Okayama Barazushi (Scattered Sashimi over Rice)
Barazushi is a local style of sushi that uses ingredients from all around the Chugoku region. It’s made with a bowl of sushi rice topped with over a dozen ingredients, from fish and seafood from the Seto Inland Sea to various vegetables like lotus root, carrots, and tender snow peas. Traditionally, commoners weren’t didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy lavish multicourse meals during the feudal era, so barazushi was a way for people to enjoy multiple ingredients in a single dish.
Sawara (Spanish Mackerel)
The most beloved fish in Okayama is sawara (Spanish mackerel), which is enjoyed in many dishes from fresh sashimi to shabu-shabu (hotpot). In fact, Okayama has the highest per capita consumption of sawara fish in all of Japan. With a sweeter and lighter flavor than other types of mackerel, sawara is both delicious and healthy, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh sawara is preferred by people who normally don’t like the oily flavor of other types of mackerel.
Hinase Kakioko (Oyster Okonomiyaki)
Osaka and Hiroshima are the two regions of Japan most famous for their okonomiyaki, a savory pancake made with a vegetable-filled batter. But Okayama, located between the two regions, also has its own delicious style called “Hinase Kakioko,” short for kaki (oyster) okonomiyaki. The dish originated in Hinase, the oyster capital of Okayama, and is made with thick and juicy grilled oysters, fresh from the Seto Inland Sea.
Hiruzen Yakisoba (Stir-fried Noodles from Hiruzen)
Hiruzen yakisoba is a style of stir-fried noodles that can only be found in the Hiruzen plateau area of northern Okayama, which is known for its dairy resorts and winter skiing. While yakisoba is typically made with pork, in the Hiruzen area it’s made with large chunks of locally raised chicken that are stir-fried together with cabbage and noodles in a light sweet-and-spicy miso sauce.
The most famous ingredient from Okayama, succulent white peaches come into season beginning in June, fetching as much as 1,500 yen per peach. There are a number of white peach varieties cultivated in Okayama, which allows people to indulge in the fresh fruit throughout the summer months. Peaches, or “momo” in Japanese, also have a special cultural meaning in Okayama as the hero of the Momotaro folk tale is said to have been discovered by his adoptive parents in a giant white peach floating down the river in this very prefecture.
Muscat and Pione Grapes
In addition to juicy peaches, Okayama is known for its fabulous grapes, in season from May to December. The most famous varieties include luscious muscat grapes nicknamed the “Queen of Fruits” and large seedless “Black Pearl” pione grapes, which have a deeply sweet and fragrant aroma.