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NIPPONIA No.31 December 15, 2004

Bon Appetit!

Japanese Culture in the Kitchen

Culinary Adventures in Nagoya

As the countdown to Expo 2005 continues, excitement is growing in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan.

Nagoya, the capital of the prefecture, is known throughout the country for its distinctive cuisine.

These pages present some of the unique and delectable tastes offered in that food wonderland, Nagoya.

Written by Otani Hiromi, food journalist, Photos by Sugawara Chiyoshi and Kono Toshihiko

Miso ni-komi udon: Typical Nagoya fare. Udon noodles are simmered in an aka-miso stock with ingredients like chicken and Welsh onions. Choose a type of udon that is firm even when cooked, to prevent the noodles from becoming mushy while being simmered. Japanese from other parts of the country are taken aback at first by the hard noodles, but soon like them and ask for more.
Nipponia thanks the following for their collaboration: Yamamotoya Souhonke

How are recipes in Nagoya different from those of other parts of Japan? The first thing that comes to mind is aka-miso, a reddish-brown soybean paste used to flavor a wide range of food. The best known aka-miso dish is miso nikomi udon, thick white udon noodles boiled in an aka-miso broth. Chefs say this recipe was first developed in family kitchens, after cooks began boiling noodles in an aka-miso soup. Miso soup is eaten practically every day all over Japan, but in Nagoya a reddish brown variety of miso is most often used. Aka-miso has many purposes, including making a sauce to pour over pork cutlets (miso katsu), and preparing a broth for simmering the stringy parts of beef or pork (dote-ni).
Miso is a fermented paste made usually from soybeans, rice or barley. Aka-miso basically contains only soybeans and salt. Soybeans have more protein and fat than rice or barley, and when they are fermented they take on a rust color and a strong flavor. This gives aka-miso a slightly tarter taste than other types of miso, and a stronger flavor. It brings out the taste of udon noodles, meat and other ingredients, and has given Nagoya cuisine a number of distinctive dishes known throughout Japan.
Kissaten, which are something like coffeehouses in the West, are found in every Japanese town and city, and are especially popular in Nagoya. They are a good place to relax over a cup of coffee, tea or other non-alcoholic drink. In Nagoya, the service gets top marks. If you order a coffee in a kissaten in any other Japanese city all you will get is coffee, but in Nagoya they will bring you a snack as well. For a typical Nagoya kissaten experience, order the "morning set." Like kissaten breakfasts elsewhere in the country, the "set" most likely consists of a cup of coffee, toast and a boiled egg, but in Nagoya you will also get a salad, sausage and juice, enough for any big appetite. Some Nagoya kissaten even throw in a bowl of udon noodles.
People in Nagoya are also fond of ebi furai, deep fried prawns coated in breadcrumbs. They are included in some of the set meals that are sure to be on the menu of any casual restaurant there. Another popular Nagoya prawn dish is ten musu, pieces of deep fried tempura prawn in a ball of rice, with a wrapping of nori seaweed.
The list of unusual taste experiences goes on. In other parts of Japan, a slice of eel is covered in a sauce, grilled, then placed on top of rice in a bowl, to make una-don. But in Nagoya the eel is chopped and mixed in with the rice, to make hitsumabushi. And then there is ogura tosuto, a toasted sandwich with sweet adzuki bean paste in the middle. Dishes like these use ingredients that are commonly available, but are unusual because of some culinary innovation unique to the area.
Today, we can buy Nagoya dishes like miso katsu and ten musu in specialty outlets in other cities as well. One speciality that has long been popular all over Japan is a deluxe meal with Nagoya kochin chicken. The birds were first bred in the Nagoya region about 130 years ago, and are sought after for their prolific egg laying and excellent, firm meat.
Another welcome feature of Nagoya's specialties is their reasonable price. If you ever visit the city, you will be able to enjoy some distinctive eating experiences. NIPONIA


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