The superiors of sashimi and udon.
Gunma Prefecture, located two hours north of Tokyo, is ideal for a day vacation or perhaps a short weekend retreat. While Gunma is known for its beautiful mountains, major ski resorts, and healing onsens, it is also modestly producing some high-quality food.
Gunma can get notoriously freezing, so many enjoy this rich simmering broth cooked with thick udon noodles to keep warm. Okkirikomi is a flavorful, basic meal that epitomizes traditional Japanese cuisine. Water and seasonal veggies like daikon (radish) are the only ingredients, yet the thick noodles absorb and transport all of the flavor. The broth can be made with either soy or miso, but you can amp it up by mixing the two in one bowl.
2. Mizusawa udon
Wheat is a significant crop in Gunma. The prefecture is a major source of wheat for noodle dishes such as pasta, yakisoba, and udon in Japan. When it comes to udon, Gunma doesn’t mess around. There’s tatebayashi udon, himokawa udon, and mizusawa udon, which is Gunma’s pride and delight. Mizusawa udon is a high-quality Japanese noodle that is repeatedly seasoned to provide a smooth but firm bite.
If you want to have the physique of a Japanese supermodel, include konjac (sometimes written konnyaku) in your diet. It is almost calorie-free and gluten-free, with a pleasantly chewy bite. Konjac absorbs the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, and vegans can use it as a meat substitute. It may take on almost any shape, but the shirataki konjac noodle is one of the most popular. A block of konjac coated in savory miso sauce is a popular festival snack in Japan. Kanra City even has a konjac theme park.
Gunma produces almost 90% of all konjac in Japan due to the prefecture’s optimal growing conditions for the konjac plant. Growing the fragile plant takes a green thumb and up to three years, but if you try a sweet and spicy konjac cutlet or couple it with wagyu beef for sukiyaki (simmered stew), you’ll see why it’s worth it.
4. Ginhikari (rainbow trout)
Fish is a cornerstone of Japanese cuisine, with specialties in almost every prefecture. Ginhikari, a next-level rainbow trout, is the prized fish in Gunma. These meticulously farmed fish are allowed to grow for three years, giving them a delectable fatty texture. It’s delicious when eaten raw as sashimi, grilled, or pan-fried.
“Hold my beer,” Gunma would joke and remark after taking one glimpse at Japan’s favorite wagashi (traditional sweet). Seriously, their manju are out of this world. These sweet dumplings are usually filled with red bean paste, which might be hit or miss with international visitors. However, there are hundreds of filler options available, including chestnut and sweet potato.
A business in Maebashi, Gunma, began grilling manju and covering them with miso sauce during the Edo period. As a result, a sweet and savory manju with a crispy crust and chewy center emerged. Yakimanju comes from the Japanese word yaki, which means “grilled.” This treat is so popular in Gunma that it even has its own festival! The municipality of Isesaki creates giant 55cm-wide dumplings and serves them to the hungry masses every year on January 11th.