Nagasaki’s food culture is a result of its historical connections with China and Europe. While heavily influenced by European and Chinese tastes, Nagasaki dishes have certainly developed their own flavour. Here are some dishes that are a mix of culture and goodness all in one plate!
For meat lovers
1. Pork belly and Shippoku Ryori: Nagasaki’s signature dishes
Kakuni (simmer-cooked pork belly) was a dish that became available to Nagasaki during the Sakoku era (a period of national isolation) as Nagasaki maintained limited connections to the outside world. With its historical roots in Chinese cuisine, Kakuni has evolved to develop its own Japanese flavour. Kakuni is now a regional meibutsu (famous regional product) of Nagasaki.
Kakuni is made of thick cubes of braised pork belly simmered in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. Slow cooking allows the meat to be extremely tender, and the dish is often served with scallions, daikon and karashi.
And speaking of traditional dishes that define Nagasaki, Shippoku is a historical fusion and mixture of traditional Japanese, Chinese and Western dishes. It is a carefully prepared and exquisitely made 8 to 10 course meal that was developed in the Edo period. With a wide variety of ingredients from the region, Shippoku is the prime opportunity for one to taste elements from both the East and the West. Traditional Chinese medicine food therapy principles are also infused into the dishes. Shippoku Cuisines are now typically found at Ryotei, or traditional Japanese restaurants.
2. Sasebo Burger: A burger with a Japanese flavour
The Sasebo Burger came into existence around the 1950s, due to the American Navy Forces stationed in Sasebo. Very obviously inspired by the American burger, its features are its careful preparation and a rather filling size compared to the typical burger size. Do not expect the same burgers from America, as the Sasebo burger is a product of generations of reworking and remodelling by Japanese chefs. Its ingredients depend on your preference, but the most popular choice would probably be…BACON AND EGG!
A recommendation restaurant would be Big Man.
Big Man Sasebo main branch
Address: 7-10 Kamikyomachi, Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture
Access: 10 minutes’ walk from JR Sasebo Station
Opening hours: 11am - 10pm
Holidays : nil
3. Nagasaki beef: The award-winning beef
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Nagasaki won the Prime Minister’s Award in the “Wagyu Olympics” held every 5 years in 2012. It was officially recognized as the best Wagyu in Japan, and is now the representative beef in the Kyushu region. This prime quality and deservedly praised beef is perfect for BBQ.
A famous dish called “Lemon Steak” is served in the restaurant “Resutoranmon (れすとらん門)”. Another dish from Sasebo, it comes from the idea of making a steak suitable to the Japanese palate. Enjoy the soy sauce-based lemon-flavoured steak, after which you can pour the remaining sauce onto your rice and mix.
Address: 3-9 Motoshimacho Sasebo-city, Nagasaki
Access: 12 minutes’ walk from JR Sasebo Station
Opening hours: 11:30am - 1:30pm, 5:30pm - 9pm
Holidays: New Year’s day
4. Guzouni: Excellent taste from a wide variety of ingredients
When we talk about unique Nagasaki dishes, we have to mention the Guzouni, a local dish from the Shimabara region, made with mochi rice cakes and over 10 different ingredients ranging from meat to seafood to vegetables, with a light soup. Normally eaten on New Year’s Day, the best ones remind you of home-cooked delicacies.
For seafood lovers
5. Sea Bream dishes: Local gourmet you will surely enjoy
Nagasaki is known for having the largest sea bream catch in Japan. One of the famous sea bream dishes is the Sea Bream Meshi (taimeshi); lightly marinated with shoyu and salt, the grilled fish is served with rice. In some regions, taimeshi may also be served as sea bream sashimi with rice.
Another dish is the Sea Bream Chazuke, a rice dish with sea bream and made by pouring green tea or hot water over cooled rice. Broth specially meant for sea bream chazuke is also available in restaurants.
The most interesting dish might perhaps be Sea Bream Shiogamayaki. Wrapped in a thick layer of salt shaped like a fish, the sea bream is baked as such to preserve its original flavour. To eat the fish, customers will be provided with tools such as a mini hammer to remove the layer of salt.
6. Nagasaki, a treasure trove for seafood
The coastline of Nagasaki blesses the region with one of the best locations for fishing in Japan, and most definitely some of the best seafood delicacies. You will get to try out numerous seafood dishes in the form of sushi, sashimi and seafood rice bowls in Nagasaki.
A special mention is the whale meat in Nagasaki. Historically, Nagasaki whale meat has been recognised as extremely fresh. From whale bacon, hyakuhiro (small intestine of whale) to sashimi platter, you will have a whale of a time dining in Nagasaki seafood restaurants.
For carbo lovers
7. Nagasaki Champon: The most satisfying noodle dish
The Champon is one of Nagasaki’s famous noodle cooking styles. It is a local cuisine, featuring thick noodles and a variety of ingredients such as pork, seafood and vegetables. It is so famous that many noodle styles in Japan have been influenced by the Champon, especially the Champon in the Kyushu area, with their soup and fillings originating from the one in Nagasaki. “Toaku”, an ingredient unique to Nagasaki, is the secret to the noodle’s springy texture.
As a local saying goes: People in Nagasaki eat Champon in the afternoon, just like how people in the Kanto region eat Ramen, Udon and Soba. To fully appreciate Nagasaki culture, Champon is a must try! Shikairou restaurant (四海樓) is said to be the restaurant which invented Nagasaki Champon. It’s accessible from the city centre easily.
Address: 4-5, Matsugae-machi, Nagasaki-city
Access: 1-minute walk from Oura-tenshudo-moto municipal tram station
Opening hours: 11:30 am - 3pm, 5pm - 9pm
8. Sara Udon: A crispy udon
Unlike the usual udon you expect to see in soup or stir-fried dishes, sara udon is a thinner crispy variety fried in oil. The dish is typically served with a topping of seafood, cabbage, bean sprouts and other vegetables, though other meat varieties will be available on the menu. Different restaurants may serve different thickness of noodles too, so you are bound to find one that suits your personal taste!
9. Toruko Rice: A touch of Turkey in Japan
Pilaf rice and Neapolitan spaghetti accompanied with pork cutlet topped with demi-glace. As with the name of the dish, it was inspired by the Turkish and born in Nagasaki. Many different shops have different ingredients and toppings, resulting in different tasting pilaf rice, spaghetti and pork cutlets. You can find this dish at almost all cafe in Nagasaki city area but if you want to enjoy a cute heart motived one, go to Lekker, near Oura Catedral area.
Address: 3-7 Matsugaemachi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Access: in front of Oura Tenshudo Shita tram station
Opening hours: 11am - 8pm
10. Castella: A slice of historical flavour
Castella is a sweet, moist sponge cake. Based on a recipe originally introduced by Portuguese missionaries in the mid-16 century, the Castella was created in Nagasaki with a unique Japanese flavour, with a different look and baking process from the original Portuguese recipe. Check out the interesting history behind the origins of Castella that date back to 1571, during the Age of Discovery!
文明堂本店 Bunmei-do main branch
Address: 1-1 Edomachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture
Access 1-minute walk from Ohato municipal tram station
Opening hours 8:30 am - 7:30 pm
Contact : +81 95-824-0002
11. Yori-yori: A must-buy Nagasaki souvenir
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Speaking of Nagasaki food souvenirs, one cannot forget the yori-yori. A Chinese sweet delight, yori-yori is a sweet fried-dough cuisine with a unique helical structure. With its golden brown exterior, the yori-yori is fragrant and most definitely enticing as a local food choice. Other names of the yori-yori include Nejinbou, Mafa, and Toujinmaki.
12. Milk Seki - A Nagasaki spin to the famous drink
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
You may be familiar with Milk Seki, a sweet drink made with a blend of milk, egg and sugar. On a warm summer day, sipping on a cup of Milk Seki sounds like the perfect idea.
But not in Nagasaki.
Milk Seki in Nagasaki is to be eaten, not drunk. Indulge in the various variations of Milk Seki in Nagasaki as you find yourself served with Milk Seki with loads and loads of shaved ice. Forget the drink you see on online recipes. In Nagasaki, we eat them!
Cafe & Bar Umino
Address:Amu Plaza Nagasaki 5F, 1-1 Onouemachi, Nagasaki-city, Nagasaki Prefecture
Access: In front of JR Nagasaki Station
Opening hours : 11am to 11pm
Start munching your way through Nagasaki!
So what are you waiting for? Munch your way through Nagasaki now with this list in hand! After all, what’s better than a trip with good memories of amazing scenery and food?
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