Oct 1, 2015
Yes, there’s rice, sushi and sake aplenty, but Joetsu also has a lot to offer by way of sweet treats.
A hop and a skip away from the Akakura ski centre, this comforting noodle dish is just what the doctor ordered after a challenging day on the slopes. Shiso leaves and Japanese basil flavour the dish which is fried to perfection with tomatoes, red peppers, sausage pieces, and topped with an onsen (half-boiled) egg.
Think it’s hard to find decent food on the go? With nothing more than a collapsible table piled high with bento boxes at the Naoetsu train station, this vendor is out to challenge every misconception you’ve had about the food you can find at train stations. This delicious treasure box of wonders is filled to the brim with an assortment of pickles and stewed tara (cod fish), accompanied by a generous serving of rice. It’s so tasty that it even won an award at a regional bento box competition!
If you think the name of this sushi restaurant sounds familiar, well, that’s because they’ve got four branches in Singapore. Tomio Miyazaki, vice president, decided to expand operations outside of Japan to showcase some of Niigata’s finest produce to the rest of the world. Ingredients from Niigata are specially airflown to its outlets in Singapore. If you visit the outlet in Joetsu city, be sure to sample locals’ favourite fish that’s only seasonally available.
Fans of sweet confectionery should not miss making a pitstop here! This patisserie specialises in dried persimmon and sweet potato cookies; these are made with rice powder from Joetsu with no flour and eggs, making them a healthy yet tasty option for those watching their diets. We also enjoyed the smooth texture of their puddings in unique flavours such as brown rice and ginger.
Helmed by a young couple, all the ingredients used in this restaurant are either regionally sourced or self-cultivated – the owner’s family own a rice farm, as well as breed rainbow trout and ayu (sweet fish). We enjoyed their home-style set meal, which we found to be healthy, yet extremely substantial. The trout is grilled over a traditional Japanese sunken earth, and the meal also comes with noppei (vegetables stewed in potato starch), as well as side dishes of sashimi, tofu, and pickles to accompany the hand-kneaded soba noodles. We were impressed by how well all the flavours complemented each other.
There are so many sake breweries in Joetsu and around Niigata prefecture that it would be impossible to try all the varieties available, but you can try your darnest best at Ponshu-kan. Simply exchange a 500-yen coin for tokens that you can use to sample five different varieties of sake, which is dispensed from vending machines. If any catch your fancy, you can head to the liquor store outside to purchase a full-sized bottle. As though sampling sake on its own isn’t enjoyable enough, this definitely adds another fun dimension, thanks to innovative Japanese technology.