Fukuoka Food Event and Media Tour

Fukuoka City is slowly but surely making a name for itself as culinary city. Many factors contribute to this including it’s location on the bountiful Sea of Japan, its temperate climate, vast and risk agricultural hinterland, and long history of international trade. Fukuoka City is not only the most populous city in Kyushu it also serves and the main distribution point for the region and especially for foods and produce.

Fukuoka’s large markets and proximity to food suppliers give it an unbeatable advantage in terms of freshness and low cost. Recognizing this as a great opportunity local governments and agencies have instigated various initiatives to promote local food business with the goal to expand exports of food products overseas. Recent success stories include Fukuoka’s Amaou Strawberries and oysters.

Between March 20 and 22, Shoku no Miyako Fukuoka (Food Capital – Fukuoka) a food fair showcasing local products was held in front of Fukuoka City Hall. Over 50 companies exhibited, passed out samples or sold their goods. The event was blessed with fine weather and attracted approximately 52,000 people. As part of the event, two internationally acclaimed chefs joined Shunji Isoyama, Executive Chef, Nishitetsu Grand Hotel to collaborate on a special gala dinner featuring a multi-course meal made almost entirely with local produce. The two European chefs, Uwe Opocensky (German), Executive Chef, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong and Daniel Lopez, Owner /Chef Restaurant Kokotxa in San Sebastian, Spain also took part in a two-day media tour of food and agriculture related spots in Fukuoka. Journalists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, China, India and the two chefs were given a whirlwind tour of key food business related sites. On Friday, March 21, the journalists joined the gala dinner and tasted for the themselves the fine flavours of Fukuoka.

Here are some snapshots and comments from the two days.

Central Wholesale Market

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Japan’s only wholesale market located inside a city center where vessels actually dock directly at the marketplace.

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There are two wholesalers and 53 middlemen shops.

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Maguro sliced on the spot.

Fresh Produce Market

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A huge facility with early morning auctions for a wide variety of vegetables and fresh produce.

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A new market facility will soon be constructed on Fukuoka Island City to this and the other two markets in the city. Expected to open in 2015.

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The two guest chefs inspect and taste vegetables and fruits which they will later use in their special collaborative dinner.

Kubota Farm

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Masayuki of Kubota Farms in Itoshima shows off his specialty herbs and vegetables.

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The firm produces highly specialized and high quality vegetables, mostly herbs and western vegetables that are supplied to restaurants.

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Besides great taste the vegetables are in great demand for their size and shapes which cooks can use to create beautiful presentations. Restaurants can specify exactly the size they want.

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These vegetables are gaining popularity in overseas markets where top end chefs rely on them for the flavor and appearance.

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Sakura Farm

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Next, the group visited a strawberry farm also in Itoshima.

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These are “Amaou Strawberries” A= Amai (sweet), MA=Marui (round), O=Ookii (large), U=Umai (tasty). Compared to other strawberries, they are larger, sweeter and juicier.

Hamachi Shuzou

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Located in the Itoshima Peninsula the Hamachi Shuzou sake brewery has been in business since 1870.

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The sake brewed here is made form local rice. They also produce an award winning craft beer and other products including, surprising, bagels made with lees from from the sake process and steamed, not baked.

Maki no Udon

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A quick lunch was enjoyed at Maki no Udon, a popular local noodle shop. The shop is famous for their hard working staff and bustling atmosphere. Noodles are cut and boiled in an open-kitchen area and then toppings are added to order.

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Not only a choice of toppings, but you can choose the firmness of the noodles: soft, medium, or firm.

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This is the most popular order, “Goboten” udon. Tempura burdock with chopped onions.

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The group enjoyed a well deserved feed.

Suzukake Cafe

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The stylish awning of the Suzukake Cafe

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Suzukake is a long-established local Japanese confectionery (wagashi) shop.

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This is “ichigo daifuku”, a whole Amaou strawberry covered with anko (sweet bean) and a soft skin of mochi (rice dough). A cup of matcha green tea compliments the set.

Yanagibashi Rengo Market

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Earlier in the we visited the wholesale market. Yanagibashi is a retail market.

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This shop sells ingredients for soup stock such as katsuo tuna flakes.

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This shop is selling a variety of agemono (deep fried) foods especially those made of kamaboko (fish paste).

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A recent and strikingly modern addition to the market is Manu Coffee an independent coffee shop serving all kinds of coffee including fine specialty drinks such as latte.

Yatai

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One of Fukuoka’s most unique attractions are the yatai (street stalls). There are approximately 150 still active. The specialty at this one was gyoza (fried chinese dumplings) and oden (hot pot).

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Daniel Lopez, one of the guest chefs, got behind the counter at the yatai and actually helped to make the dumplings. This might have been the very first yatai to operate with a Michelin star awarded chef!

Zaou

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Enjoying fresh fish cuisine is taken to the extreme at Zaou a local restaurant where guests can have the fish they catch prepared in several styles.

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Patrons sit at tables inside large boats and fish when they get hungry.

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Uwe shows he not only can cook a fish, but he can catch one too!

Shoku no Miyako Fukuoka

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March 21 was the first day of the three day “Shoko no Miyako Fukuoka” (Gourmet City Fukuoka 2014 Event). The event was held in front of Fukuoka City Hall.

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An estimated 52,000 people attended the event. Fifty booths offered samples or sold foods and beverages representing a wide spectrum of local Fukuoka food businesses.

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This booth offered samples of 100 varieties of soy sauce – all made within Fukuoka Prefecture.

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Fugu, or Blowfish is another specialty of Fukuoka. This booth sold freshly made blowfish lunch boxes.

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Yam – or mountain potato

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Fukutaro a local company famous for mentaiko (spicy cod roe) passed out samples of their popular Menbei, which are mental flavored rice crackers.

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This company sells a vinegar made with Fukuoka’s Amaou strawberries. Diluted with water, it makes for a refreshing drink.

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Local craft beer

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Deli-style lunch box dishes made with local vegetables and produce.

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Local bakery, Brotland did a brisk business selling their famous Mentai France (french stick bread with spicy cod roe).

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Nick Szasz (Publisher, Fukuoka Now) took a turn at a press used to make soy sauce.

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The members of the Fukuoka Soy Sauce Brewing Cooperation really know how to do it!

Jotenji Temple

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This temple was established in 1242 by the famous priest Enni-Ben’en and is part of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

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Only the front argon is open to the general public.

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Enni-Ben’en went to China in 1235, mastered Zen Buddhism. He brought home to Japan a variety of cultures from China besides the teachings of Buddhism. The production method of Udon, Soba, Yokan (adzuki-bean jelly) and Manju (bun) were also introduced by him. There is the stone monument stating that the birthplace of Udon and Soba.

Tochoji Temple

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Trees near the temple were just beginning to bloom for spring.

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In the foreground is a recently completed five layer pagoda. The main attraction here however is the daibutsudan (large statue of Buddha) in another building. The carving of the statue started in 1988 and it took 4 years to finish. The statue is 10.8 meters in height and 30 tons in weight. This is the largest statue of a seated Buddha among the ones in Japan.

Kushida Shrine

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The main gate into Kushida Shrine

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Inside Kushida Shrine

Kawabata Shopping Arcade

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This is a covered shopping street linking Canal City and Hakata Riverain. A wide variety of old shops selling everything from everyday goods, inexpensive fashions, foods and Buddhist altars. It’s casualness and old style making it a charming place to stroll and discover things.

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This shop specializes in Hakata dolls.

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The group took a break to enjoy a bowl of Kawabata Zenzai, a sweet bean desert served with pickles and green tea. A float from the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival is on display.

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Kawabata Zenzai

Kayanoya (Japanese Soup stock and Seasoning manufacture)

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The group was treated to a special demonstration of Kubara Honke’s popular dashi (Japanese soup stock) product.

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The product greatly simplifies the process of making Japanese soup stock. Normally many ingredients are required, not to mention time. Kubara Honke’s stock comes in tea bag like pouches and only requires water.

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A variety of flavors are offered. The vegetable favor is particularly popular with younger Japanese and is also proving popular overseas.

Feast of Three Chefs

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And the grand finale…The Feast of Three Chefs!

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Shunji Isoyama, Executive Chef, Nishitetsu Grand Hotel twas joined by two European chefs, Uwe Opocensky (German), Executive Chef, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong and Daniel Lopez, Owner /Chef Restaurant Kokotxa in San Sebastian, Spain to cook for an eighty person dinner. The concept was the three chefs to collaborate using local Fukuoka foods.

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The visual impact of the first dish by Uwe Opocensky delighted the guests.

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From left to right: Spring Tree, Capuchino De Cebolla Con “Oreo” De Oliva Negra y Anchovas, Filet de Tturbot a l’escoffier avae abalon sauce hollandsaise, Fish &Chips

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Uwe and staff put on final touches to “Fish & Chips”. (not your everyday fish’n’chips, mind you)

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Daniel adds some sauce to beef dish.

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Cubo de Carrillera de Vaca Guisada al Vino Tinto Con Mojo de Macadamias y Dulce de Membrillo – by Daniel Lopez

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Strawberry Field by Uwe Opocensky

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The post diner snapshot with members of the international press representing China, India, Canada, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Kuwait. Gochisosamadeshita!

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