Surrounded on one side by the Sea of Japan and the Seto Inland Sea on the other, seafood is understandably very popular in the Chugoku region. Highlights in include oysters and the infamous puffer fish. Here you will even find its fins in sake!
In Hiroshima, okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) have been a popular snack since before the war. After the war, people started eating these pancakes as a meal, supplementing the poor nutrition at the time by adding additional ingredients such as cabbage, egg, seafood and noodles, which is how the present style was established. The six-layered structure with flour batter, cabbage, then the main ingredients plus noodles and more flour batter, then turned and flattened sunny side up is characteristic of these unique Hiroshima-style pancakes. They make a hearty meal and provide a good balance in nutrition. A special sauce is produced in many variations by a local company, so you can enjoy different flavours according to your taste.
In Japan, oysters are called the "Milk of the sea" because of their high nutritional value and rich taste. Hiroshima, with its unique cultivation techniques handed down over the ages, is the leading oyster producer in Japan. The large, shiny and supple oysters of Hiroshima are so delicious that oysters from anywhere else will no longer be of interest to you. Their distinctive feature is that they contain more glycogen, iron, phosphorous, etc. than those of other areas. The taste of raw oysters is particularly exquisite. When you open the shell of a fresh oyster and eat it with vinegar or lemon, the juicy sweetness and salty flavour of the sea spread in your mouth. If you are not so keen on raw oysters, you could try the Hiroshima specialty, oyster dotenabe - tasty oysters cooked to a wonderful tenderness in a miso-based soup.
Fugu (puffer fish) (Yamaguchi)
Fugu sashimi is sliced so thin that you can see the pattern of the plate through the neatly arranged slices. It is exquisite to look at and the taste of the delicate white meat is exceptionally good. Puffer fish is also enjoyed as a hotpot dish called fuguchiri, or as hire-zake (a sake drink with dried puffer fish fin). Puffer fish are cute in appearance, but there are some types that contain a deadly poison called tetrodotoxin. People who cook puffer fish are required to have a special license. Licensed cooks are trained to carefully remove the poisonous parts, so it is perfectly safe to eat when prepared by them. The taste of puffer fish has long captured the hearts of the Japanese people.
Izumo Soba (buckwheat noodles) (Shimane)
Unlike ordinary Japanese noodles, the ones made from Izumo buckwheat are rather dark because the buckwheat is milled with the chaff included. This chaff contains many nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals as well as a certain element of flavour. The dark noodles have a strong body, rich aroma and excellent nutritional value, and the stock sauce has a distinctive flavour. There are several authentic dishes; for example, with wariko buckwheat noodles, you add relish to the noodles arranged on a beautiful lacquerware plate and pour sauce over them. With kamaage buckwheat noodles, you put the noodles in a preheated bowl and pour in sobayu (the water the noodles were cooked in), then sauce, and eat them with some sliced green onions and other condiments.