With its fusion of flavors and history, Nagasaki has one of the most vibrant food scenes in Japan. It’s trading port history has left a rich gastronomic legacy, whether it’s the sweet Portuguese-inspired castella cake at Fukusaya or American-style Sasebo burgers from Hikari. Here are the best places to eat in Nagasaki so you can experience it all for yourself, after all exploring a new city works up quite an appetite.
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One of Nagasaki’s popular but least understood specialties is the mysteriously named toruko (Turkish) rice. This dish combines spaghetti, rice, and pork tonkatsu with a curry sauce all on one plate, and is unlike anything else. Nagasaki locals have been hungrily swallowing this weird concoction for over 50 years and it’s served all over the city. Traditionalists, however, stick to Tsuruchan, which opened in 1925 and is the oldest known café on the island of Kyushu. Unlike the city’s other great culinary inventions, toruko rice doesn’t seem to have caught on in the rest of Japan, so this unique dish is definitely a must-try when you visit Nagasaki.
A must-try when visiting Nagaski, hitokuchi are bite-sized gyoza that are a recent innovation in Japan and rumored to have been invented in Nagasaki. These tiny dumplings offer the convenience of fast food with none of the mess. You’ll find the best hitokuchi at Unryutei in Shianbashi. The restaurant is a tiny place, with two tables and a few seats at the bar and it’s solely dedicated to gyoza and bite-sized gyoza. The delicious dumplings are served piping hot, and the mixture of the crispy dumpling skin and the pork and garlic loaded center is the perfect combination. A must-try if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat in between exploring all the things to do in Nagasaki.
Opposite Oura Cathedral stands Shikairou. This iconic restaurant opened in 1899 and is credited with inventing Nagasaki champon – the city’s greatest culinary export. What is champon you ask? Well allegedly, Chen Ping Shun, the cook at Shikairou, invented the dish to feed the throngs of Chinese exchange students hankering for a cheap meal. He based his concoction on Fujian-style noodles but added fresh vegetables, seafood, and scraps of pork, then served it all up in a bowl filled with delicious bone broth. Champon is often served with a side of gyoza. If you’ve had a late-night of overindulging while exploring Nagasaki’s nightlife champon is a godsend.
Conveniently located 3-minutes away from Shianbashi station, Menya Always is unquestionably one of the top ramen shops in Nagasaki. Their delicious ramen and tsukemen are pork-based with the store's secret spicy miso. If you’re looking for something more unusual then try the unique lemon tonkotsu ramen. The rich pork-based soup is topped with lemon slices and lots of onions which gives it a lovely lemony taste and makes the broth much lighter. It’s the perfect place to go for a light meal in between all your exploring.
Another great place to try the famous bowl of champon is Kozanro. It is similar to ramen, except that the noodles are boiled in the soup instead of separately. The ingredients used to make it are usually fried pork and seafood. Kozanro is a true institution in the heart of Nagasaki's Chinatown. The now huge restaurant has been in operation since its humble beginnings in 1946 and while it’s not as old as Shikairou it still serves a great bowl of champon. Their secret to having one of the best champons in Nagasaki is keeping it authentic, with a homemade-like taste. You can order the champon in three sizes that range in price from ¥800 to ¥1,500 so it’s a great meal if you’re exploring
If you have a sweet tooth or admire beautiful confectionery, look no further than Fukusaya. Castella cake was first made in the city when a Portuguese merchant taught its founder the recipe. The Portuguese introduced refined sugar to Japan, and the presence of European merchants in Nagasaki meant that flour and sugar were much more commonly available here than in the rest of Japan. 400 years after opening Fukusaya is still going strong. Beautifully wrapped and presented at the store, castella is a chic present or souvenir of your trip – that is, if you can resist eating it as soon as you leave the shop.
If you’re looking to treat yourself, then kaiseki is wonderful. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy course after course of simply exquisite creations. Doyama has been in operating in Nagasaki for over 30 years, and the quality of the food served here speaks to that. They try to source their ingredients from within Nagasaki Prefecture as much as possible and put their years of experience into each delectable dish. You can expect some outstanding tempura, fish, and even wagyu! This place is a must-visit in Nagasaki if you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience. Doyama is reservation-only, so you'll need to reserve your table in advance.
Photo credit: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ファイル:The_Sasebo_bur
The hamburger was introduced to Nagasaki in the early 1950s, during the Korean War, and the small shops that popped up to serve the American military base in Sasebo were soon doing a roaring trade. Today, the Sasebo burger is something rather different. These handmade patties are noted for their use of the freshest ingredients, their meticulous preparation – and their size. Hikari opened in 1950 and is widely regarded as the finest Sasebo burger spot in Nagasaki, with all the satisfaction of the American original, and Japanese flair.
Kaisen Ichiba Nagasaki Port Shinchi Restaurant
The appeal of the restaurant is the fresh seafood from the sea near Nagasaki and the local ingredients directly delivered from the farmers. The restaurants large fish-tank is full of seasonal seafood such as spear squids, grunts and scorpionfish. You can thoroughly enjoy seasonal fresh seafood at a reasonable price. There are various rice bowls made with plenty of seafood from various places. In addition to the taste of the ingredients, the delicate arrangement of the dishes is beautiful. Enjoy plenty of Nagasaki’s specialty seafood that will appeal to people of all ages.
Glover Garden Café
What could be better on a hot day than a seat in this glorious garden, overlooking Nagasaki’s magnificent bay? The café, with its intricate iron furniture and stunning views, is the perfect spot to try kakigōri, a traditional shaved ice dessert. In line with the surroundings, this treat has a distinctly 19th-century feel. Similar to a slushy or snow cone, the lightness of kakigōri is closer to the texture of freshly fallen snow, and flavors such as green tea with condensed milk give this dessert an elegance that transcends its simple ingredients.
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