Morioka City might not be packed with impressive tourist sights, but there’s another good reason to go there and that’s the noodles. In Iwate Prefecture they have not one, not two, but three famous noodle dishes and Morioka City is the perfect place to sample them all.
CAPTION: View of Kitakami River and Mount Iwate from Morioka City
The first is more of a style of noodle eating than it is a unique recipe. Soba noodles are served up in bite-sized portions and the aim of the game is to see how many portions you can get through. The name ‘wanko’ comes from the Iwate dialect word for the small bowls that the buckwheat noodles are served in. The dish is so famous in Iwate that it has even become one of the area’s mascots – Sobacchi.
There are many different restaurants serving wanko soba in Morioka City, but one of the most popular is Azumaya: http://www.wankosoba-azumaya.co.jp/foreigner/english/.
Reimen has been available in Morioka City since 1954 when a Korean barbecue (yakiniku) restaurant owner first put it on their menu. Similarly to the Korean dish naengmyeon, reimen consists of chewy noodles in a cold broth. It’s topped with kimchi, cucumber, beef, boiled egg and a piece of fruit such as watermelon, sliced pear or apple. You can usually choose how spicy you’d like the broth to be, and the fruit helps to temper the fiery heat.
You can find reimen at any yakiniku restaurant in the city, but the Pyonpyonsha chain makes a good choice as it’s reliable and there’s one not far from the station. You can order the noodles on their own, or opt for a set menu including likes of seasoned tofu, salad, pajeon (spring onion pancakes), kalbi (barbecued beef rib) and an assortment of kimchi and other side dishes, plus fruit for dessert.
Pyon Pyon-sha (Morioka Ekimae-ten) 9-3 Morioka Ekimaedori, Morioka-shi.
Last, but by no means least, the third ‘great noodle dish of Morioka’ is Jaja men. This is said to have been developed from the Chinese noodle dish ‘jia jiang mein’. It’s made with noodles that are similar to udon, and these are topped with a paste of miso mixed with ground pork meat, slivers of cucumber and spring onion. At Hot Ja Ja you are given the option of how spicy you want the miso paste to be.
Mix everything together before eating it and add a touch of grated ginger, red pickled ginger (benishoga), sliced garlic or vinegar if you’d like more of a kick.
Once the noodles have all gone, you can finish your meal with chiitantan – soup with meat miso broth. Just crack an egg into the bowl and call over a server to fill the bowl with noodle cooking broth, then mix in ginger, salt and miso to your taste for a satisfying end to the meal.
Hot Jaja: 1F Sagawa Bldg., 9-5 Morioka Ekimaedori, Morioka (https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g298247-d1693492-Reviews-Hot_JaJa_Morioka-Morioka_Iwate_Prefecture_Tohoku.html).
By Celia Plender