Let’s Eat Something Unusual! 3 Japanese Foods You Want to Experience in Nara
What comes to your mind when someone speaks of food from Nara? Classic answers include narazuke pickles, kakinoha-zushi with persimmon leaves, and chagayu tea porridge. They are all famous nowadays and you can obtain their information readily. And if you come to Japan, you can easily eat them in Nara.
Thus this time I decided to introduce foods in Nara that make sense in Nara but you probably have never imagined.
1. Daibutsu no Shirimochi
Let’s go into Higashimuki Shopping Street, which is just outside of Kintetsu Nara Station. You will immediately find the Udontei noodle shop on the first floor of a building on your left. Daibutsu no Shirimochi (Large Buddha’s Pratfall) is an udon noodle dish served here. This naming is quite intriguing and I cannot think of other names that remind me of Nara more strongly. Naturally I must try it. The name is supposed to evoke an image of the Large Buddha (in Nara) falling on and flattening the udon dough, according to the store staffs.
When you order this dish, the store staff will ask you if you have food allergies. “Are you OK with soy milk or milk?” Soon the udon noodle arrives in bonito-based soup stock exquisitely combined with soy milk flavor. What a fabulous combination! Nara has a local hot-pot dish called “Asuka nabe” using milk-based soup. Perhaps the Daibutsu no Shirimochi is an udon version of this local dish.
The noodle was completely flat, as I had expected from the image of Daibutsu’s pratfall squishing the noodle. But the noodle was chewy and the dish was rich with local chicken, burdock root tempura and green leafy vegetable.
How to Eat
With Daibutsu no Shirimochi, you can enjoy 3 different tastes in one dish.
You first eat it straight, and then add yuzu kosho (a paste made from yuzu peel and chili pepper) that comes with the dish. It adds a tangy taste and enhances deliciousness.
Speaking of Nara, you should eat narazuke pickles. Thus at the end you add “wafu-rayu-narazuke”, narazuke mixed with Japanese style spicy sesame oil.
Hmm, nice touch! I drank the soup till the last drop, without ever getting bored.
“Udontei” Kintetsu Nara Station branch
Access: 3 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, Map
From Sanjo-dori street, let’s go into the Mochiidono shopping street and “Mendoan” is on your immediate right. This noodle shop serves Kinchaku-kitsune (kitsune udon noodle in a pouch). Kitsune udon noodle is usually an udon noodle dish topped with fried tofu. But Kinchaku-kitsune here literally has udon noodle inside of kinchaku, a pouch made of fried tofu. It is filled with delicious, chewy udon and the idea of reversal is quite interesting!
There is always a long line of people, but this interesting udon is worth the wait.
Access: 6 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, Map
3. Fastest Mochitsuki Performance in Japan
Mochitsuki (pounding of mochi rice to make glutinous rice cakes) at “Nakatanidou” is the fastest in Japan. Mochi rice gets pounded at a lightning speed, and rice cakes are made immediately.
When mochitsuki starts at the store front, people line up in front of the store with cameras or smart phones, and they start taking pictures and videos. Once the pounding is over, the mochi rice is divided into small round shapes to be sold. Then again it creates another long line of people waiting to buy… lol.
Freshly pounded rice cake is sooooo soft! And anko bean jam inside has a heavenly taste! It sells like hotcakes.
Mugwort rice cake of Nakatanidou has even won a grand prize in “TV Champion”, a famous TV program in Japan. Because this shop is often mentioned on TV and other media, the high-speed mochitsuki performance is very popular. Many visitors from overseas, particularly people from Asian countries love the performance.
Access: From Kintetsu Nara Station, head south through Higashimuki Shopping Street, and it’s on your left ahead on Sanjo-dori street. 5 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station., Map
How did you like my 3 choices of very unique and delicious foods that make sense in Nara but you have never imagined? There are plenty more great foods in Nara other than these! I will introduce them to you in order, so stay tuned!