Food in Kanto and the Kansai regions has distinct differences that Tokyoites (Kanto) and Osakans (Kansai) love to debate, with locals championing their regional versions as the best. In Kanto soups tend to be subtlety flavoured and clear, whereas in Kansai they tend to be dark and full-flavoured. Japanese style pancakes have a sloppy scramble egg texture in Kanto, whereas in Kansai they prefer them firm and round. The difference are endless – just ask a local!
Yuba (bean curd skin) (Tochigi)
When soy milk is boiled, a thin layer forms on the surface. Yuba is made by gently scooping off this layer. It first came from China along with tofu and has since developed as part of the Japanese food culture. Yuba can be dried and wrapped around fillings, or it can be added to stews and cooked dishes, or even eaten with soy sauce and grated wasabi (Japanese horseradish), just like sashimi. These days, yuba is regarded as a highly nutritious food with the added benefit of being easy to cook. Along with Nikko (Tochigi), Kyoto is also famous for producing yuba. In historical cities like these, yuba dishes have been popular for generations and long-established yuba restaurants remain extremely busy. How about giving this traditional taste a try?
Namerou is a traditional fishermen's dish from the coastal area of the Boso-hanto Peninsula forming the southern part of Chiba. The main ingredients are horse mackerel, sardines, flying fish, and Pacific saury or mackerel. The fish is cut into small pieces, with miso added, then leeks, ginger and shiso (Japanese basil) are placed on top and chopped finely to form a paste. The leeks and ginger are used to eliminate the fishy odour. Roasted namerou is known as sanga-yaki, while namerou mixed with su (vinegar) is su-namerou, and when it is placed on a bowl of rice and green tea is poured over it, it is called soncha. These are all hearty dishes with the priority being on taste rather than appearance, and are worthy of being fishermen's dishes.
Monja-yaki was originally eaten as a children's treat in downtown Tokyo. Now it is established as a specialty of Tokyo. First, you cook ingredients such as dried squid, sweet corn and cabbage on a heated cast iron plate. Then you gather these ingredients together on a plate and build a circular wall with a hollowed-out space and pour a watery batter mixed with flour into the hollow. You scrape the half-cooked part around using a small spatula and scoop up the cooked part stuck to the back of the spatula into your mouth. This dish originated either in Asakusa in Tokyo or in Gunma. At present, Tsukishima in Chuo ward is known throughout Japan as "Monja-yaki Town". Please take that extra step and try this dish when you visit the Ginza area.
Fukagawa-meshi is a popular dish in downtown Tokyo. Shelled clams and leeks are cooked in miso and then served on a bowl of rice together with the soup. In fukagawa-meshi cooked with fat clams in season (spring), the flavour of the stock from the clams mixed with miso creates a distinct, delicious taste. It is hard to imagine now, but the Fukagawa area once flourished as a fishing town and clams were abundant at the mouth of the Sumida-gawa River. Some restaurants in this area still offer fukagawa-meshi, so if you notice a sign for one while walking around downtown, share the experience enjoyed by those in the Edo Period (1603-1867).