Local Shimada Delicacies
Where The Sugimoto Story Begins
This summer I, Kyohei Sugimoto, visited Sugimoto’s headquarters as part of my visa renewal process. While I was visiting, I rediscovered the beauty of Shimada City, Sugimoto’s hometown. I was reminded of all the local foods that are only found in my hometown, and now I want to share some of those foods with you.
Shimada’s Local Delicacies
Every small city in Japan has unique local foods you cannot eat unless you go there and Shimada is no exception. The following are some of my favorites that I'm always looking for to eat when I'm back to the city.
1. Shizuoka Oden
Oden is a Japanese one-pot dish where ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, and processed fishcakes are stewed in a soy-flavored dashi broth. This classic Japanese dish is enjoyed nationwide, but different regions in Japan have different broth styles. In Shizuoka, people stew the oden ingredients until the broth becomes very dark, almost black. It doesn’t always look pretty, but the rich flavor soaks into all the ingredients and makes the flavor that much better. Sprinkle shredded bonito flakes over your oden before eating for the authentic Shizuoka style.
2. Tororo Jiru
Shizuoka is surrounded by mountains, many of which are full of farms where farmers grow various vegetables originally harvested from the wild. Tororo Jiru, or grated yam soup, is a popular dish made from these common vegetables. It’s so popular that many Tororo Jiru specialty restaurants exist in the area. This local delicacy is my absolute favorite food, especially when made from wild yams. I still remember the time one of our tea farmers who lived deep in the mountains gave us a wild yam he foraged for. The flavor was totally different, and Tororo Jiru made from those yams is exceptional. Today the wild yam is difficult to find, but we can easily find fresh Japanese yam at local grocery stores.
3. Katsuo (Bonito) Sashimi
Yaizu City, which is just 15 minutes’ drive from Shimada, faces the Pacific Ocean and is the biggest bonito fishing cities in Japan. Fresh katsuo is available from May, which is the busiest season for tea companies because of the spring harvest. During the busy days, katsuo sashimi is one of the Sugimoto family’s favorite dishes. It helped refresh our bodies and gave us energy for the busy days of the spring harvest. Katsuo sashimi is enjoyed with grated ginger and sliced onion, but dipping in ponzu sauce is the Sugimoto family’s favorite way to eat it.
4. Ocha Wari
People in Shizuoka drink green tea every day and night. You may wonder how we drink tea at night when the caffeine would normally keep you awake and the answer is we enjoy ocha wari at night. Ocha wari is a drink made from half green tea (mostly sencha, of course) mixed with equal parts shochu, a type of Japanese distilled liquor. Because shochu can be made from a variety of grains, each one will have a distinct flavor. I recommend barley shochu for ocha wari. This drink has a refreshing flavor and can be paired with any food you would pair green tea with. Additionally, the pairing of green tea with alcohol can help with your hangover the next morning.
5. Kuro Hanpen
Hanpen is a fish cake made from grated Japanese yam, fish paste, salt, and kombu dashi. This food is enjoyed nationwide, but kuro hanpen is only found in Shizuoka. Unlike hanpen in other places, which is made from Alaskan pollock, kuro hanpen is made from mackerel or sardines and has a firmer texture. The different fish we use in Shizuoka gives kuro hanpen the distinct blue-grey color of the name, which translates to “black hanpen.” You can find kuro hanpen at almost any restaurant in Shizuoka, but never in other cities. My favorite is deep-fried kuro hanpen, and you don’t want to miss it if you visit Shimada!