In September, a friend and I traveled to Takayama, about 3 hours from Kanazawa. Located in Gifu near the border of Nagano, the old towns of Hida (飛騨） and Takayama (高山）are a food tourist’s paradise. Since the town is quite small, most of these foods can be found in stands or restaurants near Takayama Station and nearby morning markets.
Hôba Miso Yaki （朴葉味噌焼き）
A dish of delicious Hida miso and finely chopped green onions and mushrooms (and possibly other vegetables) cooked on a magnolia leaf over a flame. My friend over at Hokuriku Expat Cooking has tried to recreate this in the oven with limited success, but she’s right that half the fun is watching the food cook. This was meant to be a side dish at the restaurant I tried, but I hear other places have this with tofu or meat mixed in. The magnolia leaf gives the dish some serious umami–the bitterish flowery scent is amazing with the scent and flavor of the miso.
For the omnivore/carnivore, Hida beef is supposed to be some of the best in the country. I don’t eat a lot of meat, especially beef, but I tried one of the Hida-Gyuu manju from the Shirakawago Michi no Eki (道の駅白川郷) and was impressed. There are plenty of restaurants that serve impressive Hida beef dishes and meals, so if you like beef, you’ll have no trouble finding the good stuff in Hida-Takayama!
Oyaki is a Shinshu (信州) (Nagano region) specialty. I would describe it as the cousin of a manjû: a highly portable food made of a flour (or soba flour) shell with a filling. Fillings usually include savory kabocha, slightly sweet azuki (in contrast to the sweeter manjû), nozawana (pickled vegetables), and Hida beef. In Nagano, there were far more flavors, but in Takayama, these four were for sale in little street stalls all over the town. Oyaki is one of my favorite Japanese foods, and I took one of each (sans beef) hiking with me on Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳).
Hida-Takayama has so many delicious foods that I had to divide this post into two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2!