Explore the local culinary adventures in The Hokuriku Shin’etsu!
The Hokuriku Shin’etsu is a region comprised of three prefectures in Hokuriku (Ishikawa, Toyama and Fukui) and two in Shin’etsu (Nagano and Niigata). In this edition, we want to introduce you to local dishes representing each of these prefectures, giving you just one of the reasons you should visit. In our collaboration project with TripAdvisor, ANA digs up wonders across Japan in “Tastes of JAPAN by ANA,” and presents popular regional restaurants based on customer reviews .
Gourmet Popular in Nagano Prefecture
Togakushi soba comes from the Togakushi region of Nagano prefecture, which is known for being one of the three major soba regions in Japan. Togakushi’s chilled soba specialty is Bochi Soba—soba that is piled on a wicker plate in little bundles. The roots of Soba-eating culture in the Togakushi region stem from long ago when mountain ascetics in the Heian period relied on buckwheat flour as a portable food.
Uzuraya is a popular restaurant that uses locally produced buckwheat flour, and often has a queue of people formed before the store is even open thanks to its much loved sobagaki (buckwheat bun) and zarusoba (chilled soba). Another must-have at this restaurant is its yama no sachi tempura, made from highland vegetables and mushrooms.
Romen is a noodle dish made by simmering mutton and steamed noodles in a broth with vegetables and other ingredients. There are lots of variations of romen depending on the restaurant you go to, including ramen-style and yakisoba-style. This famous dish was originally known as charomen but has since come to be called romen.
Ushio is a restaurant famous for its yakisoba-style romen. The restaurant adds garlic and sesame oil to its dishes to dull the smell of mutton, and there are condiments such as ground cayenne pepper and vinegar for you to flavor the noodles to your liking.
Oyaki are dumplings similar to manjyu which are made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour and filled with ingredients such as vegetables. It was a staple food and in-between meal for many households and is made with various fillings including everything from vegetables to mushrooms, pumpkin or anko (sweetened red bean paste). Northern Nagano is considered to be the dish’s birthplace, but nowadays it is eaten throughout the prefecture.
Irohado Nagano Honten（Nagano）
Irohado is an oyaki specialty shop in a tranquil little town in Kinasa 40 minutes’ drive from Nagano station. The shop’s unique cooking method gives its oyaki a crispy outside layer while keeping the inside nice and chewy. With their plentiful fillings, oyaki from Iroha will satisfy your hunger.
Gourmet Popular in Niigata Prefecture
Tarekatsu-don originates from Katsu-don which was first sold at the beginning of the Showa period in a small food stall. Differing from the usual katsu-don cooked in egg, this version was made by placing tonkatsu on rice with salty-sweet soy sauce poured over it. The thin slices of this katsu are a feature that makes it easier to eat with rice.
Tonkatsu Masachan Nuttari Honten（Niigata）
This is a specialty store opened in Niigata Prefecture where the main dish is tarekatsu-don. Apart from their classic tarekatsu-don, they also offer a wide variety of other types like tarekatsu-don with curry or hashed beef rice.
One of the five major ramen types in Niigata, Tsubame Sanjo ramen is local ramen that has its origins in Tsubame City and Sanjo City. This ramen, with its plentiful back-fat pork to keep the soup warm and noodles that don’t stretch too easily, was said to be a request from the craftsmen who worked at the factory across the way.
Koushu Restaurant is said to be where Tsubame Sanjo ramen began. Its greatest feature was the option to choose the amount of fattiness: from “none” to “fattiest” (large serving). The noodles are thick, chewy noodles, and there are plenty of them.
This dish was conceived at the Japanese-style sweet café Mikazuki in 1960, and if you come from Niigata, you likely know this yakisoba-style dish. Take thick Chinese noodles, sautéed bean sprouts, a special sauce and grated cheese with miso, top with tomato sauce and voilà.
Mikazuki is a mainly Italian, light-meal restaurant that offers soft-serve ice cream and drinks, and now has more than 20 stores in Niigata. The Bandai branch is located inside the bus center, and is popular thanks to its easy accessibility.
Gourmet Popular in Toyama Prefecture
Toyama Black is Toyama’s local ramen delicacy. They say that this ramen, with its richly flavored soup and its abundance of soy sauce, was created not long after the war as lunches for laborers and young people. The liberal amounts of pepper in the black soup are characteristic of this ramen and eating it with rice is recommended.
Nishicho Taiki Nishicho Honten（Toyama）
This is the first Toyama Black restaurant. The noodles available are Chinese soba only, and even to this day the restaurant continues to maintain its special flavor. The classic way to order it is with rice and a raw egg.
Toyama’s traditional trout sushi is a type of pressed sushi made with salted trout. The beginnings of this trout sushi are said to have come about when a Toyama warrior who was also a chef presented it to the feudal lord. There are more than 20 shops in Toyama City that make this sushi, and each one has a slightly different flavor.
Ogiichi Masuzushi Hompo（Toyama）
The sushi here is characterized by its nearly-raw, thick trout, and the store is so popular that if you don’t order ahead, you won’t be able to get any. The taste of the sushi changes from the first day it is made to the day after, so it’s a good idea to split your sushi and eat it over two days.
Japanese Glass Shrimp are small shrimp that live in deep ocean water. The only place they are being fished commercially is in Toyama Bay where the ocean suddenly becomes deep. Due to the faint translucent pink color they have immediately after being caught, they are also known as “Toyama Bay Gems.” As well as being used in sashimi and sushi, the shrimp are also used as ingredients in Italian and French cuisine.
Shira Ebi Tei is a restaurant located on the first floor of Toyama Station. The restaurant offers sashimi and tempura made from Japanese Glass Shrimp that have each been hand shelled, one by one. The most popular items on the menu are the shira ebi-tendon and the buri-tendon.
Gourmet Popular in Ishikawa Prefecture
Kaga cuisine is hometown cooking from the Kanazawa region of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is a combination of the Kyoto cuisine that came about in the Sengoku period and the Edo cuisine from the Edo period. It is famous for being served in beautiful lacquerware and porcelain, and its signature dishes are jibuni (poultry stew) and hasumushi (steamed, grated lotus root in sauce).
Saryo Utatsu Kanazawa is a Japanese restaurant where you can eat your meal while gazing out over the townscape of Kanazawa. The beautiful Kaga cuisine is served in tableware matched to the season and brought by kimono-wearing staff.
Kanazawa curry is a local curry that can be found in Ishikawa Prefecture, in particular in Kanazawa. Kanazawa curry is characterized by its thick curry sauce poured over deep-fried pork cutlet and thinly-sliced cabbage garnish on a stainless-steel plate. Although Kanazawa curry only made a name for itself around 2005, restaurants have been making it for over 50 years.
Turban Curry Honten（Kanazawa）
Turban Curry’s main branch is a leading Kanazawa curry restaurant that opened in 1971. The curry, which uses more than 20 different spices, has a rich, slightly spicy and full-bodied flavor. As well as being served with katsu, there are many other options, including hamburger patties and wieners.
Hanton rice is a western dish made by placing thinly-cooked egg on top of ketchup rice and then adding fried white fish with a tartar sauce. It became popular in Kanazawa in the late 1960s. Different restaurants vary their recipes by adding fried shrimp or a demi-glace sauce.
“Like their curry, quick and good price. The rice is sweet and just yummy. We ordered the pork cutlets and just wow. My wife ordered Hamburger curry and also delicious”
Gourmet Popular in Fukui Prefecture
Snow crabs caught in Fukui Prefecture are called Echizen gani. Off the shores of Fukui there is a lot of food such as plankton and small fish that snow crabs like to eat. The snow crabs here grow larger than anywhere else. With their sweet, firm meat and plentiful hearty innards, these crabs are called the “champions of winter taste.”
Echizen Kani no Bo（Sakai）
Echizen Gani no Bou has been established as a direct seller to Japanese inns specializing in cuisine since its foundation in the Meiji period. From its seasonal seafood chirashi-don to its full winter Echizen gani course, Echizen Gani no Bou has a menu with your fill of Fukui seafood.
Echizen soba is a simple soba dish with grated daikon. How you eat Echizen soba differs from restaurant to restaurant as some offer grated daikon with dashi broth dipped in tsuyu, and others offer grated daikon on soba with squeezed daikon juice and dashi broth poured on top.
This is a popular restaurant that serves handmade 100% buckwheat flour soba made with buckwheat berries purchased from contract farms in Fukui and Hokkaido. Its oroshi soba has a special broth that has grated daikon in it.
This is a simple katsu-don that places thinly sliced loin pork katsu on rice with a special secret sauce poured on top. The originator of sauce katsu-don returned to his hometown of Fukui after the hardships of the Great Kanto Earthquake in the Taisho period. It was at this time that katsu-don became popular in Fukui.
This is a western restaurant opened by the originator of sauce katsu-don in the Taisho period. Now, they have 19 stores open. With a mix of sweet, spicy and hint of sour flavors in its secret sauce, the katsu is to die for.
From hometown cooking that uses the bounty of the sea and ingredients from the mountains to original western food creations thought up after the war, you can experience a variety of local gourmet flavors and dishes in the Hokuriku Shin’etsu region. With its many restaurants that have people lining up before they’ve even opened, Hokuriku Shin’etsu is well worth visiting. Take a trip to discover the taste of regional gourmet food for yourself.