YOKOHAMA, A PORT WITH AN INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR
Home to Japan's Largest Chinatown
(February 25, 2008)
Over the nearly 150 years since Yokohama's port first opened to the outside world in 1859, a distinctive local culture has taken root in the city. Home to more than 3.6 million people, Yokohama today is a city that is so open to outsiders that locals say anyone can call themselves a Hamakko (Yokohama native) if they reside in the city for three days. Entrepreneurs and intellectuals from all over Japan and cultural influences from overseas have flowed into Yokohama since it was first opened as a gateway to the outside world, a process that made the city the cosmopolitan place it is today. As a base for international trade and cultural exchange, Yokohama has also absorbed a wide array of culinary influences, giving the city's food culture a distinctly international flavor.
Japan's Largest Chinatown
About 240 Chinese restaurants jostle for customers in Yokohama's Chinatown, and the district welcomes roughly 20 million visitors every year. Cantonese cuisine comprises about 40% of the restaurants, with Shanghai, Beijing, and Sichuan fare also figuring prominently. In addition to multi-course meals, various dim sum treats are also popular. One easy way to enjoy Chinatown is to try one of the big Chuka-man (steamed buns containing pork and other savory fillings) served piping hot at Chinatown storefronts while strolling down the district's vibrant streets.
Japanese-Style Western Food
Several standard yoshoku dishes that are now popular throughout Japan originated in Yokohama. One, known as doria, features a bed of rice covered with cream-simmered shrimp and gratin sauce and then baked in an oven. Doria was conceived at Yokohama's Hotel New Grand (established in 1927) by the hotel's first master chef, Swiss chef Saly Weil. Another yoshoku dish that is now familiar to diners nationwide, spaghetti Napolitana, was created at the same hotel soon after the end of World War II. Spaghetti Napolitana features sautéed ham, garlic, onions, and mushrooms and cooked spaghetti mixed into a tomato sauce. The dish is finished with a sprinkling of finely grated parmesan cheese and parsley. As for desserts, ice cream was introduced to Japan through Yokohama. The frozen treat was first manufactured and sold in Japan by a Yokohama ice shop in 1869.
In recent years, Yokohama has hosted events promoting French, Indian, and other cuisines, suggesting that the city's voracious appetite for foods from around the world is very much alive and well.
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