No visit to Kanazawa is complete without sampling the fresh seafood brought in from the Sea of Japan. Many people visit Kanazawa purely to try the kanogani (snow crab) that wows diners every winter. Even the conveyor belt sushi restaurants here serve their sushi with wonderfully fresh toppings at reasonable prices. Also worth a look is the local cuisine handed down from the time of the Kaga Domain, including jibuni (duck meat stew) and deep-fried goby fish.

    Kanazawa has so much to offer epicurious travellers. Newer local dishes such as Kanazawa curry and Hunthon rice are bringing in more and more visitors, so get ready for a foodie adventure.

    1

    Kanazawa Curry

    Get a taste for Kanazawa's unique soul food

    If you’re into soul food (and who isn’t?), you’ll definitely want to try the local Kanazawa curry made with a spicy and thick sauce. It’s so moreish that it can be difficult to stop after one serving. It's typically served in an old-fashioned stainless-steel dish, with the rice almost completely covered by the sauce, and it’s usually topped with a hearty fried cutlet and shredded cabbage.

    The black colour of the curry sauce comes from the use of roasted spices and caramel.

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    2

    Noto beef

    Premium beef raised in a rich natural environment

    Noto beef is a breed of Japanese black cattle raised in Ishikawa Prefecture that’s certified as being of superior quality. Only about 1,000 head of cattle are shipped per year and the beef they produce is hard to find outside Ishikawa Prefecture.

    The meat is healthy and low in fat but has a sweet flavour thanks to the refined quality of what fat there is. Containing high levels of oleic acid (generally a good thing), it simply melts in the mouth.

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    3

    Kano-gani

    A crab so delicious that people visit Kanazawa just to eat it

    Kano-gani, a winter delicacy in Kanazawa, is the name given exclusively to male snow crabs landed in Ishikawa Prefecture that are more than 9 cm in length. To prevent overfishing, the fishing season runs only from November 6th to March 20th. During this season, Kanazawa's ryotei (Japanese-style high-end restaurants) and sushi restaurants offer full course meals, grilled crabs, crab sashimi, and other options.

    At the market you can have it shipped to you as a souvenir, but be sure to check the blue tag with the name of the fishing port on it, which indicates that it's authentic Kano-gani.

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    4

    Hunthon rice

    The local delicacy that everyone is talking about

    Hunthon rice is a local delicacy unique to Kanazawa created with international inspiration. It's said that the name comes from a combination of the Hun from “Hungary” and thon from the French word for tuna, and it started out as a makanai (meal prepared for staff) at a Western-style restaurant.

    This is a hearty dish prepared on ketchup-seasoned butter rice topped with a thin, creamy, semi-cooked egg, to which is added fried white fish or prawns and a topping of ketchup or tartar sauce.

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    5

    Jibuni

    Quintessential Kaga cuisine

    Jibuni is a traditional Kaga dish made with duck or chicken meat covered with wheat, stewed with seasonal vegetables and local specialities such as Sudare-fu wheat gluten. The taste of the ingredients melts into the thick broth, giving the dish a rich, nourishing flavour. Wasabi is used as a condiment.

    There is a variety of theories regarding the origin of the name. Some people say that it was inspired by the sound when stewing, while others reckon it’s a reference to Okabe Jibuemon, a food service officer in the Kaga clan. At any rate, it's delicious!

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    6

    Kanazawa oden

    The Kanazawa soul food that Japan consumes the most

    Kanazawa oden is a popular local dish in which traditional ingredients such as fresh seafood and Kaga vegetables are served in a mildly flavoured broth. One of the special ingredients on offer is kani-men, which is made by stuffing the shell of a female snow crab with its meats and eggs before steaming it. It's a bit pricey but is well worth a try.

    Other popular ingredients served at Kanazawa’s oden restaurants include akamaki (red and white steamed fish paste), Japanese ivory shell, fu (dried wheat gluten), and crown daisy.

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    7

    Conveyor belt sushi

    Enjoy great sushi in a relaxed setting

    In Kanazawa, kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) is prepared by chefs as soon as you order, using a variety of fresh seafood selected from the Sea of Japan. High-end local products are available, such as nodoguro (rosy sea bass) and white shrimp.

    Kanazawa is a perfect location for all sushi lovers, and you don’t need to go upmarket or spend big to enjoy what the area has to offer. Check out the area around Kanazawa Station or Omimachi Market and you’ll find plenty of popular kaiten-zushi restaurants.

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    8

    Kabura-zushi

    A traditional fermented food unique to this region

    Kabura-zushi is a traditional fermented food of the Hokuriku region, made by sandwiching salted yellowtail with salted turnips and marinating them in malted rice. It’s a classic New Year's dish and it looks great too, with its beautiful red and white colouring.

    Unlike typical sushi made with vinegared rice, this is a type of nare-zushi that uses lactic fermentation, and like Shiga Prefecture's funa-zushi it's more on the "pickles" end of the spectrum than the "sushi" end. In Kanazawa, it's a winter delicacy that used to be a special dish for ceremonial occasions prepared in every house.

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    9

    Sea bream karamushi

    A gorgeous example of Kanazawa's local cuisine

    Sea bream karamushi is a traditional Kaga dish made by stuffing two whole sea breams with unohana, which is a mixture of ginkgo nuts, lily bulbs, lotus root, carrot, kikurage (wood ear mushroom), and other ingredients seasoned with okara (pulp made from soybean), and then steaming the stuffed fish. The name “karamushi" comes from a nanban (South-East Asian) dish introduced by a samurai of the Kaga domain who studied in Nagasaki during the Edo era.

    You can see the influence of Kanazawa's samurai culture in the method of preparation, using the back side of the fish rather than its stomach, as the opening of the belly is associated with seppuku (ritual suicide) and bad luck. In the past, you’d always see this dish served at wedding ceremonies, but these days it's often served at ryotei (Japanese-style high-end restaurants).

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    10

    Deep-fried gori

    A small fish with big flavour

    Gori is a small river fish that in Kanazawa is traditionally deep-fried or served as tsukudani (boiled in soy sauce and mirin). Gori karaage is a deep-fried whole gori coated with flour that’s often served at ryotei (Japanese-style high-end restaurants) because of its beautiful appearance with its fins wide open.

    Although it was once widely eaten by the locals, it’s become something of a luxury these days due to a drastic drop in the numbers caught. Only a very limited number of restaurants serve it, so if you’re keen to try it, be sure to call in advance before you visit a restaurant to ask if they have it on the menu.

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    photo by Y.S (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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