Fukui is known for outstanding foods from both land and sea, and many of the prefecture’s most popular dishes are built around at least one local ingredient. Some of these foods are only available in certain communities, while others are everyday favorites beloved throughout the prefecture by people of all ages.
This local brand of premium wagyu beef has been raised in Fukui for well over a century, particularly in the northern part of the prefecture. Beef produced here is graded on a five-point quality scale: only meat with a rating of four or higher earns the right to be sold under the Wakasa Beef brand. Many restaurants that offer Wakasa Beef in Fukui aim to make the most of its rich, juicy marbling through simple preparation. It is often grilled on its own, or cooked shabu-shabu style by dipping it into boiling water at the table, and served with sweet and tart ponzu dipping sauce. This tender, flavorful beef is a popular local form of affordable luxury—and for a more casual option, supermarkets and meat shops around the prefecture offer potato croquettes made with Wakasa Beef, for a delicious accent of its rich, meaty flavor.
Sauce Katsu-don Rice Bowls
Sauce Katsu-don rice bowls are a popular everyday dish among both young and old, and they are available not only at restaurants, but even as packaged takeout meals at supermarkets and convenience stores. In most of Japan, tonkatsu pork cutlets are thick cuts, served sliced, and when they are used as a topping for a bowl of rice, beaten egg is often mixed in. For this Fukui specialty, though, a bowl of rice is topped with a few thinly sliced, freshly fried pork cutlets, seasoned with a sweet-and-savory Worcestershire-style sauce. Some famous Sauce Katsu-don restaurants even sell bottles of their special sauce.
Volga Rice varies by restaurant, but is generally made with seasoned rice—rice with ketchup, or sometimes fried rice or pilaf—wrapped in an omelet. This is then topped with a fried item such as a tonkatsu pork cutlet, and finished with demiglace, curry, or some other rich sauce. More than thirty years after it was created in Takefu, Volga Rice continues to evolve, with Japanese-Western-style restaurants, cafés, noodle shops, and others serving new variations, made with ingredients such as creamy white sauce or Chinese-style sauce, or even remixes like Volga Ramen.
A sweet mochi dessert named for habutae, a type of silk weave produced for centuries by the silk makers of Katsuyama. Mochi rice is pounded into a fine flour, steamed, and kneaded. This is then mixed with sugar and mizuame starch syrup, to create a tender yet chewy dessert, with a translucency reminiscent of habutae silk. Confectioners throughout the prefecture still produce habutae mochi in the traditional style, as well as in modern styles with added flavors like cocoa or lemon.
Healthy and Delicious Local Classics
Abura-age fried tofu in Fukui, particularly the northern half, is usually thick, with a tender and fluffy interior, rather than the thin sheets found in most of Japan. Long ago, this thick fried tofu was considered a special treat, and its special place in the local food culture has roots in history.
Eiheiji Temple was founded in 1244, and is one of the head temples of Soto Zen, the largest of Japan’s three main sects of Zen Buddhism. Shojin ryori, the traditional cuisine of Buddhist monks in Japan, uses no animal products of any sort. As a result, tofu—particularly fried tofu—has a special place in the hearts of the people of the prefecture, both as a source of protein and for its texture. Today, abura-age is served at shojin ryori restaurants along the road to Eiheiji Temple, and is also used for unique contemporary dishes: grilled as a tofu steak, topped and toasted as tofu pizza, and even sliced open and stuffed as tofu sandwiches.
Echizen Oroshi Soba Noodles
Soba noodles, made of buckwheat, are a rustic comfort food enjoyed all around Japan, and serving styles for this nutritious dish vary by region. In Fukui, particularly the northern half of the prefecture, the most common style is Echizen Oroshi Soba: soba noodles served with a cold soup, topped with spicy grated daikon radish, shaved bonito tuna flakes, and chopped green onion. To complete a meal of Echizen Oroshi Soba in the true soba lover’s fashion, ask for sobayu after eating. Sobayu is the water used to cook the soba, still warm and starchy from the noodles. Pour the sobayu in with the remaining broth and toppings, and drink as a finish.
There are also places that provide a deeper Echizen Oroshi Soba experience: visitors can learn how to make noodles from buckwheat flour at Echizen Soba Village and at the restaurant at Maruoka Castle.