Autumn is known as the "season of healthy appetites" in Japan. This autumn, why not visit Sendai, whose sea, mountains and land are blessed with an abundance of delicious ingredients that have over the years been used to create numerous local specialties?
Here are just a few of the great dishes you can try when you visit.
Miyagi Prefecture, in which Sendai is located, is not only home to one of Japan's most famous rice-producing regions, but also boasts some of Japan's leading tuna-catching ports such as the domestically famous ports of Shiogama, Ishinomaki, and Kesennuma. You can't go wrong with sushi from Sendai!
Also, don't forget that Miyagi's great tasting rice means that it produces great tasting sake. Why not try it along with some of Sendai's plentiful fresh seafood, like raw tuna, bonito, saury, shark fin, oysters, scallops or abalone?
A new star has been born into Sendai's culinary scene! "Sendai zuke-don" takes local whitefish and other fresh seafood, pickles it in a specially-made sauce, and then serves it on top of a bowl of Miyagi's best sushi rice. The picture above is just one example from a Sendai shop, but each restaurant will vary the ingredients used for a unique style and flavor. Try as many different varieties of "zuke-don" as you can the next time you're in Sendai!
Here is a picture of the seafood bowl we tried at JR Sendai Station's Sushi Street, on the third floor near the central bullet train ticket gates. Mouthwatering!
Sendai beef stands alongside Ohmi beef, Matsuzaka beef, and Yonezawa beef as one of Japan's premiere beef brands. "Sendai beef" is the name given to the meat from the best quality Japanese Black breed of cattle that are fattened up in Miyagi Prefecture. Visitors can satisfy their hunger with select cuts of Sendai beef at the teppan-yaki (hot plate) counter of the Hayase Restaurant located in the Hotel Metropolitan Sendai. The hotel is directly connected to the adjacent JR Sendai Station.
When discussing Sendai's food, one cannot fail to mention the aromatic and uniquely textured dish of beef tongue. Sendai was the birthplace of barbecued beef tongue when, during the food shortages that followed World War II, a cook decided to create a dish "for citizens working towards the reconstruction of the city". Charcoal-grilled beef tongue is usually served together with oxtail soup and boiled barley and rice; a real taste of Sendai.
A popular local specialty is the elegant and fragrant zunda mochi sweet snack, which is made from mashed and sweetened soybean paste wrapped in a sticky rice cake. Zunda can also be enjoyed in a number of other variations in the cafes around Sendai, which serve everything from zunda shakes to zunda snow cones.
The dish known as hiyashi chuka, chilled Chinese noodles, was born in the Chinese restaurants of Sendai when someone decided to create "a ramen dish you can eat in summertime". Whilst this has now become a regular summertime dish around the country, hiyashi chukka can be enjoyed all year round in many of Sendai's restaurants.
The noodles are covered with a variety of ingredients, from the expensive (jellyfish and shrimp) to the simple (ham and cucumber).
Here is one of Sendai's most famous souvenirs, a unique bamboo-leaf-shaped fish cake made from grilled white-fleshed fish like flounder. There are loads of variations to try, including fish cakes with cheese, salmon and zunda inside.
Some photos: (C) City of Sendai