Japan is obsessed with food and at no time is this more obvious than when you take a trip to a new part of Japan. Every town seems to have its own delicacy or speciality to try, and colleagues and co-workers will inevitably ask if you tried them after your visit (they may even ask for you to bring some back for them).
It’s almost as if these cities are defined by their specialities; Hiroshima will forever be the home of Okonomiyaki for most people, the best Miso Katsu you ever have will probably be from Nagoya, and there is only one present any one ever wants from Kyoto… Yatsuhashi sweets.
Fukuoka is no different. Tonkotsu Ramen is what the city is famous for; its smell constantly pours out on to the streets, and its salty, oily, delicious taste is better here than anywhere else in the whole of Japan. But there is more to Fukuoka than just Ramen (if you do want a recommendation for Ramen, I would suggest heading to one of the many delicious Ichiran Ramen shops in the city), and it would be a shame to take a trip here and only experience this one part of the city’s culinary character.
So here are three more foods worth seeking out on your next trip here, and why you should try them right after your first bowl of Ramen!
1) Motsunabe もつ鍋
Motsunabe is the best food on this list for sharing with friends. As the name suggests it’s a type of Nabe; a Japanese stew served in a hot pot. What makes it special is that the main ingredient here is beef and pork intestines (usually beef). In fact personally, what I think really makes it special is that the main ingredient is intestines and it is still thoroughly delicious!
The Nabe’s soup is usually made from soy sauce, garlic and chilli pepper and when the intestines are added to this and slowly cooked you end up with a rich, delicious broth. These flavours soak into the intestines as they cook making them soft and tasty, and with the addition of garlic chives on top, and champon noodles after, you have all the ingredients necessary for a hearty, enjoyable meal.
There are plenty of Motsunabe restaurants throughout the city, but the most famous may be Motsunabe Yamanaka; a beautiful restaurant in Akasaka where you can try Motsunabe at its very best.
2) Mentaiko 明太子
Whilst Motsunabe is a delicious meal, Mentaiko is a delicious ingredient. Mentaiko is a spicy form of Pollock roe (eggs), which originated in Korea and came to Japan via Fukuoka. It has been in the city ever since and there are now over three hundred producers of Mentaiko and over two hundred shops selling it as an omiyage (a souvenir) to take home with you. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and whilst it is sometimes eaten lightly seared by itself, it is often put with other foods to create new delicious alternatives of old favourites.
Mentaiko pasta, Mentaiko pizza, Mentaiko Tamago Yaki (omelette style eggs) and Mentaiko onigiri (rice balls) are all common on restaurant menus throughout the city, and all are worth ordering if you get the chance. You can even go and see how Mentaiko is made at Fukutaro Mentaiko factory in Fukuoka city. You will be taken on a free guided tour of the factory, with opportunities to buy exclusive mentaiko products that are fresh and delicious.
3) Yuzu Kosho 柚子胡椒
If Motsunabe is the best meal Fukuoka has to offer, and Mentaiko is the best ingredient, then Yuzu Kosho is the best condiment. Yuzu kosho is a type of Japanese seasoning made from Yuzu, a citrus fruit common in Japan. The peel of the Yuzu is put together with salt and chilli peppers to create a spicy, delicious condiment that can make even the dullest food pop with a hint of citrus and spice.
Famous throughout Kyushu, there are competing theories about where it originated; some say it came from Hita, Oita prefecture and some say it came from Soeda, Fukuoka prefecture. Either way it has found a home in Fukuoka where it is often substituted instead of wasabi and can be found on tables throughout the prefecture for people to add as they want. Calbee Potato Chips even have a special Yuzu Kosho flavour available only on Kyushu, which is almost as delicious as the condiment itself.
So next time you are in Fukuoka make sure you try all that the city has to offer; that means Motsunabe, Mentaiko, Yuzu Kosho and yes of course don’t forget Ramen too!