Inauthentic Namie Yakisoba stirs up ire in Fukushima

Washoku or Japanese cuisine was not recognized in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list for nothing. A culture of its own, Japan’s cuisine offers a gourmet tour of local dishes specific to a region which gives them their authentic taste.

The town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, takes pride in their local fried noodle dish Namie Yakisoba, winner of the B-1 Grand Prix annual food festival last year. But inauthentic Namie Yakisoba has since sprung up in izakaya restaurants and food stalls.

Now, a local group known as Namie Yakisoba Taikoku said they would wipe out “fake” Namie Yakisoba and give customers the real gastronomic experience.

According to the group, a Namie Yakisoba dish must be strictly prepared accordingly: the Chinese noodles must be as thick as udon noodles; only pork and bean sprouts are used as ingredients; and they must be seasoned with a thick sauce that resembles Worcestershire sauce.

Only 22 restaurants are authorized by the group to serve the stir-fried thick noodles.

Inauthentic Namie Yakisoba are said to have “too thin noodles” and use different ingredients like cabbage and red ginger, said Sadayuki Yashima, head of Namie Yakisoba Taikoku.

Later this month, training sessions will be held for the first time to certify participants as specialized Namie Yakisoba cooks.

The town of Namie gained national attention in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Yashima said copycats “took advantage of the earthquake disaster.”

“I often hear that some people are even pretending to be disaster victims to sell the noodles. It makes me sick, considering how we’re cooking with all our hearts,” said Teruo Serikawa of Suginoya, a restaurant in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, and a member of the group.

The famed Namie Yakisoba won at the eighth B-1 Grand Prix, an annual food festival held in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, to promote local dishes known as B-class gourmet cuisine. The event draws in more than 500,000 gastronomes.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: K.Hatanaka/Flickr

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