The specialities to try in Tohoku

  • Published on : 23/12/2022
  • by : brya@japan-exp…

Bridging Japan’s major hub of Kanto and the most northern island of Hokkaido, the Tohoku region boasts some of the main island of Honshu’s most celebrated attractions, its unique culinary culture especially garnering large attention from both domestic and overseas travelers alike. 

Morioka Reimen is originally based off of the Korean noodle dish served cold and typically enjoyed in summer. The two dishes share many similarities, both being served cold (the name reimen translates to “cold noodles” in English), both noted for noodles with chewy texture, and both often being served with kimchi. However, the rendition made famous in Morioka also differs in many ways, making it distinct to the region.

Instead of pure buckwheat, reimen is often made with potato starch or wheat flour, giving them a translucent appearance. The broth is often a mix of both beef and chicken stock, and along with meat and egg, seasonal fruit is often added for a fresh touch (yes, that is indeed a slice of watermelon you see in the picture below.) Reimen can definitely be seen as one of the most stand-out noodle dishes, not just in Japan, but the entire world, and serves as a strong representation of the eccentric cuisine to come out of the area. 

Morioka Jajamen continues this trend of very distinct, uniquely served noodles. Jajamen also has origins from outside of Japan, being based off of Zhajiangmian from China, noodles topped with a thick, soybean-based sauce. Taking a similar formula but adding a Japanese twist to it in the form of thin udon noodles and a thick meat miso results in Jajamen. Topped with a variety of garnishes ranging from cucumber, ginger, and garlic, it is then mixed thoroughly, resulting in a hearty umami-filled dish. 

Morioka reimen

Morioka reimen

©Yuzu2020, Getty Images, canva

Morioka jajamen

Morioka jajamen

©Gyro, Getty Images, canva

Wanko soba

Wanko soba

©PHOTON09, Getty Images, canva

Most well-known of these fruits are peaches, and of the 20% of the total peaches sourced within Japan that come from Fukushima, none is more praised than the highly-coveted akatsuki peach. Noted for their strong, floral aroma and complex sweetness, Fukushima’s akatsuki peaches are enjoyed all throughout Japan during the hot summer months and are often presented as an offering to the Emperor. While they are, of course, often eaten as-is, they are also usually served as a primary ingredient in desserts and confectioneries like parfaits. The bright sweetness and mild acidity is said to pair well with mellow milk or vanilla ice cream and is a delicious way to cool down during the hot Japanese summers. 

Fukushima also yields a bountiful harvest of Apples, a staple of the Tohoku region as a whole, but Fukushima’s production of the universally-beloved fruit boasts some very unique attributes. The prefecture’s climate is warmer than most other apple-producing regions in Japan, allowing them to ripen faster than what is usually seen.

Additionally, Fukushima’s apples are often grown under direct sunlight, not in shadebags, allowing for a wide range of flavor profiles. They are noted for their perfect balance between tart and sweet and, just like the aforementioned peaches, are often served as a dessert mainstay. Both fruits are seen as Fukushima’s produce poster children, so much so that the prefecture’s mascot is a rabbit named “momorin,” who’s name is derived from the Japanese word peach, momo, and apple, ringo. 

Peaches

Fukushima Peaches

©punch_ra, pixabay, canva

Fukushima apples

Fukushima apples

©vinti, pixabay, canva

Kyoho grapes

Kyoho grapes

©deko, Getty Images, canva

One can see no better display of this than the many, high quality fish markets lining the northern coast of the prefecture along the Tsugaru Strait and Mutsu Bay. Of the most famous of these is Furukawa Fish Market, a short walk from JR Aomori Station.

Here, the crown jewels of Aomori’s surrounding waters can be found in varying forms, including whole fish to be brought back home or used by local chefs at their restaurants, or slices of sashimi, shucked oysters, or opened uni that are ready-to-be eaten then and there. You’ll also find a number of small stands and restaurants throughout the market serving delicacies such as nokke-don,  a specialty of Furukawa Market that consists of fresh, raw seafood chosen by the customer and placed over rice. 

The featured ingredients in Nokke-don are ones the population of Aomori takes great pride in and is often sourced by restaurants and seafood-enthusiasts all around Japan for its high-quality. These include shellfish such as scallops, abalone, uni, and varieties of crab such as helmet crab, or togekuri-gani, as it’s known locally. Mantis shrimp, known as shako in Japan and gasa-ebi within Aomori, is also a well-known delicacy, offering a texture with a bit more bite and heartiness than other types of shrimp.

Furukawa Market, Aomori

Furukawa Market, Aomori

©sodai gomi, flickr

Nokke-don

Nokke-don

©Ken Sakaeda, flickr

In Sendai, two popular chain restaurants often come up in conversation (and contention) amongst locals. Rikyu and Kisuke locations can be found all around the city and other parts of the prefecture, both with their dedicated fans and customers. But Aji Tasuke, located in Sendai’s Ichibancho, is where it all started. In 1948, then chef/owner Keishio Sano, influenced by the works of French chefs, began selling beef tongue dishes at what was originally his yakitori restaurant. From there, the dish took off and became an everlasting presence in the city’s culinary scene. Given its relatively recent introduction to Japan, it’s staggering to see how well-established beef tongue has taken hold of the region, but with the indulgence of such a dish, no one can fault the population of Sendai for their obsession. 

Across the board, beef tongue dishes in the city share distinct and recognizable characteristics. The tongue is usually prepared over a charcoal grill, creating a smokey and robust flavor. The meat is often scored and sliced, giving a very distinct, scalloped shape that promotes tenderness. However the recognizable sponginess of beef tongue is still preserved to provide a satisfying bite when eating. Beef tongue dishes are also often served with mugimeshi, white rice that is boiled with barley, providing texture and rich, nutty flavor and aroma compared to pure white rice. Utilizing other parts of the ox, soup with simmered oxtails are often served with the signature dish. 

Beef Tongue, Sendai

©Gyro, Getty Images, canva

Beef Tongue, Sendai

©Takayan, Getty Images, canva

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