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att. Japanese Culture - Ekiben in West Japan
att. Culture - Ekiben in West Japan
You are here: att.JAPAN > General Information > Ekiben in West Japan
att.JAPAN Issue 46, May 2009

Ekiben - Railway boxed meals in West Japan

We introduced the ekiben (boxed lunches sold at stations) of Eastern Japan in issue 44 of att.JAPAN, published on Jan. 10, 2009 (the article is viewable at http://www.att-japan.net/ekiben/). This time we are introducing the ekiben of Hokuriku, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu regions.


 Hokuriku
Since it is located along the Japan Sea, many of the ekiben in Hokuriku feature various seafood entrees. The colorful arrangement of these recipes is beautiful to the eye as well as the palate.  

*Masu-no-Sushi (salmon trout sushi)
Toyama Station on Hokuriku Line
Masu-no-Sushi – a kind of oshi-zushi (pressed sushi) – is a specialty of Toyama. It is so famous that it has become popular beyond the simple categorization of being an ekiben. Sliced pink salmon trout (masu) is placed on a vinegar-marinated rice in a disk-shaped wooden box with bamboo leaves laid on the bottom. The box is also wrapped in green bamboo leaves, and then its cover is pressed firmly into position. It is common to cut the sushi with a plastic knife attached to the boxed lunch - this ekiben can be eaten just like a slice of cake. The station building at Toyama contains several Masu-no-Sushi stores, and there are about 30 Masu-no-Sushi shops inside the city.


*Echizen Kani-meshi (crab with rice)
Fukui Station on Hokuriku Line
Flaked crabmeat, as well as crabmeat that remains in the shape of legs, are both spread on special rice steamed with the ovaries and innards of female snow crabs. This is a simple ekiben.


 

 Chubu
The Chubu area has a cultural mix, with ideas borrowed from the Kanto and Kansai areas. The ekiben introduced here tend to be rather strongly seasoned.

*Hidagyu-iri Gyu-shigure Bento
Takayama Station on Takayama Line
This is a boxed lunch of rice topped with thinly sliced beef, shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced fried eggs, burdock and pickled ginger. Its black container features an automatic heating device.


*HamamatsuUnagi-meshi (eel with rice)
Hamamatsu Station on Tokaido Shinkansen and Tokaido lines
Hamamatsu is famous nationwide for its eel farming and is also known for its boxed lunches of eel. Well-grilled eel is placed on rice that has been steamed with sweet soy sauce. Cooked eel liver and pickled vegetables are also found in this lunch.


*Bikkuri Miso-katsu
Nagoya Station on Tokaido Shinkansen and Tokaido lines
Nagoya’s specialty is miso-katsu, a pork cutlet with miso sauce, and this is the boxed lunch version of that meal. It consists of a surprisingly generous portion of red miso-katsu with rice. You can cut and eat the hearty meal with the attached plastic knife and fork.


 

 Kinki
Food in the Kinki area (also known as Kansai) is known for its mild seasoning. There is an abundant variety of ekiben to enjoy here.

*Hakkaku Bento
Shin-Osaka Station on Tokaido Shinkansen and Tokaido lines
Unlike most ekiben, this one contains no deep-fried food: instead, it contains mainly grilled fish or boiled and seasoned foods. Conger rolls, koya-dofu (freeze-dried bean curd), kelp rolls, eggplant cut into pieces, taro and lotus root are cooked in the mild-tasting Kansai style. These ingredients are beautifully arranged in an octagonal box.  


*Sukiyaki Gohan
Shin-Kobe Station on Sanyo Shinkansen Line / Kobe Station on Tokaido Line
A large portion of Japanese beef is placed on rice that has been steamed with sukiyaki sauce and some ingredients. You can eat this hot using the included automatic heating device, enjoying the warmth of home.


*Kakinoha-zushi (mackerel and salmon sushi)
Yoshinoguchi Station on Wakayama Line
This is a pressed, bite-sized sushi. Sweet vinegar-marinated mackerel and salmon are placed on the rice and wrapped in persimmon leaves.


*Sanma Sugata-zushi (saury sushi)
Kii-Katsuura Station on Kii Line
An entire saury fish is cut and opened, and then placed on vinegar-marinated rice in a long package. For your convenience the sushi is cut into bite size pieces, so that you can enjoy the fine flavor of vinegar-marinated saury without using a knife.


 

 Chugoku / Shikoku
These areas serve a variety of menus using an abundance of seafood from the Seto Inland Sea.

*Ganso Kani-zushi (crab sushi)
Tottori Station on Sanyo Line
This boxed lunch is said to be the original crab sushi ekiben. Flaked crabmeat and thinly sliced fried egg covers vinegar-marinated Inaba rice in an octagonal container.


*Ikasumi Bento Kuromeshi (squid with black rice)
Tottori Station on Sanyo Line
This is rather a new ekiben: it was created about five years ago. Four small soft squids and two squid dumplings are placed on blackish rice that has been steamed with squid ink and chopped squid meat, and the meal is packed in a round container made of bamboo and a paper-thin sheet of wood.


*Momotaro Matsuri-zushi
Okayama Station on Sanyo Shinkansen and Sanyo lines
This ekiben is named Momotaro in reference to the hero of a fairy tale that originated in this area. A pink, peach-shaped plastic container is used because the tale relates that Momotaro was born from a big peach. Mamakari (Japanese shad), shrimp, conger, shiitake mushroom and bamboo shoot are scattered on vinegar-marinated Okayama-harvested rice, with thinly sliced fried eggs also spread on the surface. The colorful arrangement of the ingredients looks lively like a festival.


*Shamoji Kakimeshi (oyster with rice)
Hiroshima Station on Sanyo Shinkansen and Sanyo lines
The red plastic container of this ekibenis shaped like a rice scoop. Boiled oysters are placed on rice that has been steamed with oyster broth, and then deep-fried oyster and oyster seasoned with yuzu citrus and miso are added. You can taste a variety of delicious oyster dishes in this single ekiben. It is sold only from November to March, limited to the winter season.


*Anago-meshi(conger with rice)
Miyajimaguchi Station on Sanyo Line
Although there are various delicious conger ekiben in Japan, it is said this Anago-meshi enjoys the reputation of being the best in Japan. It was first sold in 1901. Its deep, rectangular container is made of a paper-thin sheet of wood. Grilled congers dipped in sweet sauce are crammed atop the rice (which contains 10% sticky rice) and steamed with conger broth.


*Ganso Fuku Meshi (globefish with rice)
Shimonoseki Station on Sanyo Line
This funny-looking globefish-shaped plastic container houses a variety of globefish dishes including deep-fried, boiled, grilled and minced globefish with a crab’s claw in the center, which are placed on top of rice that has been steamed with globefish broth.


*Awa Jidori Bento
Tokushima Station on Kotoku Line
Five pieces of teriyaki chicken and thinly sliced fried eggs cover tea-flavored rice, with minced chicken added to fill the gaps. The chicken used is Awa chicken, Tokushima’s specialty (guaranteed by the JAS), and is known to be a low-calorie food. It has a nice crunchy texture and sweetness.


 

 Kyushu
Enjoy a variety of local delicacies in each area of Kyushu.
 
*Kashiwa-meshi(chicken with rice)
Orio Station on Kagoshima Line
Kashiwa-meshi is one of the most popular chicken-based boxed lunches in all of Japan. It always attracts many people at the ekiben fairs held in department stores. Flaked chicken, thinly sliced fried egg and sliced laver (seaweed) are placed on the surface of rice that has been steamed with chicken broth. The chicken rice, cooked with secret ingredients and using a recipe handed down from generation to generation, is sweet and melts in your mouth, giving you delight and satisfaction.


*Karashi Mentai Bento
Hakata Station on Sanyo Shinkansen Line
This is a local ekiben using a generous portion of Hakata’s specialty: spiced cod roe. The delicious Aji-no-Mentai Fukutaro brand of cod roe is served with chikuzen-ni cooked vegetables, fried chicken and fried egg. This ekiben will make you experience the real Hakata.


*Hakata Tai-zushi (sea bream sushi)
Hakata Station on Sanyo Shinkansen Line
Natural renko-dai sea bream caught in the Genkai Sea, seasoned with special vinegar, is pressed onto vinegar-marinated rice. Savor this delectable taste.


*Kakuni-meshi Bento
Nagasaki Station on Nagasaki Line
About 3 years have passed since this new ekiben was first created to feed the workers/staff of a particular restaurant. Boiled pork blocks called toba-ni, one of Nagasaki’s specialties, are placed on rice cooked with delicious ingredients.


*Ayuya Sandai
Shin-Yatsushiro Station on Kyushu Shinkansen Line
Boiled and cooked sweet fish are placed on rice that has been steamed with the broth of sweet fish caught in the Kumagawa River, known as one of Japan’s three fastest flowing rivers. You can eat the fish from the head down.


*Ayu Sushi (sweet fish sushi)
Hitoyoshi Station on Hisatsu Line
The sweet fish in this ekiben are also that caught in the Kumagawa River, where tourists can enjoy rafting. Firmer sweet fish kept in vinegar for a day is placed on vinegar-marinated rice steamed with kelp, with a dash of wasabi horse radish added between the layers.


*Kuri-meshi (chestnut with rice)
Hitoyoshi Station on Hisatsu Line
Many sweet chestnuts (harvested in the Hitoyoshi Basin) along with wild plants and boiled vegetables are placed on top of rice that has been steamed with dried radish. The attractive red plastic container is shaped like a chestnut.


*Shiitake-meshi (mushroom with rice)
Miyazaki Station on Nippo Line
Flaked chicken, thickly sliced shiitake mushroom, and thinly sliced fried egg are scattered neatly on rice steamed with chicken stock. The mushrooms used are dried and then hydrated in water before being cooked in broth to make the flavor richer than could be achieved using raw shiitake.


 

Why not try ekiben, a food culture of which Japan is rightly proud!

 

 

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