When Japanese people talk about Fukuoka, they often wax lyrical about the food of Kyushu. For foreigners, however, it can be very difficult to get our mitts on a Fukuoka-cuisine cookbook which we can actually understand. That’s why we were so excited when Fukuoka: Recipes of Fukuoka, was released back in April, and even more so when they put out a new and expanded edition. With this book, you can learn to make Kyushu specialities, like gobo-ten udon (burdock root tempura udon), a dish we recently reviewed at Wasuke, a noodle shop in the center of Fukuoka, as being a local favourite. Experienced chefs might like to try their hands at more complicated pieces, such as Matcha Fujikan (matcha jelly and meringue shaped like Mt. Fuji), but novices should perhaps start with something simpler, such as goroshi (kinako sweets).
Every dish gets its own foreword, featuring an explanation of its origin or the time of year it is usually enjoyed; funayaki, for example, otherwise known as crêpe à la Fukuoka, was apparently eaten by river boatmen as a 3 o’clock snack. It is much like a traditional, sweet French crepe, except that it incorporates shiso leaf.
There is also general information on the prefecture’s culinary history; such as the passage describing the Sugar Road, the road by which sugar imported to Nagasaki during the isolationist Edo period reached the capital (it passed through Fukuoka too!). Along this road, the availability of sugar made it possible for many different kinds of sweets to be created and introduced, like angel hair/keiran somen (a kind of sweet noodle, made with egg yolk and sugar), castella (Japanese sponge cake) and maruboro (a type of puffed-up cookie).
Those learning Japanese might find it useful that the book is written in both English and Japanese; perfect for learning the kanji you’ll need to tackle Japanese recipe books. The book also emphasizes that Fukuokan cuisine is very healthy (since it uses a lot of fish and vegetables) and low in calories – all the more reason to pick up a copy and get cooking!
Curious about how the crêpe à la Fukuoka might taste, Fukuoka Now’s editor, Jess McHugh, had a go at whipping some up one Sunday afternoon:
“These crêpes turned out to be quite delicious, even if they weren’t going to be winning any beauty pageants! The pancakes themselves were quite salty, but the shiso leaves were neither overwhelmed nor overwhelming. Coating the crêpes in sugar, as the recipe suggested, did make for a nice sweet-n-salty tea-time snack, but next time I’d be tempted to leave the sugar out and enjoy the crêpes as a light lunch. Those with a bigger appetite might find the four person serving suggestion to be a bit of a stretch, so should probably consider doubling the amount of batter they make.”
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