Japan’s New Culinary Hotspot
Where and What to Eat Now in Setouchi
Setouchi is one of Japan’s most special hidden secrets that prompts a bit of an obsession with its stunning natural beauty when discovered. Beyond its colorful deep gorges, brilliant forests, sparkling blue waters, traditional cultural practices, and thriving world-class art scene, it also happens to be one of the country’s most delicious regions. And it’s no wonder. It gently kisses the Seto Inland Sea full of culinary treasures which bring to life its vital seafood scene, and the climate and the natural conditions of Kobe make the perfect setting to raise special cattle who produce the exquisite variations of Wagyu beef known the world over. Making Setouchi one of the finest culinary hotspots in all of Japan. Setouchi’s culinary scene ranges from elegant to divine, to even quirky, and here’s a rundown of what to try right now.
Kobe’s Chinatown is a thriving blend of delicious curious creations and it’s highly recommended to grab a Peking Duck, a Gua Bao “burger” a buta-man (a steamed bun filled with minced pork), and some of the tiny special sweets on offer as you stroll through the Nankinmachi Shopping District’s 100 shops, tasting all the way as you go.
One of the most Instagrammable creations in the region is its soft ice cream, found nearly everywhere there’s a mall or a promenade and people can’t stop snapping photos of the brilliant colors and unique toppings such as puffed colorful rice balls. Or, Kibi Dango Okayama’s specialty is made by rolling, steaming, or boiling grain flour with water. It is as pretty as it is delicious!
If seafood is one’s thing, there are hundreds of fascinating variations that tempt the palate whether it’s the endemic “hidden sushi” that places the fish underneath the rice, or a slew of fresh oysters pulled from the sea early morning by fisherman who first gather in prayer before heading out, only to return to bring them to the beach for fresh grilling and tastings. When it comes to elevated tastes, sea urchin leads the way and one of the premiere places to taste it is Awajishima, the largest island in the Seto Inland Sea, where chefs love to mix it up with a special sea urchin soy sauce and pour it over a blend of seafood and rice.
Puffer Fish in Japan’s Culinary Hotspot
Don’t forget about fugu! The infamous puffer fish is a celebrated luxury in Japan but only edible when it’s prepared by specially licensed chefs who train strenuously to figure out how to avoid its toxins! This technique known as “migaki” is a delicate skill acquired from years of training culminating in a license and special distinction. For over 2800 years, people have been consuming this dare-fueled dish that thrills. And, there’s no better place to take this dare than the “Blowfish Capital of Japan”- Shimonoseki, in Japan’s stunning Setouchi region where a spectrum of venues have staff on hand armed with the keen skills to transform it into an edible dare. If you need the energy of buzzing stalls to propel you forward as you attempt the tasting, try the Karato Market with a fabulous variety of options and even a stall that sells a special boxed lunch in a colorful box that says “good luck” or settle in at a table at a local fugu restaurant that offers a more curated, lengthy experience great for photo ops.
Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima
Hiroshima is home to the region’s best okonomiyaki- a unique blend of cabbage, bean sprouts, and more dipped in batter and fried up, best tasted at various food stalls as you go from one to another because each chef loves to whip up their own slightly different signature creation.
Udon in Kagawa
For something hearty and altogether different, hop into an Udon Taxi which is a car led by a specially trained guide who’s an expert in all things Udon, a noodle celebrated in Kagawa where there are more Udon shops than convenience stores. This beloved blend has many varieties from one restaurant to another so you can sip and slurp to your heart’s content by this very highly trained guide who knows all the hidden haunts.
And, naturally, it only makes sense to wash it down with a specialized sake from one of the region’s many breweries across Hiroshima, or even a craft gin in Okayama.
Just a small sampling menu of what’s on offer in Setouchi, a phenomenal culinary hotspot destination for gastro travelers with a taste for adventure. For more information, visit www.setouchifinder.com/en