Genuine Homeland Breads and Sweets, Made in Kobe
Kobe is the birthplace of Japanese bread culture. Kobe breads and sweets culture began around the opening of the Port of Kobe in 1868, when bread and sweets shops popped up to serve Westerners who had migrated to Kobe. Bread makers continued their diligent studies to improve the taste of the breads they made for their Western customers who knew how breads were supposed to taste. That genuine taste endeared itself to the Japanese in Kobe as well.
Meet Mr. Hayashi, pastry chef and owner of Patisserie Mont Plus in the heart of Kobe’s Kyukyoryuchi (Old Foreign Settlement).
“Kobe has always been the type of place to actively accept new things, “ Mr. Hayashi said. “It’s a port town, so it is easy to get flour, butter and other ingredients from the West, and the local fruits and vegetables are delicious. I think the bread makers back then were determined to use Kobe’s location to their advantage and make breads that were just as delicious as the breads in foreign countries. “
As fashionable as Kobe is, Kyukyoryuchi has a noticeably refined atmosphere. It is close to Sannomiya Station and Motomachi Station, Kobe’s front porch, and was home to many Westerners when the port opened. The streets are lined with houses remodeled in the modern Western styles of the time. In a city of over 900 bakeries and patisseries, Kyukyoryuchi boasts the largest concentration. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were wandering through Europe.
There is a surprisingly wide array of Kobe breads and sweets. Each shop owner proudly puts out sweets imbued with his or her own ingenuity and made with carefully selected ingredients. It may be difficult to choose between shops that specialize in treats like fresh cakes filled with seasonal fruits, or cakes made with pomegranate, azuki red beans and other Japanese ingredients, or chocolates or cheesecakes. Made in Kobe sweets combine traditional Western dessert-making methods and clever spins on taste, and they continue to evolve. Mr. Hayashi’s baked sweets pay homage to recipes for French treats. “I’m aiming for a more refined taste no matter how much extra work it takes, “ Mr. Hayashi said. “Many visitors from France are extremely pleased when they come upon these treats from long ago that they can’t get in their own country any more. “
French bread has similarly earned its place in Kobe’s history. Now bakers from France come to Kobe to learn the traditional methods of baking and selling French bread. Kobe’s Chuo Ward, in which Kyukyoryuchi is located, is actively promoting a community around breads and sweets, and last fall the ward distributed City Walk Maps for Kobe Bread and put on a culinary walking tour event. The event is scheduled to take place again this year, adding even more enjoyment to a trip to Kobe for gourmet food.
Pride in Special Wagyu Embodies Kobe Style and Thoughtfulness
Kobe beef symbolizes the attention to detail prized in Kobe cuisine. Foodies throughout the world know the delicious taste and satisfying after-dinner feeling that Kobe beef delivers. The American media ranked wagyu alongside caviar and white truffles in the World’s Top Nine Priciest Foods.
Kobe beef has always been a special kind of wagyu. It originates from purebred Tajima cattle raised in Hyogo Prefecture, but only Tajima cattle that score above standards in strict screenings of fat marbling, meat quality and carcass weight can be called Kobe beef.
Kobe chefs proudly prepare carefully bred and raised Kobe beef. “Not even half of the Tajima cattle carefully raised in stress-free environments are approved, “Kobe Plaisir Chef Atsuzawa said. “’ Kobe beef’ is an indicator of the highest rank. “
The Kobe beef Mr. Atsuzawa gently removed from his refrigerator featured a delicate marbled fat pattern known as sashi in Japanese. The fat glowed with a vivid luster as it began to perspire at room temperature. “This shows that it is top-level fat,“ Mr. Atsuzawa said. “This will be most delicious as a thick steak on a teppan grill, and you will enjoy the great taste of the meat and juicy texture of the fat. “
The Kobe beef sizzling on the teppan began to give off a savory aroma, and the time spent waiting with heightening expectations for the skilled chef to cook the meat to my liking was quite blissful. Kobe is the origin of this teppan-yaki style of cooking where chef and diner face each other. The close proximity to the chef makes it easier for the diner to be as picky as he or she pleases.
“The taste, flavor and texture of Kobe beef is different for each cut, “ Mr. Atsuzawa said. “Some regulars want to have just one bite of various parts. Some non-Japanese visitors order thigh, filet, sirloin and other cuts and divide them amongst themselves to taste and compare. “
Trying Kobe beef at a steak restaurant in none other than Kobe, while definitely pricey, is sure to be remembered as the main event of a trip to Kobe. Those who wish to take less of a risk may want to try beef croquettes at shops specializing in Kobe beef. Ordering a freshly fried, piping hot croquette to go and eating it in front of the shop or in the park is an experience only Kobe has to offer.
Nada Sake: Delicious Water, Special Rice, Winter Winds and the Skill of the Brewer
Traditional Japanese food culture is alive and well in Kobe. Japanese cuisine made of fresh seafood from the Seto Inland Sea and local vegetables is an example of this. Japanese sake goes well with Japanese and Western cuisine, and it is another Kobe Brand to explore.
The birthplace of Kobe’s Japanese sake is the Nada area, located in the eastern part of the city. Exit the train at Hanshin Sumiyoshi Station, just 10 minutes away from Sannomiya, and step into a completely different world – the white, mud-walled storehouses of well-known Japanese sake brewers and red-roofed sake breweries line the streets.
The Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum is one of the many resource centers that describe the history and brewing methods of Japanese sake. Travelers are in for a fun tour with life-sized mannequins reenacting the brewing of sake with old-fashioned tools and pamphlets explaining the process in simple terms in English, simplified Chinese and Korean.
“Nada sake brewing is hugely important for the secret techniques passed down from each generation of brewers to the next, “ chief brewer Fujiki said. “Nada combines good Rokko water with proximity to the growers of Yamada Nishiki rice used only for brewing sake. Winter is high time for brewing sake. The dry wind blows down from Rokko during winter is perfect for brewing sake. “
Like wine, Japanese sake has distinct characteristics depending on where it was produced. “Nada sake has a sharp, dry taste, “ Fujiki said. “It is called a ‘ man’s sake’ because it is an acquired taste. “
There is a tasting corner for this “man’s sake“ and fresh, unprocessed sake. Umeshu plum liqueur is popular with non-Japanese visitors, and many people return home with souvenirs.
“Peoples’ senses are the deciding factor in sake brewing, “ Fujiki said. “We assess ingredients and the weather and use our expert, artisan skills in pursuit of flavors that make customers happy. “Mr. Fujiki’s stance is the same as that of the makers of Kobe food. Enjoying Kobe cuisine in Kobe makes it even more delicious and brilliant. Kobe is only 30 minutes from Osaka and one hour from Kyoto. If you’re coming to Kansai, Kobe is certainly worth the trip.