If you’re a foodie, a trip to the Kansai region is a must if you visit Japan. Kansai folk love their food and there are many regional specialities to savour. Osaka, sometimes called the ‘kitchen of the country’, is known for its street food. Two of its most popular dishes – Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki – are now widely enjoyed across Japan and beyond.
Here are a few slightly more localized Kansai delights…
Whereas pork is more popular in many other Japanese regions, beef is the meat of choice in Kansai. None more so than that which comes from the Tajima black cattle raised in Kobe. The cows are raised and fed according to conditions laid out by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association and the meat is renowned for its taste and tenderness.
Kobe beef can be found in other regions of Japan, but to enjoy it in true Kansai style, try it as a freshly grilled steak or in shabu-shabu (hotpot with beef and vegetables).
Sushi fans will want to give this unique delicacy a sample. Funazushi is one of the oldest types of sushi in Japan, a fish sushi made using funa carp found in Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture. The fish is pickled with salt and rice and then fermented for several months. This process gives it a distinctive tangy sour taste. It can be enjoyed on its own or as a chazuke dish (with boiled rice). Funazushi is often referred to as the ‘Japanese cheese’ due to its rich taste and high nutritional content.
This is a popular dish with Osaka locals but it’s not one for the faint-hearted. Tecchiri is a Japanese hotpot made with the poisonous fugu (pufferfish). There’s no need to worry, though, as tecchiri served in restaurants is prepared by skilled chefs licensed to handle the fish and remove the poison.
Traditionally, tecchiri is made with vegetables, mushrooms and seaweed as well as fugu and is popular for its chewy texture and rich taste. The name of the dish is influenced by the ‘chiri chiri’ sound the fugu makes when boiling in hot water.
Translating as ‘boiled tofu’, yudofu is much more appealing than it sounds and is a very popular winter dish with the residents of Kyoto, where it originates. The tofu is gently boiled in a dashi broth, removed before it loses its shape and eaten with a range of dips that compliment its smooth, creamy flavour. If you visit Kyoto in winter, eating yudofu is a great way to warm yourself up.
Yudofu was originally eaten by Buddhist priests in Kyoto as they were unable to consume meat or fish. Nowadays, it’s enjoyed by both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Uji green tea
Green tea is popular all over Japan, but the tea grown and made in Uji, on the outskirts of Kyoto, is widely considered to be among the best in the country. Uji was one of the first places in Japan to make green tea when it was imported from China in the 8th century. Back then, it was enjoyed only by elites. These days, Uji tea is served in tea shops and restaurants around Kyoto and you can find shops serving a variety of other products made from Uji green tea, including ice-cream, soba noodles and sweets.