is served in high-end restaurants.
- Kumanoogyu burger: This is a unique way to try Kumano beef, as it is served in a burger patty.
- Kue nabe (Long-tooth grouper hotpot) with Kumano beef: This dish combines the local specialty of Kue nabe with the exquisite taste of Kumano beef.
If you are a meat lover, trying Kumano beef is definitely a must-do when visiting Wakayama Prefecture.
Discover the Distinctive Taste of Sansho Pepper in Wakayama Prefecture
If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, you may have heard of sansho pepper. It’s a traditional local seasoning that’s used in many different foods in Japan, and it’s particularly popular in Wakayama Prefecture. Sansho pepper is made from the dried berries of the prickly ash tree, which is native to Japan and is also known as the Sichuan pepper. The berries are harvested and then sliced, and the quality of the pepper depends on the appearance of the leaves and the color of the berries. The green berries are considered to be of higher quality than the brown ones, and they’re used to make a powder that’s sprinkled on top of oily fish or eel.
The Sweetest Treat: Mikan from Wakayama
Mikan is a type of citrus fruit that is grown in Wakayama prefecture. The warm climate of the region makes it an ideal place for growing this deliciously sweet and seedless fruit. Mikan is a type of mandarin orange that is prized for its bright color and fragrant smell.
Cultivation and Production
- Mikan is cultivated in the Arida region of Wakayama prefecture.
- The fruit is grown in orchards and harvested from November to January.
- Wakayama is the largest producer of mikan in Japan, accounting for over 70% of the country’s production.
- The fruit is carefully picked by hand and packed into crates for transportation.
- In addition to being sold fresh, mikan is also used to make juice and other products.
The Taste of Mikan
- Mikan is known for its sweet and juicy flavor.
- The fruit is easy to peel and eat, making it a popular snack in Japan.
- The seedless variety is particularly prized for its convenience.
- Mikan is also used in cooking and baking, adding a bright citrus flavor to dishes.
The Unique Vegetarian Delight: Koya Tofu
Koya Tofu, also known as Koyadofu or Koridofu, is a special type of tofu that is named after the sacred mountain of Koya in Wakayama Prefecture. Dating back to the early days of Buddhism in Japan, it is believed that monks on pilgrimage to Koya would preserve soybean curd during the winter by drying it in the cold mountain air. When thawed, the tofu would have a silky texture, capable of absorbing soup and other flavors.
The Process of Producing Koya Tofu
The process of producing Koya Tofu is simple yet special. Ordinary tofu is first made, and then it is dried in the cold mountain air of Koya. The tofu is left to dry for several days, removing all the moisture until it attains a hard texture. When needed, the tofu is soaked in water to rehydrate it, and it becomes soft and silky.
The Texture and Taste of Koya Tofu
Koya Tofu has a unique texture that is different from regular tofu. It is dense and chewy, with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. The tofu’s texture is perfect for absorbing the flavors of soups and other dishes.
Koya Tofu in Buddhist Cuisine
Koya Tofu is an essential ingredient in Buddhist cuisine, where vegetarian dishes are the norm. The tofu is a favorite among devout Buddhists, who stay at the temples on Mount Koya. The tofu is often served as a special dish during temple stays.
Wakayama’s Tuna: A Prized Catch
Wakayama is home to some of the largest tuna ports in Japan, including Katsuura and Nachi-Katsuura. These ports are bustling with activity as fishing boats come in daily with their catch of the day.
A Variety of Tuna Species
Wakayama is known for its variety of tuna species, including skipjack and bluefin tuna. In response to increased demand over the decades, the Kindai University in Osaka has succeeded in farming bluefin tuna, providing another option for those who prefer farmed fish.
Tuna Markets and Auctions
Visitors to Wakayama can sample prized tuna at the daily markets, or even witness the excitement of a tuna auction. The Toretore Market in Shirahama is a popular spot for tourists to try fresh tuna, while the Katsuura Fish Market hosts a daily tuna auction where visitors can see the head of the prized fish up close.
Farmed Tuna at Oshima Farm Station
Alongside the fishing industry, Oshima Farm Station in Wakayama has been successful in farming bluefin tuna in the Kuroshio City area. This sustainable method of tuna farming provides a reliable source of high-quality fish for the market.
The Famed Bonito Flakes of Wakayama Prefecture
Bonito flakes, or katsuobushi in Japanese, are a culinary treasure that can be found in multiple dishes all over Japan. However, the birthplace of these thin, hardened fish shavings is none other than Wakayama prefecture. The prefecture is known for its rich culinary history and ingredients, and bonito flakes are just one of the many gems found in this region.
The Different Uses of Bonito Flakes
Bonito flakes are a perfect garnish for many dishes, adding a pop of umami flavor to any soup or dish. Some of the most popular dishes that use bonito flakes include takoyaki (octopus-filled pancakes) and eggs. The flakes are also packaged and marked with the prefectures they come from, making it easy for consumers to know where their bonito flakes originated.
The Story of the Discovery of Bonito Flakes
The discovery of bonito flakes involves a shipwrecked fisherman who was stranded on the shore of Wakayama prefecture. The fisherman had a catch of skipjack tuna, but he had no way to preserve it. He decided to dry the fish in the sun, and after a few days, he noticed that the fish had become hard and had a different texture. He then repeatedly struck the fish with a stick, and the flakes fell off. The fisherman had discovered the process of making bonito flakes, which has been perfected over the years.
The Food of Wakayama Prefecture is a delicious blend of traditional Japanese dishes and local specialties. The region is known for its delicious ramen and kishu plums, and is worth exploring for a culinary adventure.
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.