Although some dishes are common throughout the country, different regions in Japan also have their own specialties that may be difficult — or even impossible — to find elsewhere. Hiroshima is no exception.
You may have had okonomiyaki in Osaka — but the version in Hiroshima is quite different. Although it contains many of the same things, it also has yakisoba noodles and the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together.
The symbol of Hiroshima is the maple leaf — or momiji. Momiji manju is a cake in the shape of a maple leaf, often filled with red bean paste but sometimes with other flavors, such as chocolate, cream cheese, or matcha. There are also limited-edition varieties that change with the season. As well as eating momiji manju in Hiroshima, you can take some with you when you leave as a souvenir.
In the past, bowls of anago (conger eel) were popular with the fishermen on the Seto Inland Sea. Today in Hiroshima, it’s more common to find anago in bento. In addition to pieces of fleshy eel, this comes with rice cooked with conger eel head and bones, dashi stock made from kelp, and soy sauce as well as a sweet and spicy sauce.
One of the newer dishes to become a specialty in Hiroshima is lemon hot pot. Taking advantage of the fact that Hiroshima is a major lemon producer, its entire top layer is lemon slices. Since virtually anything pairs well with lemon, the remaining ingredients can be meat, vegetables, or seafood. When you eat the hot pot, you can remove the lemon slices or eat them — their strong flavor becomes mild when cooked.
Throughout the country, you’ll find different varieties of ramen, each one unique to the area. One to try in Hiroshima is Onomichi ramen, which is from the touristic city of the same name near the Seto Inland Sea. The soup is made of a combination of chicken stock and fish broth from Tomonoura containing dried sardines and soy sauce (which gives the ramen its dark color). The soup also has chunks of pork. Toppings are typically braised pork, seasoned bamboo shoots, and green onion.
Tsukemen noodles have all the same ingredients as ramen, including pork, vegetables, and boiled egg. The difference is they don’t come in a soup; instead, there’s a dipping sauce on the side. The Hiroshima style uses a spicy sauce — you decide how hot you want it.
In most of Japan, you can purchase dried iwashi (sardines) and koiwashi (anchovies — the name means baby sardines). In Hiroshima, though, where these fish make up the majority of the catch during the summer season, people eat these fish fresh in sushi, as sashimi, grilled, and tempura. Take advantage of the opportunity as it’s difficult to find fresh sardines and anchovies elsewhere because the raw fish goes bad so quickly.
You won’t need to look hard to find places that serve these dishes. Hiroshima has a huge number of excellent restaurants, many of which specialize in serving local foods.
Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons