Street Food in Kumamoto

ByJustin Hanus
Jan 20, 2023

Street Food in Kumamoto

Kumamoto is well worth a visit if you’re a foodie, as it has a diverse cuisine with unique dishes and twists on national favorites. In addition to numerous fine restaurants, the city’s street food culture is picking up at pace, with a food stall village opening up in 2022. Here are some of the best savory and sweet things to try if you’re looking for food on the go.


The most famed local delicacy in Kumamoto is probably horse meat, favored among locals for its high protein and low fat content. Visitors and foreign residents are less familiar, but it’s worth sampling if you like the taste and texture of beef. Basashi is horse meat sashimi, in other words, served raw. You can get basashi at most street food vendors in Kumamoto, although it’s harder to find in other parts of Japan. It is often served with ginger, garlic, or soy sauce.

Karashi Renkon

An acquired taste but one of the most popular street snacks in Kumamoto, karashi renkon is spicy mustard lotus root. A paste is prepared from mustard, miso, and turmeric. This paste is then filled into the holes of a lotus root, and the renkon is then dipped into an egg and flour batter and deep fried. This dish is said to have originated in the Edo period when it helped a feudal lord recover after he fell ill.

Ikinari Dango

Kumamoto’s signature dessert is ikinari dango. This sweet snack is a mochi rice cake filled with sweet potato slices and red bean paste. While it might not sound as delicious as chocolate cake or treacle tart, it’s tasty, quick, and easy to prepare. In fact, the name ikinari dango translates roughly as “Suddenly cake.” You can enjoy these hot or cold, and they also come in other flavors, such as chestnut and white bean paste.

Kumamoto Ramen

Ramen is one of Japan’s staple and most-enjoyed dishes. Each region has its take and Kumamoto ramen – also called tonkotsu ramen – is a mouth-watering brew from pork bones boiled for hours to create a rich, creamy broth. Usually served with medium-thick noodles and topped with roasted garlic, with other popular additional ingredients including pork belly, spring onions, seaweed, mushrooms, and half a boiled egg. Kumamoto ramen is a popular street food choice in the colder months.

Sea Urchin Korokke

If you’re in the Amakusa Islands just southwest of the Kumamoto prefecture and up for trying a culinary treat you probably haven’t tasted before, head to a seafood food vendor or kiosk and check out the local sea urchin. It has quite a strong flavor and a bright orange color that is off-putting for some, but one popular way of having it is as a korokke, a deep-fried croquette cooked with cream. It’s a perfect on-the-go snack food. You can also find this at street food outlets in other parts of Kumamoto.

Horaku Manju

Slightly similar to ikinari dango, this local sweet dish is also made with bean paste, but it’s more of a traditional cake than a rice cake. Horaku manju cakes are usually small, around 8 cm in diameter, making them perfect as a snack. You can buy them from street vendors and cake stores in boxes of half a dozen for great souvenir gifts.

Akagyu Burgers

Akagyu translates as “red beef” and is a variety of the famed Japanese wagyu beef. It comes from free-grazing cattle raised in Kumamoto’s Aso City and has a succulent, almost melt-in-the-mouth quality. You can enjoy akagyu as a steak or, if you fancy a more traditional western street food bite, some stalls sell akagyu burgers with a choice of sauce and side accompaniments.

皇翔, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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