by Lacey Pfalz
Last updated: 4:03 PM ET, Mon July 27, 2020
Aichi Prefecture is known as "the Heart of Japan," and it's easy to see why. Aichi is known for a variety of Japanese cultural, historical and culinary achievements. Nestled between the medieval power centers of Nara and Kyoto, it has enjoyed prominence in trade and politics for centuries.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many of us from traveling out of the country, it hasn't stopped us from learning about or enjoying the culture of other countries, or of their food.
The Home of Fermentation
Aichi is a Japanese prefecture smaller than the state of Delaware, but its size only proves that good things come in small packages. Its culinary tradition stretches back for centuries. It is Japan's oldest producer of mirin, a slightly sweet rice wine. Aichi is also Japan's top producer of vinegar and boasts more than three dozen sake breweries.
Hatcho, the dark-red, flavorful miso that is famous for its two to three years of fermentation, is one of the most famous Aichi flavors. Hatcho miso is known for boosting the immune system and lowering cholesterol. It is still made the traditional way by two brewers, Kakukyu and Maruya. Made from just steamed soybeans, salt and water, the mixture is cured and fermented for two summers and two winters.
Hatcho miso can be used for barbeques: processed in a blender with nashi pear, ginger, butter, sake and garlic, it brings added flavor to grilled poultry. The Maruya brand of Hatcho can be purchased online in the U.S. through Mercato.
Aichi Comfort Foods
One of Aichi's most popular comfort foods is miso-nikomi Udon, a soup flavored with Hatcho miso. It is made with egg, chicken, mushrooms, green onions and kamaboko fish cake. It is robust, hearty and flavorful.
The San Francisco-based home chef, Namiko Hirasawa Chen features this classic soup among other traditional Japanese foods on her Just One Cookbook blog.
Tebasaki Chicken Wings gained popularity in the '60s. They are deep-fried twice to make them crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside and are sprinkled with black pepper. Sekai no Yamachan, the restaurant that started it all, claims a secret sauce for their wings. Tebasaki's popularity has even spread to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand.
The Tenmusu Tempura Shrimp Rice Wrap is a variation on the onigiri rice ball, a staple of Japanese cuisine. It features deep-fried shrimp to the standard rice-and-nori wrap.
For more recipes associated with Aichi, visit the Aichi Now tourism website.
Aichi Brews and Beverages
Sake has been brewed in Aichi since the earliest recorded time period. The local brewer's association lists nearly forty breweries, all with unique flavors and specialties.
Passengers flying to and from Japan on All Nippon Airways can choose among 46 sake types-one of which is Aichi's Kamoshibito Kuheiji label, popular among Michelin-starred restaurants and the product of Banjo Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.
Sake is not the only alcoholic beverage made in Aichi; beer is also incredibly popular. Aichi was one of the first places in Japan to begin brewing beer in the mid-19th century. The Inuyama Beer Company makes limited-edition brews like sakura-honey lager and a chocolate-malt stout, among others.
The Morita Kinshachi Beer Company offers Hatcho-miso and Aka-miso lagers, which blend regional flavors into specialty beer. Aichi is home to many pubs which offer these specialties on-tap.
The most famous Aichi drink, however, is traditionally non-alcoholic. Matcha green tea is grown in the Yahagi River Basin. Aichi, one of Japan's top three producers of this frothy tea, even has a green tea museum where you can taste Aichi's Nishio matcha in traditional tea, as well as ice cream and other tasty treats. The Aoi Tea Company sells Nishio matcha in the U.S. as well. To learn about how Nishio matcha is grown and made, watch Aoi Tea's video.
Matcha green tea is incredibly healthy and is known to help fight disease, reduce stress and aging and maintain homeostasis. The tea is also culturally important in Japan, which is known for the formal Japanese tea ceremony.
For recipes on how to make traditional matcha tea or to use it as a flavor-booster in baked goods or other foods, visit Just One Cookbook. Japanese Pantry is another go-to online resource for finding quality Japanese ingredients.
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