Nagoya Meshi or Nagoya Cuisine has some reputation in Japan. It is one of the more famed types of food in the country but often comes with mixed reviews. Nagoya food is loved by locals but is often frowned upon by Japanese from other regions due to their heavy reliance on the strong, red miso that is often the base ingredient of many Nagoya dishes.
But as a foreigner that has been living in the region since arriving in 2010, I can safely say it is some of the best food you will try on your travels in the country so please sample it and let your taste buds be the judge.
One of Nagoya’s most famous dishes is this pork classic. Miso-katsu differs from the more traditional Ton-katsu as a thick, brown miso based sauce is poured over the pork before being served.
The fillet or loin of Pork is covered breadcrumbs called panko, deep fried and finally covered in hot miso sauce. It is then served with an accompaniment of shredded cabbage, rice and tsukemono (Japanese pickles). The combination is excellent, however it is a uniquely Nagoya dish with many Japanese from other regions commenting that the miso sauce is too strong for their palates. I beg to differ!
One of the more famous places to try this Nagoya classic is the famed Yabaton, which has forged a reputation for being one of the best. There are several restaurants in Nagoya with one of them in department store ‘La Chic’ in the central shopping district of Sakae just two stops from Nagoya Station.
Tebasaki is a superb dish to eat alongside a cool beer and is a favourite of Nagoya’s many ‘salarymen’ that often frequent tebasaki shops after a hard day at the office. Nagoya has traditionally been famous for its chicken and with tebasaki you will not be disappointed.
Tebasaki are basically delicious marinated chicken wings. The marinate is quite hard to explain and unique to Nagoya but can be described as a sweet and peppery soy sauce based glaze that complements the crispy skin and juicy meat of the chicken wing.
Nagoya has two big players when choosing a tebsaki restaurant; Yamachan and Furaibo with the former probably being more famous on a domestic scale. Yamachan has 35 shops in and around Nagoya alone and has recently gone international with shops in Taiwan, China and Thailand.
Furaibo which is just as good has less shops but perhaps a more relaxed atmosphere compared with the super lively Yamachan and more to offer in terms of alternative dishes.
This marinated and barbecued eel dish dates back to the 1800’s and has become synonymous with Nagoya cuisine. First, the eel is barbecued over an open fire, dipped in sweet miso sauce, then cut into small pieces and served on a bowl of hot rice with an option of nori seaweed and a tea based soup.
Hitsumabushi is a wonderful dish that is enjoyed anytime of the year, however it is in summer when it really comes to the fore. The Japanese believe that eel has energetic properties so make sure they eat the dish to give them the much needed stamina to get them through the long and often unbearable summer
Perhaps the most famous shop in Japan is Houraiken which located near Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya which is one of the city’s famous tourist spots attracting as many as 9 million visitors a year. The shop is a little on the expensive side but a must if you want to sample this traditional dish after a visit to one of Japan’s beautiful shrines.
Miso Nikomi Udon (Boiled miso broth with udon)
This noodle based dish is without doubt a uniquely Nagoya dish. Udon noodles are served in a rich and deep miso broth that is cooled for hours to achieve the flavour that cannot be created at home.
The dish is topped with chopped green onion (like spring onion or leek), chicken, fish cake or even a large deep-fried shrimp and served piping hot dounabe – a heated bowl that will burn if you touch it (take care!).
Not all Japanese like this dish due to the strong Nagoya style miso that is the base of the dish, but I can safely say, it is an excellent dish that is well worth sampling if you find yourself in the city.
Without doubt Yamamoto-ya is the most famous Miso Nikomi shop in Japan so it is only natural to try it at this famed location. The company has 8 shops in Nagoya city but perhaps the easiest to access is located in Lucent Tower next to Nagoya Station where many tourists first step off the Bullent Train.
I’m still not sure why Tenmusu is a traditional Nagoya food but it is a good one. Tenmusu is simply a Tempura Shrimp riceball but tastes great.
It is reasonably priced and should you buy it you will find a whole tempura prawn inside rice that has been wrapped with nori seaweed. More a snack food that can be found in any department store than a sit down meal but a great bite to eat for a Bullet Train ride or an alternative to airline food on departing Nagoya to continue your travels.
Some of the better places are Tenmusu Senjuu Honten close to Kamimaezu Station on the Meijo (purple) subway Line or at Jiraiya shop which can be found in Higashi Ward. Senjuu can also be found at CentrAir – Nagoya’s international airport.