The port city of Nagasaki, situated on Japan’s third largest island of Kyushu, has a history unlike any other place in Japan. Thanks to trade with Portuguese, Chinese, and Dutch ships going back to the 16th century and the installation of a US military base in the modern post-WWII era, the Nagasaki region is home to a vibrant food scene that combines Chinese, Japanese, European, and American cooking. Here are nine restaurants that represent the best of Nagasaki cuisine.
Goto Udon Tsubaki
Japan has three famous styles of udon noodle, and one of them is Nagasaki’s Goto udon, a thin hand-pulled style of noodles made with camellia oil for a delicate aroma. They’re named for the Goto Islands, found about 100 km off the shore of Nagasaki prefecture. However, you don’t have to go all the way to Goto for a tasty bowl of udon. The restaurant Tsubaki located inside of Nagasaki Airport is known for its excellent Goto udon served with a flavorful dipping sauce of dashi-flavored soy sauce.
Nagasaki Wagyu Steak Matsusyo
While you’ve undoubtedly heard of Kobe beef, you probably haven’t heard of Nagasaki wagyu, the region’s local breed that tied for top prize at the 2012 Japanese Beef Olympics. Give it a try at Matsusyo, a Nagasaki wagyu specialty restaurant. They serve up the regional beef in a variety of ways including teppan-grilled steaks, sukiyaki, and shabu shabu, as well as less pricey options like Hamburg steak and beef bowl during lunch.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Nagasaki’s elegant shippoku ryori is the budget-friendly Nagasaki champon, a noodle dish invented by a local Chinese chef for hungry university students. Champon combines meat, seafood, and plenty of vegetables with wide noodles in a thick soup. The most famous place to enjoy this cheap and filling dish is the champon noodle chain Ringer Hut, which originated in Nagasaki. Be sure to also try their sara udon, a variation of champon served over thin deep-fried noodles.
Nagasaki’s shippoku ryori is one of the best examples of fusion cooking found in the region. A combination of Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch cuisines, it presents dishes from all three countries prepared with the rigor of Japanese haute cuisine but served in the style of Chinese family dining. Experience it at Shiseki-Ryotei Kagetsu, where the architecture of the 375-year-old building that houses the restaurant will make you feel as though you’ve slipped back through time.
Nicky Arnstein Hamanomachi
The Nagasaki standard Turkish rice may seem like an odd combination of foods, with rice pilaf, deep-fried tonkatsu pork cutlet in sauce, and sweet Japanese-style spaghetti served together on one plate. The exact origins of dish have been lost to time, but it certainly speaks of the influence of Western cooking on Japan. Try it at Nicky Arnstein Hamanomachi, a quaint café that somewhat enigmatically takes its name from the American gambler and con artist who rigged the 1919 World Series.
The hearty Sasebo burger was created following World War II by Nagasaki residents around Sasebo City, in response to hungry military personnel stationed at the US naval base nearby. Although inspired by American hamburgers, the Sasebo burger has a definite Japanese flair and is commonly topped with slices of bacon and a fried egg. With the number of burger joints around Sasebo, it can be hard to decide on just one, but Misa Rosso is one of the most famous in the area after being featured on Japanese television.
Omura Kakuzushi Yamato
The area around Nagasaki’s Omura Bay is home to a unique style of pressed sushi called omura zushi. It’s made by layering sushi rice, shredded omelet, sea bream, and other toppings in a box-shaped mold and slicing it into individual squares. Omura zushi is named after Sumikore Omura, the first daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) to convert to Christianity. You can find this unique style of sushi at Omura Kakuzushi Yamato, located about a ten-minute walk from Omura Station.
Castella Honke Fukusaya
Castella is a type of cake made with eggs, sugar, and flour that was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders arriving in Nagasaki. It’s the most popular souvenir among visitors to the Nagasaki area, and Fukusaya is one of the best-known brands of Castella cake, having been founded in 1624.
A dessert influenced by the Dutch stroopwafel, Japanese waffuru can range from a treat as simple as a plain toasted waffle coated in powdered sugar to something as complex as the decadent cream-filled concoctions found at Bon Patty.
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