Wondering what to eat in Nagoya? Maybe you've heard travellers to Kyoto (where the cuisine is known for being close to its natural state) saying the flavours are maybe too subtle? Or maybe that thought has crossed your own mind while spending some time in Kyoto?
This won’t happen to you in Nagoya, where dishes are famous for strong flavours that pack a punch! Read on to discover five delicious local specialities.
What To Eat In Nagoya: Top 5 Delicious Local Specialities
by Lena Yamaguchi
Nagoya Meshi - What to eat in Nagoya
The local cuisine is generally referred to as Nagoya Meshi and it comprises around twenty distinct dishes that can only be found here or have an important connection to the area.
Since most travellers to Nagoya won't have time to try all local specialties, but still want to know what to eat in Nagoya, here's a list of the top five must-try local dishes.
You might also like Nagoya City Guide: What Is Special About Nagoya?
1. Miso Katsu - tonkatsu with a special red sauce
Katsu or sometimes tonkatsu refers to a deep-fried pork cutlet, popular across the country. But while most Japanese season their katsu with a special tonkatsu sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce, the people in Nagoya drown it in a red miso (fermented soybean paste) sauce.
Miso katsu is usually served with freshly sliced cabbage, a bowl of rice, and miso soup, made from the same red miso paste.
But some variations are served on a hot plate, on a bed of shredded cabbage, which has the added benefit of a hot piece of pork throughout your meal and cabbage that absorbs some of the delicious red miso sauce.
Generally, red miso (in contrast to white miso found in the rest of the country) is very popular in Nagoya, used as a seasoning in a wide range of local dishes such as miso nikomi udon (miso-stewed udon noodles), another highly recommended dish. It is even a popular stereotype that the people of Nagoya like to put red miso paste on everything they eat.
The top restaurant to try miso katsu is called Yabaton, with shops all over the city. This restaurant is easily recognizable by their mascot, a pig wearing a red sumo belt. If you aren’t sure you will like the miso sauce, get a half-and-half of miso sauce and standard tonkatsu sauce to compare the flavour.
Try miso nikomi udon on a Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour.
2. Tebasaki - twice fried spiced chicken wings
Who doesn’t love chicken wings?
In Nagoya, chicken wings (or Tebasaki as they are called in Japanese) can be found in most Izakaya (local bars). The most popular chicken wings here are deep-fried twice without any batter and seasoned with spices such as pepper. They are the perfect accompaniment for an ice-cold glass of beer!
But since they were popularised, chicken wings can be found in all forms in Nagoya. Some restaurants offer multiple variations so you can enjoy a change in flavour.
The best kind of chicken wings is made from Nagoya Cochin, a local chicken breed that is said to have superior meat and a lot of umami flavour. You will be shocked to see a Nagoya Cochin chicken wing for the first time, they are gigantic! And have a nice amount of juicy meat on the bone.
Two popular shops in Nagoya are contestants for the most popular tebasaki, and they are in constant competition with each other: Sekai no Yamachan and Furaibo.
Try both and see which chicken wing flavour you prefer.
Sample tebasaki yourself by booking a Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour.
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3. Kishimen - Nagoya's flatter, chewy take on udon noodles
If you have visited Japan before you might be familiar with udon, the very thick white wheat flour noodles that can be found all over the country served in soups or chilled with dipping sauce.
Like Udon noodles, Kishimen can be served chilled in summer or in hot broth in winter, customised to your liking with toppings and the use of many different kinds of broth.
One of the top restaurants to try Kishimen is Miya Kishimen. Their Kishimen noodles aren’t as broad as others but their chewy texture and flavourful broth are favourites of the local residents.
4. Ogura Toast - sweet red bean paste, great with coffee
While rice and grilled fish are a staple of Japanese breakfast culture, this is not true in Nagoya.
Here, people like to enjoy a strong cup of black coffee and a slice of toast. Preferably topped with butter and sweet red bean paste.
Before you think “Ew, bean paste?” we highly recommend you try it before dismissing it. Sweet red bean paste can be found in many Japanese sweets such as taiyaki, dorayaki, or manju. And it also goes really well with matcha ice cream.
Ogura toast can be found in all of the many coffee shops in town. And some of them even for free! Yes!
This special service is called Nagoya Morning, and customers can enjoy a free breakfast for the price of a cup of coffee (or other drink). Morning service doesn’t always consist of ogura toast but can be anything from a toast and boiled egg, to an onigiri rice ball and salad set.
Try ogura toast for free at Komeda’s Coffee, a coffee chain that originated in Nagoya and can now be found all over the country.
The Nagoya breakfast culture is fascinating and Ogura toast is surprisingly delicious. (If you'd like to know more about Nagoya read this post).
For an unusual way to boil eggs check out: Yunomine Onsen: Boiling Eggs at Japan’s Oldest Hotspring.
5. Hitsumabushi - four ways to eat grilled eel
When it comes to what to eat in Nagoya, I left the best for last: hitsumabushi is Nagoya’s version of unagi (Japanese eel).
Here, eel is served grilled with a sweet and sticky soy sauce-based sauce on rice. Hitsumabushi is eaten in four separate steps and the changing flavour is what makes it so special.
Serving one can be enjoyed as it was served. Just eel with rice. The crispy grilled eel with the sweet and sticky sauce goes wonderfully with white Japanese starchy rice.
Add some of the condiments such as wasabi and green onions to your second serving. This changes the flavour of your dish completely, and it’s like a completely different dish.
Serving three is even more unique. Add the condiments you enjoyed best and top it off with a very light dashi-based fish broth. This results in a kind of light rice porridge that brings out the flavour of the eel even more.
Now that you enjoyed the three different flavours your final serving is for you to enjoy however you liked best.
The most famous restaurant to try hitsumabushi is Atsuta Horaiken, said to have invented the specific way hitsumabushi is enjoyed in Nagoya.
You can try hitsumabushi in this Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour.
VIDEO: Nagoya Food Tours - Exploring Aichi's Rich Food Culture
Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour
Want to explore the local food culture of Nagoya in person? Book a Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour. This private food tour of Nagoya gives you with the unique opportunity to learn about the local food culture.
On this city-centre walking tour a knowledgeable guide shows you the highlights of what Nagoya's food scene has to offer across 3 hours and 30 minutes.
You will try the miso nikomi udon, try pickles from the world’s longest radish, hear the story behind the local rice balls stuffed with shrimp tempura, and explore the underground level of Japan’s oldest department store.
You'll learn how to eat hitsumabushi, the local dish made from freshwater eel (because in Japan it’s always more complicated than you think!). Finish your afternoon learning about the drinking culture of Japan in a popular Nagoya izakaya, and wash down your peppery chicken wings with a cold Japanese beer.
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About the Author
In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena Yamaguchi wants to share her passion with the world. Her goal is to make everyone interested in Nagoya, her adoptive home, online through her writing on Nagoya is not boring and offline through unique food tours.
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