In Shiga food comes in so many delicious tastes and flavors born out of a rich natural environment and the prefecture's long history.
In addition to Omi Beef, one of Japan's top three Wagyu beef brands, there are also many regional dishes using fish, like the ayu sweetfish and trout caught in Lake Biwa.
Here we'll share recommended local Shiga food and cuisine unique to the area, from traditional meals you might eat at restaurants, to souvenir gifts, to local brand bread products you can buy cheaply at the supermarket.
1. Omi Beef
First on the list is indisputably Omi Beef, Shiga's prided brand of wagyu Japanese beef. With its characteristic high ratio of fat marbling and rich flavor, the melt-in-your-mouth texture and savory taste impresses foodies all around Japan. Different restaurants prepare Omi Beef in a variety of ways, including steak, sushi, and Japanese meat hot pot (sukiyaki).
2. Ayu Sweetfish
The ayu sweetfish caught in Lake Biwa don't grow very large in size, so they are called "ko-ayu", or "small ayu sweetfish". Small ayu sweetfish are sold fresh, with the majority of the ones released into bodies of water across the country coming from Lake Biwa.
Their soft bones mean they can be eaten whole, head to tail, so they are eaten often in dishes like "tsukudani" (preserves made by boiling ingredients down in soy sauce), tempura, and "nanbanzuke" (deep fried and accompanied by thin-sliced vegetables, flavored with a spicy vinegar sauce). There are even specialty stores for ayu sweetfish, as they are so often used in traditional local cooking.
Funa-zushi is traditional cuisine that is said to be Japan's oldest form of sushi. It looks much different than the more common nigiri. Funa-zushi is a type of fermented sushi (nare-zushi) pickled alongside salt and rice. The fish used is a prized wild goldfish called "nigoro-buna".
It is made distinctive by the unique flavor of fermented foods, and locally it is eaten on special occasions such as the New Year's holiday. Apparently, due to its flavor and smell, it is known elsewhere in the world as "a Japanese version of blue cheese".
4. Grilled Mackerel Somen Noodles
This dish, traditional to the Nagahama City area of Shiga Prefecture, is made by boiling fragrantly grilled mackerel in a sweet-and-spicy broth, and then using that broth to flavor boiled somen noodles. The strong taste is designed to hide any fishy taste or smell the mackerel may produce.
Boiled long and slow until it's so soft it falls apart, the mackerel in this dish is exquisite. Somen noodles eaten without soup is rare, so make sure to try this dish when you have the chance.
5. Noppei Udon
Noppei udon consists of boiled udon noodles topped with a thickened broth. Also added are ingredients including shiitake mushrooms, wheat gluten cakes, yuba tofu skin, kamaboko fish paste cakes, and Japanese parsley.
Since the thickened broth doesn’t cool easily, you can eat it hot down to the last bite. This traditional dish was created thanks to the bitterly cold climate of the region. You'll definitely want to try this warming dish in the cold winter months.
6. Salad Roll
This is a famous bread product of the 1951-founded company Tsuruya Pan. Despite its name "Salad Roll", it is actually an original and unique local sandwich, made with a long bun filled with daikon radish pickles called "takuan" flavored with mayonnaise.
The product's retro package, unchanged since the time the company was founded, is another reason for its popularity. You can buy them at the Tsuruya Pan Honten main branch in Nagahama City, or at supermarkets all around Shiga Prefecture.
7. Red Konjac Jelly
Red konjac jelly is, indeed, colored bright red. It is said to have been created in relation to the fire festival held at Shiga Prefecture's Omihachiman City’s shrines. You might associate its red appearance with spiciness, but it actually isn't made with any spicy ingredients.
This konjac jelly can be eaten raw as sashimi, deliciously stewed with broth and soy sauce, or in stir-fries. Some stores may also sell flavored versions.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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