By Mandy Bartok
Home to one of a mere handful of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Kumamoto is a foodie’s paradise.
Not only are there plentiful dishes unique to the prefecture, such as basashi (raw horsemeat), karashi renkon (lotus root filled with mustard) and ikinari dango (sweet potato dumplings), there is also a rich heritage of homemade cuisine and farm-to-table cooking.
I tried out three restaurants that showcase traditional local foods to enjoy a taste of yesteryear.
Farm Restaurant Shinojino
Dedicated to promoting local production and consumption of food and drink, this warm and welcoming eatery is operated by Kumamoto Agricultural Cooperative.
There are a variety of Kumamoto brands to choose from, including wagyu beef and rindo pork, as well as fresh vegetables from across the prefecture.
I opted for a mixture of both meat and greens, steamed at the table in two traditional wooden boxes and accompanied by dipping sauces.
As shino is Kumamoto dialect for the joy of the harvest and jino means local food, the restaurant’s name is a fitting tribute to its showcase of tasty, local food.
Details in the side bar.
Yamae no Manma
Located in the village of Yamae in rural Kumamoto, Yamae no Manma was established as a non-profit restaurant to bring together local people, home-cooked meals and visitors from home and abroad. Since opening in 2005, its homely atmosphere and hearty meals have delivered culinary nostalgia that has seen customers keep coming back for more.
The building itself is historic, having been built in 1922 as the village hall. Though it was completely remodelled as a restaurant, it retains its original external features and is a registered cultural property.
The set lunch, which changes daily based on the local produce available in the early morning, is a delight for the eye as well as the taste buds. My favorite item was the rice topped with renowned Yamae chestnuts.
The friendly staff were passionate in describing the dishes, largely because many of them were the chefs who created them, at home or in the restaurant. They truly give Yamae no Manma a sense of homeliness.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 11:30am - 2pm
Address: 868-0092, 熊本県, 球磨郡山江村大字山田甲１４１５番地
The goal of farmhouse restaurant Ryukin Kanosato is similar to the establishments above - to connect people via cuisine. A large group of local women with a passion for traditional cuisine is using the eatery as a vehicle to spread awareness of Kumamoto’s food culture. By doing so, it hopes to support the local area and ensure wisdom from the kitchen continues to be passed down from generation to generation.
We enjoyed a set course, which was made-to-order based on our food requests. Many dishes were taken from recipe books which have been produced by Ryukin Kanosato’s members to promote the local cuisine.
The food was plentiful and delicious, with depth of flavour and nods to the season. What’s more, the chefs ensured that the set course was nutritionally balanced, allowing us to indulge guilt-free.
Address: 879-1 Fukadanishi, Asagiri-cho, Kuma-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture, 868-0444
A 5-minute walk from Hanabatacho Station, which is served by Kumamoto's tram system.
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