(CNN) — There’s no denying Tokyo is without doubt one of the world’s meals capitals.
But in the event you look past the Michelin stars and take a deep dive into the origins of Japanese delicacies and the various elements that outline it, you will discover Wakayama prefecture, south of the town of Osaka, gives an unexpectedly various abundance of flavors.
Case in level: It’s the birthplace of Japanese soy sauce.
Named Kishu — or Kii Domain — in historical Japan, Wakayama has been an essential meals and non secular middle since Heian-kyo (at present’s Kyoto) was constructed within the late 700s.
Fortunately, a lot of that legacy stays at present, evidenced by these 10 dishes and elements each Wakayama customer must attempt.
Yuasa is the birthplace of Japanese soy sauce.
courtesy Yuasa, Wakayama Tourism Bureau
The small city’s origins as a soy sauce manufacturing middle took root over 700 years in the past, when a Japanese monk returned from China with a method for making miso (soy sauce paste). Soy sauce, a byproduct of miso-making, was found by accident.
Today’s vacationers will really feel like they’ve stepped by means of a time-warp when visiting Yuasa. Many of its historic shophouses comprise miso and soy sauce retailers, along with small factories and museums, giving guests ample alternatives to select up just a few bottles of this prized condiment to take dwelling.
Getting there: Catch the native prepare at Wakayama City’s JR Wakayama station. The journey takes about an hour.
Chuka soba, a.ok.a. Wakayama ramen
Resist the temptation to name it ramen — it is recognized regionally as “chuka soba.”
Maggie Hiufu Wong/CNN
No go to to Japan is full with out a bowl of steaming scorching ramen.
In Wakayama City, ramen is known as “chuka soba,” or Chinese noodles. There are varied variations however each bowl of chuka soba ought to function a tonkotsu-shoyu (pork bone and soy sauce) broth with off-white noodles and barbecued pork.
Ide Shoten, voted Japan’s finest ramen eatery in 1998 throughout an episode of widespread collection “TV Champion,” is a chuka soba shrine for noodle lovers.
Negi (scallion) ramen at Mauri Junibanchoten — served with a inexperienced blanket of chopped scallions on prime — is one other must-try.
Typical chuka soba eating places typically provide a serving of completely pressed pickled mackerel sushi on the facet. These are nice appetizers and value biting into earlier than you dive into your ramen.
Ide Shoten, 4-84 Tanaka Town, Wakayama City
The authentic sushi
Mehari-zushi options rice balls wrapped in pickled mustard greens — a Wakayama specialty.
Nowadays, when folks consider sushi, nigiri involves thoughts. The most well-known illustration of this beloved Japanese dish, it is a bundle of rice topped with a bit of uncooked fish.
But these trying to expertise the unique types of sushi, which date again to the 10th century, ought to head for Wakayama’s Kumano area.
One of the world’s most beloved native cuisines, narezushi is a hand-pressed rice ball topped with fermented fish. (Just do not let the scent put you off.)
You can discover it in native meals halls, ramen retailers and likewise a restaurant known as Yatsufusa, which serves narezushi with native sake.
Another sort of conventional sushi is mehari-zushi. These outsized rice balls wrapped in pickled mustard leaves had been as soon as a standard bento (lunch field) inclusion for staff and farmers. They’re nonetheless a preferred meals for hikers visiting the mountainous Kumano area thus might be discovered in lots of retailers within the space.
Yatsufusa, 38-6 Yukawachomaruyama, Gobo, Wakayama
Nakata is one in every of Wakayama’s greatest ume processing and brewing factories. Vistors can take a tour and luxuriate in just a few free samples of the umeshu.
If you are having fun with a refreshing glass of umeshu (plum wine) or a meal of umeboshi onigiri (rice balls with pickled plum) in Japan, there is a good probability the ume is from Wakayama.
The province accounts for round 60% of Japan’s complete ume manufacturing. The most well-known selection is Nanko ume, a big, succulent species with a vibrant inexperienced and crimson hue, wealthy style and smooth pulp.
Its identify was impressed by the Japanese characters of the phrases Takada (the farmer who planted the primary ume discipline within the area) and Minabe (the area the place his ume discipline was situated).
Although it’s also known as a plum, ume’s scientific identify is definitely prunus mume, a kind of apricot.
Several umeshu factories provide excursions and samples in Wakayama, together with Nakata Foods, exterior the town of Tanabe.
Kumanoogyu is leaner than its Kobe counterpart.
courtesy Wakayama Prefecture
Kumano beef, with the identical beautiful marbling and delicate style as its better-known counterpart, is leaner than regular Kobe beef and of nice worth compared.
Kumano beef might be discovered all through the prefecture served in varied methods. For occasion, Steakhouse Hinoki serves burger steaks made with Kumanogyu, whereas Yakiniku Hige is a family-run diner that gives yakiniku with varied cuts of Kumano beef.
Shansho peppers are utilized in condiments and marinades.
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Similar to Sichuan’s numbing peppers, sansho peppers are mildly spiced, have a tongue-numbing high quality and a refreshing citrusy perfume.
Wakayama is the most important producer of sansho peppers not simply in Japan but in addition the world.
They are extensively used as a condiment in addition to in marinades. That inexperienced or brown powder you see on grilled eel and grilled hen? That’s sansho. Peppers harvested at totally different intervals through the 12 months will fluctuate in look and tastes, whereas the leaves are sometimes used as ornament.
They’re additionally present in jars of seven-spice combination (shichimi togarashi) on tables in nearly each Japanese restaurant.
Looking for a culinary memento? You can discover bottles of shichimi togarashi or grounded sansho pepper in lots of native retailers and supermarkets.
Tried and true: The odor of Arida mandarins will make orange followers drool.
Maggie Hiufu Wong/CNN
Wakayama is Japan’s greatest producer of mikan and the prefecture’s Arida Mikan is without doubt one of the prime mandarin orange manufacturers in Japan.
In addition to mikan, Wakayama is a serious producer of different fruits like persimmons, peaches and kiwis, main many to discuss with it as Japan’s kajuokoku (the fruit kingdom).
Travelers can expertise Koya’s famed Buddhist vegetarian delicacies, which incorporates loads of tofu.
Named after Mount Koya, the sacred mountain in Wakayama that is still a pilgrimage web site for religious Buddhists, Koya tofu has a frosty again story courting to the early 1600s.
It’s believed monks of the world’s temples used to make it within the freezing winter temperatures.
To protect the 12 months’s soybean harvests, it was made into tofu that was left outdoor to freeze earlier than it was thawed and dried for storage.
Unlike the silky pudding-like recent tofu most are accustomed to, the dried Koya tofu has a crouton-like texture and is nice for absorbing sauce and soup in a dish.
Several Wakayama fish markets provide tuna chopping demonstrations.
Maggie Hiufu Wong/CNN
Not solely does Wakayama have a number of the largest ports for skipjack tuna, it is also enjoying a task in efforts to save lots of the species from going extinct.
In response to elevated demand for skipjack tuna, during the last three a long time Kindai University in Osaka has been working to create a extra sustainable, absolutely farmed tuna possibility — they usually have succeeded at their Oshima farm station at Kushimoto, Wakayama.
You can now discover the Kindai tuna alongside wild-caught tuna in Wakayama’s many fish markets.
To pattern a number of the prefecture’s prized tuna, guests can head to Katsuura Fishing Port. One of the biggest tuna fishing ports in Japan, it hosts a each day public sale in addition to tuna slicing demos.
Toretore Market in Shirahama and Kuroshio Market in Wakayama City additionally host each day tuna chopping exhibits.
Dried bonito flakes are a Japanese culinary staple.
FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
Wakayama can also be stated to be the birthplace of katsuobushi — the wiggling, dried bonito flakes used to garnish takoyaki (squid balls) and okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancakes with cabbages, flour, eggs and, typically, pork and noodles).
To make katsuobushi, filets of deboned skipjack tuna are repeatedly smoked and dried till they’re as laborious as a wood block. The hardened fish is then shaved into skinny flakes, that are used as a seasoning. It’s one of many essential elements in dashi, the famed umami Japanese soup inventory.
There are a number of tales linked to the invention of bonito flakes that contain totally different prefectures in Japan however a number of of them level to Wakayama.
Regardless of the origins, bonito flakes are a Wakayama staple. Packaged bonito flakes might be present in just about any market/meals store — marking them the right memento.