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Local Specialty Series: Shiga Prefecture

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/11 Food , , , , , , ,

With the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture is blessed with food and water resources. Here’s some of the local specialties of Shiga Prefecture in no particular order.

Local Specialties of Shiga Prefecture

Omi-gyu (Omi Beef)

Shiga Prefecture - Omi BeefOmi Beef (Photo courtesy of Ryosuke Hosoi)

Together with Matsusaka Ushi and Kobe Beef, Omi/Ohmi Beef is considered one of the “Japan’s Top Three Wagyu (Japanese Beef).” Omi Beef bears a 400-year of history.

Funa-zushi

Funa-zushi (fermented sushi)Funa-zushi – a fermented sushi (Photo courtesy of Yasuo Kida)

Funa-zushi is a type of nare-zushi (fermented sushi). Nare-zushi is said to be the original form of sushi which was introduced from China and Southeast Asia dated back more than a thousand year.

Funa-zushi is a local cuisine and special product of Shiga Prefecture. Shiga’s funa-zushi is made of nigoro-buna, a freshwater fish endemic to Lake Biwa, which is salted and fermented in rice. Since funa-zushi is fermented, it has a similar distinct and strong smell like that of a natto or cheese. Because of that, it might be unpleasant for some people but there are also some who are quite fond of it. Though both male and female nigoro-buna are used for making funa-zushi, egg-bearing female (nigoro-buna) funa-zushi is comparatively expensive compared to the male one.

Aka-konnyaku (Red Konjac, Devil’s Tongue)

Konnyaku or konjac is normally gray in color but this one is red. It is said that it is made red because of Nobunaga Oda, who is known to be fond of fancy stuffs. The redness is not because of chili pepper but by addition of iron. It resembles a sliced raw liver.

Consumption of raw liver used to be common in Japan. Not until July in 2012 when selling and serving of raw beef liver have been prohibited in accordance with the Food Sanitation Law. I remember that time, it was on news where many of the fanatics of raw liver went out to have it up to the very last hour before the law is officially in effect. After that, I’ve seen look-a-like raw liver products in the supermarket made of konnyaku. Those products I’ve seen have a hint of red-brown color, while aka-konnyaku has light red color which would probably be the closest substitute a raw liver fanatic can get in terms of appearance. The photo of aka-konnyaku below looks red-brown probably because of the room lighting.

Raw live (left) vs Aka-konnyaku (right)Real raw beef liver (left) vs. Aka-konnyaku (red konjac)
(Photos by Masaaki FUJINO and Ryosuke Hosoi)

Chouji-fu (Wheat-Gluten Bread)

Shiga's Specialty - Chouji-fu (Wheat-gluten bread)Chouji-fu (square shape fu)

Fu is a product that mainly made of gluten from wheat flour. There is a raw, baked, dried and deep-fried fu. You can easily find dried fu in the supermarkets. It resembles a crouton and commonly used as a  topping for miso soup. Chouji-fu has a square shape different from the regular fu which is in round bar or tube shape.

I found this link from Shiga Guide website with series of photos that shows the process of making Chouji-fu (all texts are in Japanese only).

Decchi Youkan (“Apprentice” Sweat Bean Jelly)

Omihachiman - Decchi Youkan (Sweet bean jelly)Decchi Youkan (a sweet bean jelly) product of Seijuya, a Japanese confectionery shop

There are several theories of the origin of the name “Decchi” youkan. One I heard is, this youkan was made at that time so that even a “decchi”, an apprentice sent out for apprenticeship to large stores in Omihachiman to be an Omi merchant, can buy it.

Of course, these are just few of the long list of products you can find in Shiga. If ever you have a chance to visit Lake Biwa and other places in Shiga Prefecture, give these local specialties a try or get some for souvenir.

Resources:
Omi-gyu History – Association for Production and Distribution of Omi Beef
Funa-zushi – matome.naver.jp
Notice on Eating Raw Beef Liver – Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Chouji-fu from Shiga Guide
Decchi Youkan – Yomiuri Shimbun

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A gaijin in Okayama who enjoys viewing cherry blossom in spring, fireworks in summer, eating grilled sanma (Pacific saury fish) in autumn and oden in winter.

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