When you think of Saga, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Yup, Saga Beef!!!
Saga is known for one of the most high-quality beef varieties in Japan, alongside Matsusaka and Kobe beef. Imagine a cow that never experienced stress throughout its lifetime, that has a BMS of 7 and above—the only kind that can pass as genuine Saga Beef. Have a taste of marbled perfection, buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture and, sweet beefy richness that can only come from one of Japan’s best Wagyu beef brands.
If you want to know more about Saga’s local specialties, here’s a list of our recommended dishes you must try on your trip…
1. SAGA BEEF
Of course, a trip to Saga would not be complete without sampling the esteemed Saga Beef.
I admit Saga Beef is not cheap but, if you love beef, it’s well worth the price, considering Saga’s Wagyu is cheaper compared to that of Tokyo and Osaka.
The finer the marbling, the higher quality of the meat. The meat is very soft and high in fat content that it simply melted in my mouth. A must try!
3 Chome-9-16 Otakara, Saga, 840-0811, Japan
2. ONSEN YUDOFU: (TOFU BOILED WITH HOT SPRING WATER)
No exaggeration, this was the best damn tofu dish I’ve had in my life… so far!
Ureshino hot spring village, located in western Saga, is famed for two things both vital to health and beauty: green tea and hot springs. Its waters (hot spring of beauty properties) have rejuvenating effects, making the skin very smooth.
The same hot spring water is used to boil the Onsen Yudofu. The alkaline component in the water reacts to the salt in the tofu, giving the tofu its signature smooth and mellow texture. The tofu dish continuously boils until the broth turns thick and cloudy. Even though yudofu is a very simple dish, we enjoyed it in a variety of ways depending on the restaurant, each of which had a particular sauce and serving style.
My favorite part was the last dish where in the hostess prepared the yudofu like a porridge and added some sweet sauce and plenty of sesame seeds that it tasted just like a tonkotsu broth! Oishi!
Otsu-1463 Ureshinomachi Oaza Shimojuku,
Ureshino, Saga 843-0301, Japan
3. LIVE SQUID SASHIMI
Upon serving, the legs of the squid were still moving, a sight we were unlikely to forget. The translucent squid sashimi meat glistened and tasted irresistibly sweet, with a bouncy texture flavor that went very well with the soy sauce. The legs, on the other hand, were cooked tempura style.
A must-try for daredevil foodies!
6. SQUID DUMPLINGS (IKA SHUMAI)
Ika Shumai is made of generous fresh squid paste and covered with thin strips of shumai flour. It is chewy, fluffy and filled with rich flavor. This was one of my simple joys during the trip.
1-15 Shimodamachi, Saga 840-0031, Saga Prefecture
telephone: +81 952-23-5115
Tara town, located in the southern part of Saga that borders the Ariake Sea, is where you can find superior quality oysters being farmed. The oysters here are characterized by a rich deep flavor, courtesy of the high nutrient content of the Ariake Sea.
We had a fun time shopping for ingredients and cooking our own food at the SONA OYSTER BBQ restaurant. The grilled oysters were very easy to cook in their shells on the charcoal grill. The heat from the grill steamed the oysters and popped the shells open while poaching the oysters inside.
It was so easy to cook and so delicious!
You can buy a bag of these for 1000 yen. You can either dip the oysters in ponzu or soy sauce, but we preferred to top it with cheese.
6. TAKEZAKI CRAB
Besides oysters, we also had to try the “Takezaki Crab.”
The famed diamond-shaped shell crab feeds on rich phytoplankton from the Ariake Sea and is distinguished by its soft flesh and distinct sweet concentrated flavor.
Senpai TsuTsu recommended that we pour sake in the shell and enjoy the alcohol with the sweet crab flavor.
Oyster BBQ Restaurant SONO
“The Sake Prefecture,” Saka has a flourishing sake brewing industry, having been blessed, for centuries, with all the right ingredients for brewing sake. The important factor that helps create the perfect sake is the water coming from the mountains that flow down into the wide plains of Saga, making it one of Japan’s best rice-producing regions as well.
In the history-rich and picturesque town of Hizenhama stands a sake brewery by the name of Hizennya. It is where you can enjoy a fascinating tour of the brewery and neighborhood, along with free tasting and purchasing of different sakes. Here you can drink and compare various kinds of sake freely.
The sake here is often sweeter, with fuller body and more cereal notes.
2761-2, Hama-machiotsu, Kashima City, Saga
8. TEA TOURISM (URESHINO CHADOKI)
Experience a unique tea ceremony held by tea farmers at the exclusive “tea space” inside a tea plantation.
Ureshino is well known as one of the best green tea producers in Japan, its methods of tea production dating back to 1504 that some may argue that Saga is where Japanese tea originated. The tea produced here has a distinctive color, a strong aroma and a clear, eloquent taste with deep undertones.
Terraces of tea fields sprawling out one after the next is a scene typical of Ureshino. As if these stunning surroundings weren’t enough, our teahouse was located inside an enclosed forest where you could hear nothing but the the swaying of trees with the breeze.
What we loved about the Ureshino Chadoki, was the collaboration between local tea farmers, hot spring keepers and potters to create this modern-day Japanese tea ceremony experience. It felt good to support the livelihood of the locals.
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Arigato Saga! Itadakimasu!
Live an Awesome Life,
ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: We were media guests of Saga Film Commission and TVQ. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.