Regional Foods in Japan: Tohoku & Kanto

Jan 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Regional Foods of Japan

The various regions of Japan each have their own food specialties.  The Regional Foods in Japan series by Etsuko of Tokyofoodcast started last week with a look at the regional foods of Hokkaido and will continue on Fridays throughout the month of January at The Nihon Sun.

Today we’ll cover Tohoku & Kanto…


Senbei Jiru Japanese Food Wanko-soba – Eating wanko-soba in Morioka, Iwate, is like participating in an eating competition on television in Japan. You start with a small bowl containing just a mouthful of soba ,only to be followed by continuous shots of soba refills until you call a stop to the force-feeding. A personal server refills your bowl just as fast as you finish one along with a chant, “Chan-chan”, to help you keep pace.

Senbei Jiru – This soup dish with wafer like crackers made of flour from Hachinohe won second place in the 2008 B-1 Grand Prix. Senbei is broken up and added to a steamy pot of soup a few minutes before serving to preserve the al dente texture.

Gyutan – When you step out the JR Shinkansen at Sendai in Miyagi, you see a restaurant row called Gyutan Dori that specializes in beef tongue.  Restaurants serve barbecued sliced beef tongue with ox tail soup and barley rice and even tongue curry, stew or sashimi!

Wanko-Soba Japanese Food

Gyutan Japanese Food

Image Credit:  Wanko-Soba, senbei jiru (pictured on right) & Gyutan in Sendai


Monjayaki Japanese Food Yuba – The skin formed on the surface when soy milk is heated. It’s sold either fresh or dried. Although Kyoto produces over 80% of yuba in the nation according to research from the Soy Information Center, Nikko in Tochigi is famous for this vegetarian food.   Many restaurants in the area serve light delightful dishes incorporating yuba.   During my last visit, I tried onigiri wrapped in yuba instead of seaweed.

Chanko nabe – There are many Chanko nabe restaurants in the Ryogoku area of Tokyo that are operated by former Sumo wrestlers who once competed in the  Ryogoku Kokugikan in the same area.  At the end of the morning training, wrestlers eat a meal prepared at the stable, chanko, often hot pot dish with meat or fish, vegetables cooked in soup.

Monjayaki – Tsukishima in Tokyo has more than 70 monjayaki restaurants. It is a cook-it-yourself type dish in which you put cabbage and other ingredients on a griddle, form a ring, then, pour very watery batter flavored with sauce in the middle. The resulting dough mixture looks like an under-cooked gooey pancake or crepe, and you use tiny metal spatulas to scrape up and eat monyayaki directly from the grill. Map of monja-yaki restaurants in Tokyo (in Japanese – restaurants are located between Tsukishima Station on Yurakucho or Oedo Line and Kachidoki Station on Oedo Line)

Yuba Onigiri Japanese Food

Chanko nabe Japanese Food

Image Credit:  Yuba Onigiri in Nikko, Chanko nabe at Kirishima, Ryogoku, Monja with tiny metal spatula (pictured on right)

If you are planning a trip to Tohuku be sure to taste these regional specialties and learn about more things to do and see in the region by reading Japan: A Closer Look at Tohuku Part 1 & Part 2 and keep reading The Nihon Sun to see our closer look at Kanto coming soon.

Check back next Friday when I will tell you about the regional foods of Chubu & Kansai.  In the meantime please visit me at Tokyofoodcast to follow my foodie adventures in Japan and learn more about Japanese food and food culture .

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