Local Kyushu cuisine includes nabe hot-pot dishes such as mizutaki chicken casserole, horse mackerel, usuki globe fish, eel dishes and raw horsemeat. The local noodle dishes to try are champon and sara udon.
Hakata Ramen (Fukuoka)
As you walk around Hakata station area of Fukuoka you are very likely to notice in certain areas the strong, some would say pungent smell of pork being boiled down to create the stock for the famous “tonkotsu” ramen (pictured right). Ramen (thin noodles served in a salty soup), is available all over Japan, but people come from all over Japan to eat the “tonkotsu” (pork) type available in Fukuoka. Try Hakata Ramen at yatai street food stalls, or if you want more choice, you could head to the “Ramen Stadium” in Canal city, which has restaurants that sell ramen types not just from Fukuoka, but from all over Japan.
Nagasaki has long been an important trading port in Japan, and because it is where Eastern and Western cultures mix, you will find many varieties of food there. Sara wheat-flour noodles are a typical noodle dish of Nagasaki together with champon. There are two kinds of sara noodles - thick noodles fried with lard and thinner noodles fried with oil, popular for their crunchy texture. Various types of seafood, bamboo shoots or kikurage mushrooms and pork are all used as ingredients. The ingredients are fried in lard, and then seasoned with salt, pepper and sugar. A sauce made from pork and chicken stock with starch as a thickener is poured over the top. A dash of Worcester sauce makes it even tastier.
A typical local dish of Miyazaki is hiyajiru. A soup is made from boiled-dried fish such as horse mackerel or dried sardines, and miso is also added. The soup is chilled and poured onto hot, cooked rice and eaten with vegetables such as cucumber and relishes including shiso (Japanese basil) or ginger. This homey dish allows you to enjoy the flavour of summer vegetables and its refreshing taste. It is also suitable to eat after you have had a little too much sake. Some say this dish was created by busy Miyazaki farmers to eat quickly during their farm work. There is still a wide variety of hiyajiru dishes unique to each family in the local area.
One way to enjoy gourmet food in Kagoshima is to look for the “Kuro” mark, which means “black”. One famous “Kuro” product is “Kagoshima Kurobuta”, Japan's most highly esteemed brand of pork, made from Berkshire pigs. Kurobuta was first produced in Kagoshima around 400 years ago. The Shimazu clan, who ruled Satsuma (the former name of Kagoshima prefecture) at that time, popularised it and it became known nationwide.
Kagoshima Kurobuta pigs are mainly fed Satsuma-imo, or sweet potatoes. As you can tell from the “Satsuma” in the name, these sweet potatoes are a local speciality of Kagoshima prefecture. Satsuma-imo makes the pork fat's melting point higher, so when Kurobuta is cooked at high heat it has a less greasy texture. The fat in the lean meat also contains a lot of vitamin E. You can enjoy Kurobuta's mouth-watering flavor in a variety of dishes including shabu-shabu and tonkatsu (crumbed pork cutlet).
Shochu (distilled spirits)
The second most popular alcoholic beverage of Japan is shochu, which is categorized into two types according to the distillation method. One is honkaku shochu, (authentic shochu), which includes extracted flavour compounds in addition to alcohol made through the classic production method. It has a rustic taste and flavour from ingredients such as wheat, sweet potatoes, buckwheat or black sugar.
In Kagoshima and Miyazaki in the Kyushu area, much of the imo-jochu is produced from sweet potatoes. The potato shochu from Kagoshima is satsuma shochu, which has a long history going back to the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), confirmed by the recent discovery of documentary evidence. Potato shochu has a unique flavour and sweetness and is a popular drink with either ice or hot water. You can enjoy the original straight taste and coolness of this drink with ice, while hot water brings out its rich flavour and sweetness.
It is fun to change the way you drink it according to the season. In Kagoshima, there are many styles of Satsuma pottery for shochu, such as kurojoka, used for heating and serving shochu; and sorakyu, a cup with a round bottom, meaning one has to finish all of the shochu before it can be set down.