Kagoshima prefecture is located in the very south of Japan lies. Well known for Sakurajima, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kagoshima also boasts a rich and unique food culture. Here's a look at some must-try, regional dishes:
Keihanliterally means chicken rice. It is a local dish from Amami Oshima, a tropical island chain off the coast of Kagoshima.Keihan is a rice-based soup topped with various garnishes. Most commonly these garnishes consist of shredded chicken, thinly sliced egg, seaweed, pickles, dried shiitake mushrooms and orange peel.
The garnishes are arranged neatly on top of the rice before a rich chicken stock is poured on top, creating a hearty chicken soup-like dish.
Kurobuta, or black pork, is a type of pork produced in Kagoshima prefecture. Anyone visiting Kagoshima will soon notice the huge array of restaurants boasting black pork dishes.
Famous world wide,kurobuta is rich and sweet in flavour and the fat is lighter than that of normal pork.Kurobuta is most commonly enjoyed inshabu-shabu - a hot pot style dish - or astonkatsu - deep fried pork cutlets.
Perhaps the most interesting, if not alarming of the dishes istorisashi or chicken sashimi.
Chicken sashimi (raw chicken) is eaten throughout Kagoshima prefecture, where it is a staple on almost every izakaya menu and can be found in every supermarket.
Outside of Kagoshima,torisashi is seen as quite shocking and pushes the boundaries for Japanese cuisine. However, when eaten, the raw chicken meat melts on your tongue and is not dissimilar to eating regular fish sashimi. It is usually paired with soy sauce with grated vinegar mixed in.
At some establishments in Kagoshima you might find it confusing that there are two bottles of soy sauce on the table. One will have辛口 (karakuchi) meaning dry taste and the other will have甘口 (amakuchi) meaning sweet taste. The latter isKagoshima-joyu or Kagoshima soy sauce. Soy sauce in Kagoshima is not like the rest of Japan. It is much sweeter in flavour, with the main ingredient being sugar. It is much thicker than regular soy sauce and pairs well with many of the local sashimi dishes which are often a white fish variety.
One of the first things you’ll notice in Kagoshima is the abundance of sweet potato-based meals both savory and sweet. A staple across the prefecture, sweet potatoes, known as satsuma-imo, have been adopted into a variety of desserts and are the main ingredient inshochu - Kagoshima’s famous alternative to sake. Freshly roasted sweet potatoes are a popular snack in autumn and winter, but it is also easy to find cakes, cookies, ice cream and even cafe drinks such as sweet potato latte in Kagoshima.
Satsuma-age is a type of fish cake. It is the perfect starter or side dish to many meals. Often paired with a warm glass of shochu,satsuma-age is slightly sweet in flavor and comes with various fillings such as lotus root, carrot or sweet potato.
Sakurajima Daikon and Mikan (桜島大根 桜島みかん)
Sakurajima is a large volcano located in the middle of mainland Kagoshima. Due to its unique volcanic soil, it also conjures up unique produce such as the giant Sakurajimadaikon and mini Sakurajimamikans.
Daikon are a type of Japanese radish which are traditionally long in shape like a carrot. However, the radishes of Sakurajima are round and very large. The largest radish in the world was grown on Sakurajima, weighing in at 31.1 kg (68 lb 9 oz).Sakurajima daikon, despite its appearance, is very sweet and softer than that of normal daikon.
Contrastingly, Sakurajima also produces some of the smallestmikan (mandarin oranges) in the prefecture. Sakurajima mandarins are believed to be the smallest peelable mandarins in the world. What they lack in size they do not lack in flavor, being incredibly sweet and juicy.
Karukan is a type of steamed cake which is slightly spongy in texture. It is often filled with red bean paste and found at many cake shops throughout the prefecture. Made using yams, which are found abundantly throughout the region,karukan is the perfect accompaniment to a glass of green tea.
With a wide variety of foods to offer, you'll be sure to find something to your liking on your next visit to Kagoshima.
About the author:
Ailsa van Eeghen
Ailsa has been living in Japan since 2015 all the while enjoying the rich beauty of Kagoshima prefecture. She finds the most joy in exploring little villages, driving around the countryside and exploring the lesser known parts of Japan. Keenly interested in Japan’s regional diversity, you can often find her at michi-no-eki admiring all the local produce. You can find more of her travels and deep dives into Japanese culture on her Instagram @daysofailsa where she writes about her life in Japan.