Hiroshima Prefecture is working hard to promote the delights of its Seto Inland Sea coastline and islands – now widely referred to as the “Setouchi” region. Cycle tourism, particularly along the Shimanami Kaido, is being pushed hard, but another interesting initiative focuses on the culinary bounty of the area.
Anyone who has taken even a cursory look at Japanese TV can appreciate that creating buzz around a destination’s food is a sure fire way of enhancing a region’s brand value and attract the interest of domestic tourists. What better way of developing buzz than by inviting some of the top chefs in the nation to cook up a cornucopia of original dishes featuring local ingredients selected at source by the chefs themselves. On May 29, Yuko Tanaka was lucky enough to join restauranteurs, chefs and food journalists at the Tokyo Dome Hotel in sampling the 30 dishes made from ingredients selected by the chefs on a four day “Chef’s Labo” (YouTube video in Japanese) tour of the region back in March.
Over to Yuko.
As a Hiroshima native living and working in Tokyo it was with great pleasure that I attended, on behalf of GetHiroshima, an event in Tokyo hosted by Hiroshima prefectural government as part of its Uminomichi Project. This was an experiment in highlighting local Setouchi food and ingredients, inspiring well-known chefs to use them in their cooking and to hopefully get them on the menus of some top Tokyo restaurants.
There was a good turnout for this first event. Members of the Tokyo press were out in force and there were also a few overseas journalists covering the event.
The 150 guests included people from the Setouchi region itself (the prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, Hyogo, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime) as well as over 100 chefs from well-known restaurants in the Tokyo area. This is something of a new approach in Japan and it cheered me to think that one side benefit of such events is that it might provide encouragement to the people in the Setouchi area who work so hard to provide us with these delicious natural ingredients, as well as much needed financial boost.
Even though I was born and raised in Hiroshima, I have to confess that I was still quite surprised by the range of foods introduced during a presentation on the Setouchi food culture and environment; snapper , anago sea eel and oysters, beef, red chicken, pork, lemon, kannon green onions, very sweet kame-chan tomatoes , yuzu lemon, and the list went on. All fresh, and all from the Setouchi region. The area is known for its forgiving climate, neither too hot in the summer (though you might think otherwise lying on a Setouchi beach in August), nor too cold in winter. The relatively mild climate brings the best out of the abundant green land and provides a wide range of food throughout the year.
The chefs who thought up and dishes we enjoyed are of high standing in Japan and they created some amazing dishes using the Setouchi produce. Chef Kataoka from Alporto, Chef Kamata from the Tokyo Dome Hotel and Chef Tan from Akasakarikyu represented Tokyo, while Chef Kitaoka from the Ushita Japanese restaurant that recently picked up a Michelin star, Kitaoka [ja], Chefs Korokoshi and Kobayashi from the ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Chef Shimamura from RESTAURANT SHIMAMURA Lesprit de MIKUNI and Chef Fujiwara from Furansu-ya represented Hiroshima.
I loved the fusion of flavors in the dishes. Here are my favorites:
Awabitake mushroom rice in roast Hiroshima Beef with shoyu gravy & yuzu pepper by Chef Kamata
Steamed kijihata red spotted grouper with hiroshima-na & red chilli by chef Tan