Grounded in the experiences of an ancient past, Wakayama prefecture's cuisine is a deep combination of the historical and the adaptable. The original forms of sushi find a home here with heritage-rich foods like balls of rice wrapped in aromatic leaves, and fermented mackerel. A challenging agrarian past lead to a delicious variation of the nation's rice cake while chance opportunities have lead to more modern dishes. Here is a simple guide to some of the regional cuisine of Wakayama.
Traditionally a quick bento packed lunch, meharizushi were once so large that the eyes of people who saw them were left wide open, hence the name meharizushi which means 'wide-eyed sushi.' A great vegan food of balls of rice wrapped in a sheet of pickled takana leaf, meharizushi portions these days tend to be smaller but of course, no less delicious.
Said to have been eaten for over 800 years, saba-no-narezushi is vinegared mackerel over rice with a twist - wrapped with a danchiku giant reed leaf for a night. The rice absorbs the fish oil, the fish absorbs the aroma of the leaf and the person who eats it absorbs a uniquely delicious Wakayama culinary tradition.
Decades ago, asking for his soba noodles to be pan-grilled with eggs, a customer never realised the tastiness that he would inadvertently unleash onto the people of Wakayama. Known as Gobo-sechiyaki, this okonomiyaki without flour has become a prefectural hit, a culinary example of chance leading to success.
A food hearkening back to the days of real difficulty for farming folk, the imomochi of Wakayama are potato rice cakes made from the easier to grow sweet potato. Mixed and kneaded with the usual rice cake, this softer and smoother version became a regular source of sustenance for the people of Wakayama's southern coast.