21 local delicacies you cannot leave Kyushu without eating
When it comes to travel, one of the delights that first come to mind is getting to taste the local delicacies. Recently, we’ve been able to taste these delicacies even in big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, but the flavor you get is quite a bit different when eating the same local dish amidst its history, culture and the people who grew up with it. So, we here at ANA, in collaboration with TripAdvisor, are delving into the tantalizing flavors of Japan in Tastes of Japan by ANA to let you in on 21 local gourmet dishes from the seven prefectures of Kyushu and popular restaurants from across the region..
Popular local delicacies of Fukuoka
From region to region, udon varies in thickness, springiness and type of broth, but Fukuoka is where many believe udon originates. Fukuoka udon is less springy giving a light, fluffy noodle, and uses a light tasting broth made from flying fish or dried sardine. A classic dish found here is gobo ten, which tops udon with burdock tempura.
Recommended restaurant: Udon Taira
Udon Taira boils its udon as soon as it’s been freshly made by the machines in their kitchen. Their most popular dish is niku gobo—udon topped with burdock and beef.
Hakata ramen is known for its rich opaque soup made from boiling pork on a high heat for hours and its straight, exceptionally thin noodles. It’s common for this dish to not have a lot of noodles, but instead, you can ask for a kaedama—an additional serving of noodles. Generally, Hakata ramen comes with roasted pork fillets and green onions, however some restaurants also add cloud ear mushrooms or seaweed. You can add your own white sesame seeds, red pickled ginger, spicy pickled leaf mustard and other condiments provided on the tables to taste.
Recommended restaurant: Hakata Isso
On the streets of Hakata where ramen competition is fierce, Isso has customers lining up at its door. Its full-bodied yet odorless specialty pork broth is renowned and leaves a clean aftertaste.
Motsu nabe is beef and pork offal (motsu) together with vegetables such as cabbage and Chinese chives in a pot. The roots of this dish begin after World War II, when offal and Chinese chives were simmered in an aluminum pot with soy sauce flavoring. Today, there are many restaurants that use a variety of flavors including soy sauce, miso and salt. It’s become common to put champon noodles or rice in toward the end of the meal.
Recommended restaurant: Hakata Motsunabe Yamanaka Akasakaten
The incredibly popular Yamanaka is a famous restaurant specializing in motsu nabe. As well as the original restaurant, there is also the Akasaka branch, which has the air of a high-class hotel restaurant where only customers of high school age or older are allowed.
Popular local delicacies of Saga
Karatsu Yobuko is located in the north of Saga Prefecture and is known country-wide as “Squid Town.” It is famous for producing swordtip squids (uroteuthis edulis) raised in the rough waters and Kuroshio Current of the Genkai-nada Sea. With their delicate sweetness and tender yet chewy texture, these squid are second to none. The squid are fished from March through November in Yobuko Port. From there they are sent to markets and restaurants where the exceptionally transparent ones can be tasted as exquisite squid dishes such as ikizukuri, squid shu mai, squid tentacle tempura and squid burgers.
Recommended restaurant: Kawataro, Yobuko
Kawataro is a specialty ikizukuri restaurant with its main branch located in Nakasu. The Yobuko branch is close to the fishing port and has a tank in the center of the restaurant with live squid in it to keep them fresh and for customers to enjoy.
Onsen yudofu is a regional dish with a long history of over 1,300 years in the Ureshino Onsen area. Unlike typical yudofu, Ureshino onsen yudofu is boiled in Ureshino onsen water. The tofu’s surface and corners begin to dissolve in the onsen water’s minerals, giving it a melted texture. In a region famous for its soybeans, it is truly a tofu dish unique to Saga. It is often eaten simply with only soy sauce, but the trend of the region is to put vegetables and seafood into a pot of milky broth made from the dissolved,umami-rich soybean.
Recommended restaurant: Soan Yokocho
Souan Yokocho can be found in the Ureshino onsen district and is the birthplace of onsen yudofu. Here you can enjoy onsen yudofu made from homemade firm tofu with soybeans 100% produced in Ureshino.
Sicilian Rice is a local delicacy that was invented in about 1975 in a café in the center of Saga City. A base of rice is made on a plate, on top of which sautéed meat and a fresh vegetable salad are heaped. Finally, mayonnaise is added on top to make a very trendy dish. Today, it is a staple found in cafés and restaurants around the city as a readily available and filling one-plate meal. Restaurants might add an onsen-cooked egg or their own original sauce on top to create their own recipes for you to enjoy.
Recommended restaurant: Sagan Restaurant Shino Prefectural Bldg
This restaurant with a view is on the highest floor of the Saga prefectural office. Its Sicilian Rice is very popular, with so many fresh, locally-produced vegetables heaped on top that the rice is practically hidden.
Popular local delicacies of Nagasaki
Nagasaki champon is the comfort food that Nagasaki has come to love since the Meiji Period. Nagasaki champon specialty restaurant Ringer Hut has opened stores across Japan and there are few people who haven’t been to one at least once. The basic recipe consists of sautéed ingredients like vegetables, shrimp, pork and boiled pink fish cake added to broth made from chicken or pork bones and special medium-sized straight noodles called prepared in a water containing carbonates (called touaku).Then, as the name suggests—champon means mixed—the three main elements are mixed together to make Nagasaki champon.
Recommended restaurant: Shikairo
Founded in 1899, Shikairo is the Chinese restaurant where Nagasaki champon originated. On the second floor of the restaurant, there is a dedicated museum space for people to see the history of Shikairo and champon.
Sasebo city, located in a port region in the northern part of Nagasaki Prefecture, flourished as an American navy base town after the war. The Sasebo Burger was born at this time when American soldiers stationed there passed on a beloved recipe from home—the hamburger. Made using copious amounts of local ingredients, the Sasebo burger is a monument to regional Japanese burgers and pioneered the “gourmet burger” boom, which focused on freshly made and fully loaded servings.
Recommended restaurant: Sasebo Burger Bigman, Sasebo Kyomachi Honten
The specialty of this restaurant is the Grandad Bacon & Egg Burger with layers of homemade bacon and Nagasaki brand taiyouran eggs. It is immensely popular and the centerpiece of the Sasebo Burger restaurant menu.
This is the souvenir to buy in Nagasaki. Brought over from Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, castella cake was further developed in Nagasaki and spread all over Japan. It is a simple dessert made by mixing eggs, sugar, flour and starch syrup together, but the aroma of plump eggs with the moist bread—not to mention the thin sugary crust that remains at the bottom—gives Nagasaki castella its inherited traditional flavor making it a gift that people love to receive and eat.
Recommended restaurant: Fukusaya
Established in 1624, Fukusaya is one of the longest-standing castella shops. With an elegant sweetness, their castella is characterized by a fine texture that the chefs take great pains to make every day.
Popular local delicacies of Kumamoto
There are several regions in Japan that have a custom of eating raw horse meat. One of those is a place that has the claim to fame of being Japan’s number one horse meat production area—Kumamoto Prefecture. Here there are many specialty horse meat restaurants where you can taste horse sashimi fresher than any other. Similar to beef, horse meat has many sections such as the back of the neck, which is full of collagen, and the crispy sternum area. Both of these sections are special parts that can be used in sashimi.
Recommended restaurant: Suganoya Kamitori
With its own farm in Aso, the freshness and quality of the horse meat here is guaranteed. There is a variety of horse dishes on offer, including assorted horse sashimi, sushi and shabu-shabu.
Taipi’en is a dish which has glass noodles made from potato and mung bean starch. It is rumored to have been invented as a meal for staff working at Chinese restaurants, run by immigrants who had moved from China’s Fujian Province to Kyushu. Large amounts of ingredients like cabbage, shrimp, bamboo shoots and cloud ear mushrooms are added for a meal that is well balanced in nutrients and low in calories.
Recommended restaurant: Korantei Shimotori
Korantei is a long-established Chinese restaurant with over 80 years of continuation. The original restaurant in Shimotori is now under construction, but you can eat taipi’en in the branch in Kamitori. Their double soup of both pork and chicken bones is their trademark.
There were so many tantalizing Chinese dishes to choose from, but my focus this time was taipi’en. On the staff’s recommendation, we ordered one with oysters. The glass noodles were smooth and refreshing, and despite the color, the soup was light with a seasoning that’s very well balanced.reviewed by healloyd
Ikinari dango is steamed dumpling dessert made with sweet potato and sweet bean paste, which is wrapped with flour dough or sticky rice cake. Recently variations have come about such as adding Japanese mugwort or purple sweet potato to the dough or eating it refrigerated. The name ikinari in the Kumamoto dialect is said to mean “as is” or “simply.” Another theory is that the dango are made with whatever is at hand when there is a sudden rush of guests because of ikinari’s standard meaning, “suddenly.”
Recommended restaurant: Ikinariya Watanabe Honten
This shop sells ikinari dango that have been handmade one after another. Each dango contains thickly cut sweet potato and lumpy red bean paste wrapped in a soft, dense rice cake dough that is slightly salty.
Photo by TripAdvisor member
The sweetness of the red bean is added to the golden sweet potato, but true to the nature of Japanese desserts is not overly sweet allowing you to eat as many as you like. Dango freshly cooked from the shop have a different quality to those bought as souvenirs. However, refrigerated dango wrapped and warmed in the microwave can be eaten without disappointment. reviewed by へぼ獣医
Popular local delicacies of Oita
Often thought to be Okinawan cuisine, Ryukyu don is actually a dish local to Oita. Oita’s famous fresh mackerel, horse mackerel and yellowtail sashimi is dipped in soy sauce mixed with sesame and ginger and laid on a bed of rice. Many explanations for the name exist, including one which says the name comes from the method of seasoning with sesame known as rikyu’a’e.
Recommended restaurant: Nidaime Yoichi
This restaurant serves Japanese cuisine made from handpicked ingredients. Its Ryukyu don, made with fresh horse mackerel marinated in a soy sauce-based sauce, has an umami and shiso flavor that spreads throughout the mouth.
My only complaint is that they are so exquisitely prepared that it’s hard to eat only one. I felt like the shop was pulling me back in as I walked away. If I was staying within walking distance of this restaurant, make no mistake, I’d be back there at night too. The Ryukyu don is so good!reviewed by ﾅﾐｷ
Tori ten has been beloved in Oita for more than half a century and can truly be called the Oita people’s comfort food. Tori ten is essentially seasoned chicken coated in batter and fried and then eaten with a vinegar soy sauce and mustard mix. It looks like karaage (fried chicken), but the coating of batter is both fluffy and crispy and each restaurant has its own variation.
Recommended restaurant: Restaurant Toyoken
The restaurant where tori ten was invented, Restaurant Toyoken, of course serves the classic with vinegar soy sauce, but the dish is also delicious without the sauce and is perfect with rice and beer.
Being told it was where tori ten originated, we went before 3pm and it was still packed. I ordered the tori ten set menu. It was lighter than karaage with amazing flavors cooked through the entire dish. This tori ten was delicious.reviewed by TripAdvisor member
This is the local gourmet dish of Hita city in Oita Prefecture. Hita yakisoba has sautéed pork, bean sprouts and green onion and is mixed with its sauce, but what makes it different is the way it is cooked. The noodles are cooked on a piping hot hotplate until they are almost golden brown and crispy. The fragrance of the sauce and crispiness is a flavor you’ll become addicted to once you eat it.
Recommended restaurant: Mikuma Hanten
Mikuma Hanten is a popular Hita yakisoba restaurant. Because fresh noodles are used at the restaurant, they become crispy on the outside and soft on the inside when cooked on a high heat. Meals come with plenty of bean sprouts.
This yakisoba has crispy noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and a rich sauce! The yakisoba restaurant is so popular that a line is already forming when it opens at 11am! Delicious!reviewed by TripAdvisor member
Popular local delicacies of Miyazaki
A local dish that embodies the Japanese saying “Miyazaki means chicken” is chicken nanban. The exquisite chicken nanban, with mingling flavors of fried chicken with sweet vinegar, is perfect as a side dish while drinking or in a meal and its popularity has spread to every corner of Japan. There are two restaurants in Miyazaki that are considered “must eats” for chicken nanban, and the difference between them is whether or not they use a tartar sauce. Chicken nanban is said to have originated in both restaurants and it is worth checking out the taste of both.
Recommended restaurant: Ogura Honten
Ogura Restaurant is an old restaurant where the idea to put tartar sauce on chicken namban was born. The mild flavor of the homemade sauce and the ample ingredients make this dish superb.
Recommended restaurant: Nao Chan
Naochan is one of the originators of chicken namban. Its chicken cutlet-like chicken namban glazed in sweet vinegar sauce gets more addictive with each crispy bite.
Even among the numerous local chicken dishes that Miyazaki boasts, momo yaki is particularly glorious in its cooking method and appearance. Cut into chunks and cooked on a charcoal fire, momo yaki is known for appearing as though it is soot covered. Its true value as specialty cuisine is its charcoal smoked aroma, its density while being chewed and a juicy flavor that belies its appearance. The meat is best consumed with yuzu pepper.
Recommended restaurant: Maruman
This restaurant is considered to be the birthplace of momo yaki. The restaurant cooks sliced chicken thigh on the bone over charcoal until black, which lends a rustic charm to the dish.
Hiyashiru, with its plentiful ingredients and cold miso soup poured over rice, is said to have spread across Japan from Miyazaki. Hiyashiru is easy to make when you’re pressed for time, provides an appropriate amount of salt and water and is full of nutrients, which makes it perfect for surviving the hot, appetite-suppressing summer months. Although each household has its own particular flavor it strives for, this dish is a standard at hotel breakfast buffets and of course restaurants.
Recommended restaurant: Gunkei Kakushigura
Gunkei Kakushigura is an izakaya where you can taste the local flavors of Miyazaki with chicken as the focus of the menu. We recommend that you finish off your meal with an invigorating hiyashiru.
Popular local delicacies of Kagoshima
Ramen in Kyushu is known for its pork broth and milky color, however in the world of Kyushu ramen, Kagoshima ramen is the wild child. Although the broth base is pork, the umami flavors of chicken and vegetables are added to give a surprisingly light taste. Because each restaurant has its own recipe full of originality, we recommend that you try and compare a few.
Recommended restaurant: Tontoro Ramen
Tontoro Ramen’s menu is all on its specials board, and its pork bone broth blends nicely with medium thickness noodles. The restaurant’s forte is its melt-in-your-mouth roast pork fillets.
The brand “Kagoshima Black Pork” is well known all across Japan, and even among the many dishes which use black pork, shabu-shabu is a local favorite. The quality meat that comes from Kagoshima’s painstakingly raised black pigs is tender and full of umami. It is dipped lightly in dashi and eaten with your preferred sauce. The extra fat is stripped away for shabu-shabu, so you can eat as much as you like.
Recommended restaurant: Ajimori
Adimori is a restaurant that specializes in black pork and is the originator of black pork shabu-shabu. To get the full flavor of the pork, no sauce is used and instead you eat the meat having dipped it into the soup and raw egg.
Originating in Kagoshima, Shirokuma is a frozen dessert made by pouring condensed milk on shaved ice and then piling on plenty of toppings like fruit and adzuki beans. Nowadays, it is a standard ice cream that can be found in any convenience store or supermarket in Japan, but shirokuma is something that must be tried in its birthplace of Kagoshima.
Recommended restaurant:Tenmonkan Mujaki
The originators of shirokuma, Tenmonkan Mujyaki, offer an extensive menu of shirokuma topped with all kinds of ingredients like pudding, yoghurt and chocolate and strawberry sauce.
We hope that you enjoyed our tour of local gourmet cuisine in the 7 prefectures of Kyushu—a haven of variety full of treasures known Japan-wide and gems yet to be discovered. If you’re headed to Kyushu, make sure to experience some of the authentic regional tastes while you’re there.