Taste of Hida
July 26, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s been over six months since our Takayama trip. So much has happened since then.
But when I close my eyes, I still see the foliage, still feel the autumn breeze on my face, still taste the beef that melts in the mouth, the savoury sweetness of miso that we’ve come to know so well. Oh to reminisce.
One of the many highlights of our trip to Hida is the eating. Located high in the Hida Mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama was kept fairly isolated during the old days allowing it to develop its own culture. Land-locked, they depend a lot on mountains and rivers for ingredients, taking inspiration but veering away from the cuisines of Tokyo or Kyoto.
If you’re looking for quaint towns, a wealth of excellent street foods and sake, a unique way of enjoying miso dishes, and different melt in you mouth beef dishes, then you must go to Takayama.
Along with their carpentry, lacquerware, and pottery works, Takayama is likewise known for its local cuisine. I truly enjoyed the food in Hida.
There were small shops, and stalls of food, from their famous dango balls to soft serve green tea ice creams everywhere we went.
And the mochi. Oh the mochi.
One of the popular street foods, in this part of Japan, is Mitarashi Dango, little mochi (sweet dumplings made of rice flour) balls on bamboo skewers, dipped in a mixture of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce then grilled.
The chewy dumplings glazed with the sweet soy mix lets out a slightly burnt fragrance that is addicting, tempting me at every corner.
The unique combination of Hida’s landscape and climate produces excellent buckwheat and local soba noodle shops are all over Hida using the buckwheat flour to make their noodles. Locals love their soba paired with sake.
Zaru Soba with edible wild plants
These handmade noodles are served hot in miso broth, a favorite during winter or cold (zaru soba) dipped in a light soy broth during summer time – hot or cold, the earthy flavor and the firmness of the noodles always shines through.
And the beef. Holding its own against Kobe and Matsuzaka is the pride of Takayama.
We tried it in various ways, and I can’t emphasize enough how satisfying those meals were.
One distinctly local and considered Hida’s specialty is Hida beef cooked with another of Hida’s specialty, Hoba Miso. A plate of sliced raw beef is cooked at the table. On a ceramic brazier a hoba (magnolia) leaf topped with Hida’s special miso, the beef cooked over it. The miso added another layer of subtle fermented bean flavor. But what doesn’t go well with miso anyway?
This special miso is one thing I bought to take home with me.
Savory miso paste mixed with leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and pickles placed on dried hoba leaf then heated over a charcoal fire – simply divine over plain rice.