Hiroshima, also known as Peace City, has a long and rich history that attracts tourists from all over the world. However, it is also known for its delicious and abundant culinary culture, and offers a large variety of local delicacies that are a must have for all those who visit the city.
Hiroshima Oysters (広島かき)
If there is one thing that is for sure, it is that the people of Hiroshima love their oysters. Providing over two-thirds of Japan’s total produce, this locally adored seafood is known for its larger than average size and longer than usual growing period. Hiroshima Bay and the Seto Inland Sea provide the optimal conditions for these mollusks to flourish, leaving them with a fragrant and decadent taste unlike any other in the world.
Whilst they can be enjoyed raw, this region is unique in that it prefers to cook its shellfish in a wide variety of dishes. One particular specialty would have to be a hot pot called Kaki no Dotenabe. The meal is created by simmering the prefecture’s succulent oysters, tofu, vegetables, and a wonderful broth in an earthenware pot, lined with a sweet miso bean paste. Every year, dishes such as this can be enjoyed along the shores of Hiroshima Bay as the Hiroshima Oyster Roads open up for tourists and locals alike.
Hiroshima Okonomiyaki (広島お好み焼き)
With a name that literally means “cooked as you like”, the Hiroshima Okonomiyaki, a kind of savoury pancake, is a highly popular dish to the people of the prefecture. Also a favourite in the Kansai area, Hiroshima’s version is famous in its own right due to two major differences. What is possibly its most well-known difference is that, opposed to mixing the ingredients with the batter before cooking, the Hiroshima pancake is fried in layers. The popular savoury hot cake’s other most notable difference is the addition of the yakisoba noodles alongside the more common cabbage, pork, egg, seafood, batter, and prevalent condiments. Thanks to this unique take on this prized dish, this adored meal has quickly become an integral part of the region’s culinary culture as well as its economy.
Born to help with the region’s post-war recovery, restaurants and stores are littered throughout the region, numbering well over a thousand. The majority of these restaurants can be found in the must see Okonomimura or Okonomiyaki Village, a three-story establishment that still holds a 1960s atmosphere, consisting solely of stands dedicated to this fabulous meal. A rare sight, the Okonomimura should be on the destination list for anyone who wants to get the full Okonomiyaki experience.
Momiji Manjū (もみじ饅頭)
For those with a sweet-tooth, the Momiji Manjū is a must for anyone visiting Hiroshima. This cute, little maple leaf-shaped confection, is a famous local specialty, and is commonly brought as an omiyage, a type of food souvenir. A small cake made in the shape of a maple leaf, is usually found filled with sweet red bean paste, but can also contain flavours such as matcha, chocolate, custard, and cream cheese.
These cakes can be found in a variety of different shops. Some sell the Momiji Manjū individually, whilst others offer baking demonstrations. Freshly baked cakes, with the filling still nice and hot, can only be brought in these latter stores. Additionally, many of the makers and sellers of these delicious snacks will offer a variety of other local and national confectioneries, including both Japanese sweets as well as Japanese crackers – making sure to fill any snack cravings.
The Itsukushima Shrine, a popular tourist destination, is best known for its “floating” shinto gate located in the Seto Inland Sea. However, for those looking to marvel at the beauty of this heritage site, one should not pass up on the chance to try the equally famed Anago, a saltwater eel. This popular and abundant seafood can be caught in the waters surrounding the shrine, and thus the prevalent local dish, called Anag0 Meshi, is commonly associated with the shrine and its area as a localized delicacy.
The beloved Anago Meshi, or grilled eel over rice, has been a favourite choice since the Meiji Era. This meal is known for its light and fluffy fish meat, as well as subtle and comforting flavours that make it a staple in its local areas and a great treat for tourists. In order to make this beautiful specialty, the seafood is steamed with the rice in order to flavour the entire plate with its flavour. The plate is then topped with another piece of anago that has been roasted over charcoal to add its own smoked flavour to the fish, finally being flavoured with a small amount of soy sauce. The cooking style and fulfilling ingredients make the dish a heartwarmer that is bound to warm the soul of anyone who tries it.
What is classified as the prefecture’s favourite noodle meal that’s often referred to as a soupless ramen, the Tsukemen is a highly popular meal in Hiroshima, more so than the well-known and loved ramen. Created in the region, this dish is made with the same ingredients as it’s notorious relative, but, instead of being similar to a soup, it is served with a bowl of dipping sauce on the side. This broth can change depending on the region, with Hiroshima having a particular love for a hot and spicy sauce that can be adjusted to the diner’s personal tastes.
After boiling, the noodles are quickly dunked in ice-cold water, drained and served alongside the common toppings of cabbage, spring onion, roast pork, and boiled eggs. And of course, this Tsukemen is not complete without the region’s favourite hot and spicy dipping sauce that is seasoned with the diner’s preferred taste of chilli pepper. Many stalls and restaurants offer a large variety of toppings, as well as the most common ones, for their customers to enjoy. Such a dish will quickly become a favourite for those visiting the area, constantly keeping customers coming back for more.
A popular tourist destination, Hiroshima will always remain on a traveler’s must-visit list for time to come. Whilst its history and traditions will draw you in to admire its beauty, its culinary culture will keep you coming back for more. With its succulent seafood and iconic dishes, Hiroshima is always leaving its visitors with life-changing experiences that will ensure that you re-book your trip.
Feature Photo by Nicki Eliza Schinow on Unsplash
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