Houtou is a local dish from Yamanashi. Noodles similar to udon (wheat-flour noodles) are cooked with pumpkin or other vegetables in miso soup. This noodle is wider and flatter than regular wheat-flour noodles and is placed in the pot raw without boiling first. Houtou cooked with mushy pumpkin in miso-based soup is very tasty and other vegetables such as potatoes and mushrooms are included with pork and chicken if desired. According to legend, you will not catch a cold if you eat pumpkin on the winter solstice (shortest day of the year, around 22 December), and this custom is followed in Yamanashi. A bowl of houtou with highly nutritious pumpkin will certainly warm you up on a cold day.
UNAGI OR EEL (SHIZUOKA)
Lake Hamana-ko where freshwater and seawater mix together is famous for the cultivation of eels. They are highly nutritious and one custom observed in Japan is to eat them in summer, when people tend to lose their appetite because of the heat and humidity. Among the various ways to enjoy eating eels, the most popular is kabayaki (charcoal-broiled eel). In the Kanto area, eel fillets are roasted over charcoal and are steamed once, after which they are roasted again over medium heat while basting. In the Kansai area, a whole gutted eel is roasted on a skewer while basting. Una-ju or una-don with roasted eel on a bed of hot cooked rice covered with basting sauce is very popular regardless of the season. Many restaurants in the Lake Hamana-ko area feature these dishes on the menu.
Miso-katsu, a popular dish in Aichi, is tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) covered with a miso-based sauce. Throughout the country, a sauce similar to Worcester is normally used with fried pork cutlets, but in the Tokai region, which includes Nagoya, an original miso-based sauce is used instead. You may be asked, "Miso or sauce?" when you order fried pork cutlets at a restaurant there. The miso used is well-seasoned, hot haccho-miso, a specialty of Aichi. The miso sauce is sweetened with bonito stock and sugar. Don't forget to try miso-katsu when you visit the Nagoya area. In other areas, you may find that miso-katsu is prepared with the miso between the batter and the meat, not added to the cutlets after cooking.
Cooked udon (wheat-flour noodles) can be seen in miso soup everywhere in Japan, but miso-nikomi normally means wheat-flour noodles cooked in miso-based soup found around Nagoya. Choice features of this dish are the dried bonito stock and the firm noodles made with only flour and water. Chicken, tsukimi-tamago (poached egg), leeks, shiitake mushrooms and rice cakes are used, and sometimes kishimen (flat noodles) are used instead of udon. Miso-nikomi is cooked in a small earthen pot for one person and is served hot at the table. The lid can be used as a small plate, on which you can put some noodles and soup to eat after it cools a little. Delicious porridge can be made from rice cooked in the leftover soup.