An interesting quirk of Japan is that people seem to have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of which parts of the country are the best at producing pretty much any food imaginable. Ask for apples and they’ll be quick to recommend Aomori Prefecture. You want battered octopus balls? Go to Osaka of course. And who would eat grilled beef tongue from anywhere other than Sendai?
It’s this kind of culinary identity that has given birth to regional (gotochi) burgers, burgers that incorporate an area’s specialty food in some memorable way. They can be found all over the country, and Japanese travel portal Jalan set out to find the best of the best.
By asking people all over Japan to select up to three of the the most interesting regional burgers, Jalan was able to determine these seven that made the biggest impact in terms of taste, appearance, and originality. So, without further ado, here they are.
The Deep-Sea Fish Burger (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Although it looks like an ordinary fish burger, The Deep-Sea Fish Burger uses an obscure fish known as a “megisu” in certain regions like Shizuoka, which also goes by “migisu” and “nigisu” in other parts of Japan. Even though it lives in the deep ocean, it’s an average looking, small, silver fish that’s very high in fat and oil, which often translates to a big taste too. The only reason it isn’t more widely eaten is that it looses its freshness too quickly to transport to other parts of Japan.
So, in order to try a megisu burger, you’ll have to travel to Numazu Burger near Numazu Port and buy one for 700 yen.
Okitsune Burger (Aichi Prefecture)
This burger is named after Okitsune Honpo, the restaurant in Toyokawa City that sells it for 350 yen, and the restaurant is named after the common term for fried tofu, “kitsune,” which translates to “fox” in English. It’s not exactly clear what it’s called that, but it might have to do with fried tofu’s golden brown color, or a reference to folktales that suggest foxes are attracted to fried tofu.
So, it’s probably no surprise that the Okitsune Burger uses some crispy fired tofu, simmered in a special sauce, as a bun. Inside are some crispy lettuce, crisp onions, and crispy pork cutlet, for a thoroughly crispy treat.
Utsunomiya Vegetable Gyoza Burger (Tochigi Prefecture)
A surprising entry on this regional burger list is the fast food chain Freshness Burger. However, despite this being a nationwide chain, this particular sandwich can only be bought from four locations in Utsunomiya City, also known as the gyoza capital of Japan.
The gyoza are provided by the city’s leading producer, Marushin Foods, and topped with spicy shrimp sauce, leeks, and shiso, all for 490 yen.
Sanuki Udon Burger (Kagawa Prefecture)
Kagawa Prefecture is the place to be for udon noodles, but among those sanuki udon is considered the cream of the crop. So, the Tsuda no Matsubara Service Area wanted to capture this taste in a convenient burger for 560 yen.
A tangled pile of udon is seasoned with a ginger soy sauce and topped with some dried bonito flakes and a lightly fried egg, all of which is then placed on a chicken cutlet and served with fresh lettuce on a bun.
Koishihama Scallop Burger (Iwate Prefecture)
This burger mainly consists of an amazingly thick and creamy croquette filled with fresh scallops caught right from the nearby Koishihama Fishing Port.
It’s sold for 1,030 yen by The Burger Hearts in the city of Ofunato, a place made especially famous when the 2011 tsunami caused widespread devastation there. So, more than just a delicious seafood burger, a visit here is a show of celebration and support for the rebuilding of the area.
Gyukotsu Ramen Burger (Tottori Prefecture)
Tonkotsu ramen, which uses a pork bone broth, is one of the most famous varieties in Japan, but in Tottori Prefecture they like to do things a little differently and enjoy gyukotsu ramen. Instead of pork, this soup is made with a beef bone broth. Other than that, it’s pretty much a classic ramen setup with many of the typical ingredients like stewed pork and egg.
This burger also tries to keep the classic ramen vibe wholly intact by including the same toppings and simply folding them all in a huge wad of ramen noodles. Sold by Gyukotsu Ramen Takauna in Yonago City for 550 yen, it’s probably more of a handheld ramen than a “burger” per se, but we’ll let this one slide.
Kitakata Ramen Burger (Fukushima Prefecture)
People clearly love their ramen burgers because the top two spots have gone to noodley creations, but the honor of “Number One Regional Burger in Japan” goes to an all-star line-up of ramen toppings like stewed pork, naruto fish cake, and fermented bamboo shoots. These are all sandwich in two “buns” made of Kitakata ramen noodles imbued with the thick taste of soy sauce and pork bone that Kitakata City is known for enjoying.
It’s sold at the Furusato-Tei Restaurant in Road Station Kita no Sato for 500 yen ($4.04), which is a small price to pay for the best of the best when it comes to regional burgers.
There’s a whole world of burgers to be experienced in Japan and these are but a few of the best. Anyone wanting to make a journey to one of these locations should be warned that due to their uniqueness there might be daily limits and other availability issues so be sure to either arrive early or call ahead to check.
And wherever you might be in Japan, you also might want to do a search of your own area and find what hidden regional burgers might be around. Who knows? You might just find the next number one, lying in wait.
Source, images: PR Times
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