Top 3 Must Eat Foods in Nagoya, Japan
Below is a list of the top 3 Japanese Dishes you must try while in Nagoya – recommended by locals!
Nagoya might not be the first destination that comes to mind when traveling to Japan. Located in the Aichi Prefecture between west of Tokyo, Nagoya makes for a great stopover on the way to Kyoto or Osaka from Tokyo. Unbeknownst to us, Nagoya also has some excellent regional dishes to offer. Our Japanese friend instantly knew where to send us during our trip. We hoped on an overnight bus to the city to try all the dishes he mentioned.
We decided to first work up an appetite by exploring the nearby town of Inuyama know for it’s castle set on a hill, 30 min outside of Nagoya city center. We were quite lucky that day as the Inuyama Festival was taking place. At first we had no clue what was taking place as we watched crowds gather and circle around beautiful 3-story high floats. We later discover that this is an annual festival of the Haritsuna Shrine.
We got a bit too carried away at the festival with so much to see and many things to taste and try along the way. We rushed back to Nagoya.
Our challenge: Taste 3 dishes in 3 hours!
1st Dish – Hitsumabushi
Hitsumabushi is probably the #1 must eat food in Nagoya, Japan. It is a local delicacy of grilled eel served on top rice. When we first learned of the dish, this didn’t seem too impressive. However after the 3rd person recommended that we absolutely must try this dish, we started to become curious. We later learned that there is a whole tradition and technique that goes into cooking this delicious eel concoction. The grilling method is Kansai style meaning that the eels are stilt along their bellies are grilled whole without first steaming. Only adult eels should be used as they have moderate fat with fine skin. The traditional method also uses Bincho charcoal as this provides an extra dimension of taste to the eels when cooking. *My mouth is watering just writing this description!*
How to Eat & Enjoy Hitsumabushi?
This dish is meant to be tasted in 3 ways. First – eat the eel without adding any additional flavouring or condiments. Second – add wasabi and green onions to the eel. Third – pour the soup “Ochazuke” over the eel in your bowl and enjoy it as a soup.
Where to Eat Hitsumabushi?
Our friend and local confident recommended Hitsumabushi Nagoya Bincho as they use the finest ingredients and stick to the traditional method of grilling the eel with Bincho charcoal. BEWARE of other restaurants that grill the eel on electric or gas fires. This dish is not the cheapest food you will find but, trust us, it is worth it!
2nd Dish – Miso Nikomi
The second must-eat food on our list is Miso Nikomi. The dish comprises of thick udon noodles cooked in a miso broth served in a stone-clay pot. What makes the dish truly special is the miso broth as typical udon is usually served in a mildly flavored, clear broth. The noodles are cooked al dente to go well with the rich miso broth. The dish is served with a raw egg which you are supposed to break up before eating (making the broth even richer!). We found Miso Nikomi to be one of the tastiest udon dishes who have ever tried. Just be careful about the hotness of the dish as the clay pot keeps this soup piping-hot from beginning to end!
Where to Eat Miso Nikomi? We went to Yamamotoya Honten to try our first Miso Nikomi. It happens to be one of the most recommended miso-nikomi udon shops in Nagoya.
3rd Dish – Kishimen
With less than 30 minutes before our train departed to Osaka, we went on a hunt to find an affordable Kishimen dish to try. Luckily we found one located in Nagoya Station! What is so special about Kishimen? As you can tell from the photo, it’s all about the noodles. You can think of Kishimen as flat ramen. But there is more to this than meets the eye. Apparently the flat noodle shape allows for more broth to stick to the noodle giving it a deeper taste. We’re starting to think that the locals really prefer a stronger flavour to everything!
How to Get to Nagoya Japan?
Bus – We opted for the bus as the rail pass and Shinkansen fast train were a bit out of our budget. You can pre-book your tickets and pay by credit card at Kosokubus.com. We took the night bus which left Toyko Station at 22:30 and arrived at Nagoya Station at 05:50. The cost was 2,200 yen (~ USD 20) per person one way.
Train – The Shinkansen fast train will take you about 1h40m to reach Nagoya from Tokyo. The cost is significantly higher than the bus at 11,000 yen (USD 99) per person one way. Taking the train could be a good idea if you already have a Japan Rail Pass.