B-kyu gurume, are cheap, simple, local dishes made with local produce. These B-class dishes are well-known by locals and show the true local culture. Certain B-kyu gurume dishes have become popular throughout Japan, the popularity increasing with food festivals such as the B-1 Grand Prix.
What Makes B Kyu Gurume?
To know how most Japanese people feel about B-Kyu Gurume, you should know that the word “gurume” is the katakana pronunciation of the French word gourmet. It’s ranked B, rather than A, because it’s not the expensive, celebratory food like sushi or wagyu beef.
It doesn’t look pretty on the plate like wagashi, the delicate tea sweets that look like flowers. It doesn’t require days of labour like the intricate New Year’s food trays. It’s good hearty food that fills the hole in your soul as well as your stomach. It’s also local food made with local ingredients so each place will have at least their own regional version, if not their own completely unique dish. Local residents are immensely proud of their local dishes.
When Japanese people travel in Japan, they go out of their way to try the local specialities. Most people outside Japan know B-Kyu Gurume like ramen and gyoza but may not know about the many local variations plus all the other unique food available. Today, I’m going to show you five examples of B-Kyu Gurume from the Eastern half of Japan.Do you eat eggs?
Popular B Kyu Gurume of Eastern Japan
Parent and child on rice sound pretty gruesome, and I admit Oyakodon is not pretty, but this chicken and egg dish is deeply satisfying. In Akita, they make it with a locally-bred chicken which is extra juicy and tender. The beaten egg mixture also has locally-brewed soy sauce and onions. This is a perfect winter dinner but I have also tucked into it in summer for lunch because it is just so delicious. It’s classic comfort food!
Hinai Jidori Oyakodon
Parent and child on rice sounds pretty gruesome, and I admit Oyakodon is not pretty, but this chicken and egg dish is deeply satisfying. In Akita, they make it with a locally-bred chicken which is extra juicy and tender. The beaten egg mixture also has locally-brewed soy sauce and onions. This is a perfect winter dinner but I have also tucked into it in summer for lunch because it just so delicious. It’s classic comfort food!
Iwate Beef Tsuji Motsu Don
This is a lovingly made beef stew with lots of veggies. The local shorthorn beef is braised for hours in soy sauce, mirin (rice wine for cooking) and sesame oil. Surprisingly for something so tasty, it is low-fat and loaded with nutrition. That’s because of the offal they add in but it completely blends into the sauce. It really rounds out the taste but if you’re easily put off, we’ll just call it “special sauce”. Japanese women love this dish because it’s believed to be really good for your hair and skin. You will find lots of chunks of soft tender meat throughout and lashings of healthy vegetables all piled up high on a bowl of rice.
The last two were on rice, which is nice, but you might want a change. So here we have Aomori clams on fried noodles with soup. Aomori is famous all over Japan for its seafood but these local shellfish are even more special. They come from the pure waters of Lake Jusanko. They are small but plump and tasty. Normally, yakisoba is fried in a Japanese sauce similar to a sweet Worcestershire and served dry. These noodles are made with local rice and fried in the juices of the clams plus local butter. They are then served in a clear clam broth and topped with more clams and spring onions.
Most B-Kyu Gurume dishes are very traditional but the Fussa Dog is an idea that is only ten years old and it grew out of Japan’s military relationship with America. In Fussa, an hour west of Tokyo, there is an air force base. The locals wanted to make something tasty that would appeal to Americans working there, using local ingredients.
They use locally-sourced pork to make excellent sausages, each made exactly 16cm long and 23mm wide. This delightful Japanese precision comes with extra meaning attached. National Highway No. 16 runs through Fussa. 23 is apparently a Japanese pun about the name Fussa that even I don’t get. There are at least 14 shops in Fussa that serve the Fussa Dog, each one makes their own special sauce or flavours their buns differently to stand out. The locals enjoy the Fussa Dogs as much as the military.
Hokkaido Soup Curry
It gets cold in Hokkaido so a hot bowl of something spicy is just what you want. It started out as medicine that had curry added to make it more palatable but people started ordering just for the warmth and the flavour. It’s no longer medicinal except for its miraculous heartwarming qualities so, of course, it is incredibly popular all over Hokkaido. There are now also restaurants serving it up as far south as Tokyo.
The vegetables are barely chopped and left as large as they can, seafood mingles with sometimes beef, lamb or chicken. Together they swim in rich aromatic curry soup. You’ll be given a steaming bowl of rice with your soup curry. The Hokkaido way to eat this is to spoon up some rice, take the spoon to the soup curry bowl and let a small tide of the soup curry creep across your spoon.
The B Kyu Gurume of Eastern Australia
Australia’s B Kyu Gurume would be a hamburger, which sounds really American until you see the purpley-red slice of pickled beetroot or the sunshine-yellow ray of pineapple. Of course, you can’t go past the classic Australian meat pie with a squirt of tomato sauce – don’t you dare call it ketchup!
We also have the meat pie variations, served with peas and mashed potato or served in a bowl of bright green pea soup. Now, Australia being the multicultural wonderland that is, also serves up a lot of spag bol, Thai green curry and doner kebabs.
For dessert on the go, you can opt for Portuguese egg tart, or the homegrown custard slices and lamingtons. While you can see our British roots, American influences and varied immigration history on every plate, you can also see our inventiveness and robust agriculture.
B Kyu Gurume May Be Cheap, But it’s Not Second Rate
Australia’s B-Kyu Gurume is as cheap and cheerful as Japan’s. However Australia’s cuisine hasn’t developed strong regional characteristics within the country, like Japan’s has. Most of Australia’s B-Kyu Gurume are served all over the country. Compare that to Japan, where travelling often involves a radical change in your diet.
Both country’s B-Kyu Gurume give diners a lot of good quality food for a good price, and fill the holes in your soul.