Kobe, the capital of Hyogo, is a host city for the 2019 Rugby World Cup! Check out our guide for things to do in the city.
Despite rightfully earning the colloquial title of “Japan’s Kitchen,” Osaka certainly doesn’t have the monopoly when it comes to quality cuisine in the Kansai area.
Hyogo, is a huge area that borders Okayama in the south, Tottori in the west, and both Osaka and Kyoto to the northeast. Such a wide area, as one would expect, gives way to a huge variety of cooking ideas and influences. Here are the Top 5 local dishes that put Hyogo on the map.
1) Kobe Beef
Ok, this first one was a very easy choice, — we may being a bit lazy in stating the obvious. However, Kobe beef is so succulent, so flavourful and such an unashamed pleasure to eat that to not mention it when discussing the foods of Hyogo would, frankly, be a form of heresy. Yes, most of those legends about cows being fed beer, given massages and such like are entirely true. The life of a Kobe cow is a short one, but probably better than most livestock will have.
Often expensive, but in my opinion worth every penny, Kobe beef is also very versatile, and can be enjoyed in a number of ways. The conventional steak is of course the most popular way. However, if you are on a budget, but still want to sample this most delectable of delicacies, then I have a solution for you.
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However, we aren’t going for Chinese food today. Head to the centre of the square and you will see what looks like a “burger van.” This kiosk is famous for its Kobe beef. You’ll have two choices. Either you can enjoy your Kobe beef in a burger bun, complete with salad and sauce, or you can go with my preferred option which is a simple tray of slices of beef, with a seasoning of your choice.
Either of these, with a beer will only cost you around ¥1,200. As far as Kobe beef goes, this is an absolute bargain!
Photo by: Masahiko OHKUBO
Ok, so we’ve all heard of takoyaki (octopus dumplings); those fluffy balls of batter stuffed with octopus and eggy goodness. But have you heard of its local cousin, akashiyaki?
Much like takoyaki, the consistency and exact composition of akashiyaki varies from place to place. However, akashiyaki is considerably softer and more delicate than Takoyaki. The softer batter is filled not with a solid, such as the octopus used in Takoyaki, but rather with a broth containing, among other things, kelp and bonito flakes. As a result, you need to be careful when eating akashiyaki. The tried and tested takoyaki method of picking it up with a cocktail stick is likely to end messily.
However, your reward for your caution and perseverance is an unforgettable taste experience. It literally melts in your mouth. In some ways, akashiyaki is similar to the type of foods you will find at a traditional Chinese tea house. Also, it’s worth noting that there is no exact, fixed recipe for akashiyaki, so it’s worthwhile touring a few different restaurants in the area to get a feel for the different flavours.
Sea bream and steamed rice may not seem like a typical combination, but in the case of taimeshi it is one that most definitely works! Like akashiyaki, this is another bi-product of the local love of seafood, thanks to a ready supply of fine fish coming via the Akashi Straight.
The rice has its own unique flavour, enthused with a mix of local herbs and spices. The sea bream itself is steamed with added salt, ginger and soy sauce. What is perhaps most tasty about this dish is the way the ginger, salt and oils of the fish soak into the rather weakly seasoned rice, creating a dish with a taste that resonates with the diner until the very last mouthful! Of course, sea bream doesn’t come cheap, and the most common variety of taimeshi, incorporating an entire sea bream atop the rice can run you a few thousand yen at some of the higher end restaurants. It’s certainly worth it, though.
Photo by: jpellgen (@1179_jp)
Of course, sometimes we don’t need the extravagance of a sea bream, or the elegance of a tea house. Sometimes, we just want to have some good simple food to offset the effects of our 2 hour all you can drink beer fest!
This is where sobameshi comes into its own. As the name suggests it literally is just a simple blend of fried rice and fried soba noodles, in a sweet sauce, often mixed with chicken or pork, spring onions and occasionally topped off with a fried egg for good measure. It’s sloppy presentation would, no doubt, would have Gordon Ramsay going off on one of his signature “sweary” rants. But if you aren’t concerned with such things, sobameshi is a delicious dish that’s up there with the best of them.
5) Sand Lance
Photo by: Toyohara
Ever been to an aquarium and seen those weird, long thin fish, half-buried in the sand that look a bit like earthworms? Well, those are called sand lance, or ikanago, and in Hyogo, they make for a rather tasty treat. Funnily enough, the dish’s name loosely translates as “simmered nails” which comes from the curled up, brown shape the sand lance take on as they are cooked, giving an appearance similar to rusty nails.
The brown color comes from the sweet rice wine and ginger based sauce in which the sand lances are cooked. Conversely, if you like to match your food with your drinks, then a dry rice wine will go very well with the contrasting sweetness of the dish itself. Hyogo has no shortage of foods on offer, whatever your tastes and budget. Be sure to check out some of these fantastic dishes next time you’re in town!
For more on the best bites in Japan, see our food and drink section.