Osaka is famous as Japan’s food capital, but a lesser-known foodie getaway is down south, Fukuoka. The port town of Hakata has played the role of melting pot for various other Asian cuisines, melding them with Japan's distinctive food culture throughout the years. Fukuoka’s yatai food stalls are famous. These tiny and charming eateries are found around Tenjin and Nakasu stations, patronised by locals and tourists alike.
While attempting to gather intel for an upcoming trip, people offered up very little information in terms of tourist attractions and instantly started gushing about all the delicious specialties that the city has to offer.
So if a Fukuoka trip should be a food tour, then so be it. These are the local dishes that you just have to try.
1. Hakata Ramen
The most famous dish is Hakata ramen, a variation of tonkotsu ramen named after the prominent Fukuoka city. Pork bones are boiled to create the cloudy broth which will in turn add a rich flavor to the noodles, char siu pork and various vegetables.
These beloved noodles can be sampled all over Japan in a number of chain ramen shops and even in Fukuoka itself, you can walk into any chain noodle vendor by Hakata station. But for a taste experience you can’t get anywhere else, go to a random station and walk into the first ramen shop you see. The pictured bowl of pure joy was found by Yakuin station.
2. ‘One Bite’ Gyoza
A perfect accompaniment to your Hakata ramen is gyoza. The port town of Hakata has received many now beloved imports from neighboring Asian countries, and Chinese dumplings is one of them. Fukuoka’s pan-fried gyoza are famous for being hitokuchi or "one bite." These diminutive dumplings offer the perfect ratio of crispy and soft skin, to juicy pork filling.
Another import, mentaiko (spicy cod roe) first came to Japan from Korea through the Hakata port, and Fukuoka mentaiko is famous all over Japan. It can be sampled on its own on top of rice to experience the full flavor, but it’s also available in a range of combination foods, adding a new twist to ingredients that you wouldn’t expect.
Mentai egg roll is a popular one and can be picked up in many of the famous yatai food stalls. Vegetables like konnyaku get spiced up by the red stuff too, or you can even try some fusion dishes with mentai pizza or pasta.
In winter nothing beats a hearty nabe, the Japanese hot pot dish. Fukuoka specialty, motsunabe has motsu (a word which describes tripe or offal) as the main ingredient. The soup is flavored with soy sauce or miso, and the hearty ingredients like champon noodles, tofu and various vegetables make for a satisfying meal. The pan is brought out to cook on your own table ensuring the motsunabe stays piping hot the whole time.
5. Yaki Ramen
Another way to sample Fukuoka’s ramen is yaki ramen, ramen grilled on an iron plate. This can be found in a few different yatai, arguably the most popular being Kokinchan, a stall found around Tenjin station. Expect to wait a while, since this well-loved yatai attracts queues.
Once inside you can enjoy the cramped and social atmosphere while chowing down on the not at all Instagrammable but incredibly delicious street food.
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