A culinary journey through the Aomori Prefecture of northern Japan
The Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan may be famous for its ski resorts, but is also a spectacular destination for food tourism. We take a closer bite.
I’ve all the time liked Japanese delicacies. Sushi, ramen, miso soup and pickled greens are just a few of the dishes I look ahead to tucking into when planning a visit to my native Japanese restaurant.
So it was with nice pleasure that I organized my first ever go to to Japan in February 2020, to spend 5 days in the Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan’s Tohoku area. This is historically a well-liked vacation spot for ski tourism, however I used to be extra keen on discovering its culinary delights.
Like the relaxation of the county, delicacies in northern Japan centres round the custom of washoku (which means “food of Japan”) based mostly on rice with miso soup and selection of facet dishes encompassing seasonal greens pickled or cooked in broth, recent fish – both grilled or uncooked “sashimi” – and the occasional inclusion of beef or pork.
What makes the Aomori Prefecture stand out is its fabulous choice of recent, reasonably priced seafood.
Fresh seafood in Hachinohe
We began our journey in the coastal metropolis of Hachinohe in the Aomori Prefecture. It takes about three hours to journey there by bullet prepare from Tokyo, however stays one of Japan’s undiscovered vacationer locations – solely two UK travellers have been registered as visiting the metropolis in 2019.
Hachinohe’s unofficial mascot is the squid (the official one is the horse) – they’re a very fashionable dish and are available in all kinds, from tempura (deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs) to sashimi.
One of the finest locations to take pleasure in a squiddy lunch is at the meals market at the Hasshoku Center. Simply select your seafood as you wander through the market, pop to the booze part for a bottle of plum wine, then head to Shichirin-mura, the place clients can grill their seafood purchases over glowing charcoal braziers.
We feasted on a variety of scallops, squid, salmon, clam and even whelk – a sort of sea snail contained in a spiralled shell which I discovered relatively difficult to extract with chopsticks.
Another place to take pleasure in a scrumptious seafood breakfast is the Mutsuminato Morning Market (open 3am to midday), a conventional market with some fantastically ready recent seafood. You can purchase a bowl of rice and miso soup (containing large king prawns) with salmon sashimi and seaweed for lower than £10.
Strawberry selecting in Nanbu Town
Seasonal produce is a crucial half of Japanese cooking and influences the alternative of crisps and goodies in supermarkets. For occasion, strawberries are grown in the winter indoors, so throughout February and March, you’ll discover loads of strawberry flavoured chocolate.
We visited a strawberry farm in Nanbu Town, which has been dubbed “The King of Fruit in the North”. The variation in temperature on this area makes it superb for fruit manufacturing, and the berries right here develop notably giant and candy. At the Berries Tsukasa Farm, you might be given a basket and a small bowl of condensed milk, and you’ve got 40 minutes to choose and eat as many strawberries as you fancy.
For reserving and extra info contact the Nagawa Agricultural Tourism Office at: +81-178-76-3020.
Takko Garlic Centre
If like me, you’re keen on garlic, then Takko Garlic Centre is an absolute must-visit. The garlic centre is the just one of its type in Japan and produces greater than 100 garlic themed merchandise utilizing black and white garlic produced on the farm.
Every 12 months the city of Takko hosts a beef and garlic pageant in February the place they crown the garlic queen. The pageant brings loads of pleasure to the area and attracts greater than 10,000 folks to Takko.
Takko Garlic Centre is open all 12 months spherical and has a store and a captivating café that serves a four-course garlic themed menu – go to throughout the winter months to keep away from a protracted ready time.
The garlicky menu features a scrumptious BBQ the place you can also make your individual meat sushi with garlic sauce, chopped garlic and grilled garlic. There’s additionally a variety of 9 garlic themed appetisers, and you’ll even strive a glass of garlic cola. The meal is completed off with a bowl of garlic ice cream, which was completely scrumptious.
If you’re apprehensive about scaring off the vampires, you might be given some chewy sweets which were designed to push back smelly garlic breath.
Senbei making in Tapukopu Village
Unlike different elements of Japan, loads of meals in the Aomori Prefecture is flour relatively than rice-based, as rice was historically tough to domesticate in the various local weather. A standard flour-based snack right here is senbei jiru, a sort of skinny wheat cracker flavoured with nuts, sesame seeds and different scrumptious issues.
You can make your own senbei in Tapukopu Village, which is at the base of the Okuro Forest in the city of Takko. The group of conventional farmhouses have been lifted from varied elements of Takko, put in a single place and transformed into an arts & crafts centre. It’s open all 12 months however it’s worthwhile to ebook forward throughout winter as it may possibly get fairly snowy.
For simply 500 yen per particular person (round £3.50) you may study to make your individual senbei, utilizing the conventional technique of heating them on particular scorching plats. Choose your flavourings and see in the event you can produce the excellent senbei.
There is an artwork to creating the excellent senbei jiru. We met a neighborhood senbei producer, Mr. Oyamada, who runs a household enterprise and has been making senbei since he was a small little one. He is now 73 and hopes to proceed to make senbei till he’s not less than 88 when he’ll change into the longest senbei maker in historical past. He is kind of the character and really proud of his work, and even instructed us that when he reincarnates he wish to change into a senbei maker once more as that is his life’s work and fervour.
Try one thing new
If you’re feeling adventurous whereas exploring Hachinohe, have a style of hoya, also called sea pineapple. The peculiar-looking edible sea squirt may be damaged open with a knife, and the inside seems a bit like a large oyster. It’s a well-liked snack right here, particularly when accompanied by a glass of sake.
We met a neighborhood fisherman whereas strolling alongside the Michi-no-Kaze path on the Tanesashi coast, which connects Hachinohe City with Soma City some 700km alongside the coast. One part of the sandy seashore was lined with hoya, and he satisfied us to present them a strive. At first, I believed it tasted salty, very similar to an oyster, nevertheless it additionally had fairly a bitter aftertaste. I’m glad I attempted it, however unsure I’m a hoya aficionado fairly but.
Getting there: Direct flights from main airports to each Narita Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo can be found. It is then a direct three-hour bullet prepare to Hachinohe.
Where to remain: The Grand Sunpia Hachinohe is a spacious lodge on a hill wanting over the metropolis of Hachinohe with views of the port and ocean in the background. Facilities embrace an opulent scorching spring, a superb restaurant in the foyer, and a golf driving vary.
Currency: The yen is the official foreign money of Japan. The present alternate fee is £1 = 138 Japanese Yen.