Translated by Jasmine Nishino
A Dish Loved For 300 Years! Tai Chazuke Ureshino From Oita
Written by Norihisa Hasegawa
Discover the flavors of the Edo period, 300 years ago in Kitsuki city, Oita. Learn more about the famed tai chazuke Ureshino from Wakaeya, a restaurant that captured the heart of the feudal lord.
Known as the city with remnants of the Edo Period, Kitsuki city in Oita prefecture has been gaining popularity among international visitors as a city where you can walk around in traditional Japanese clothes such as kimono.
The castle town of Kitsuki has a dish that a former feudal lord dearly loved. The tai chazuke or "red snapper on rice covered in tea" has been loved not only by the feudal lord but by many others for over 300 years. This time, we would like to feature the flavors and the charm of the tai chazuke Ureshino.
Wakaeya, A Historic Restaurant from 1698
The place where you can savor the feudal lord's beloved dish is Wakaeya, a historical restaurant that has been operating in the castle town of Kitsuki since 1698. Currently, the sixteenth head, Mr. Gentaro Goto, has been keeping the flavors of the tai chazuke alive.
Wakaeya is a restaurant that serves many traditional Japanese dishes, but a must-try here is the tai chazuke Ureshino.
THe Speciality Dish Tai Chazuke Ureshino
A standard tai chazuke is a simple dish with slices of red snapper on warm rice that is covered in broth. The tai chazuke of Kitsuki uses red snapper that has been covered in a sesame sauce and covered in green tea instead of broth. This is done so you will be able to taste the flavors of the original sesame sauce made exclusively at this restaurant according to an old, secret recipe.
With only basic ingredients, you will be able to taste the characteristics of each ingredient and of the sauce in this amazing dish.
The dish was named ‘Ureshino’ after a phrase by a feudal lord of Kitsuki. It is said that he visited Wakaeya when he was feeling ill, however, upon eating the tai chazuke, he expressed how happy he was after eating such a delicious tai chazuke and said, "ureshii noo" (うれしいのぉ "I am happy").
The Secret Flavors Passed Down through Generations
The characteristic of this dish comes mainly from the secret sesame sauce that is used to flavor the red snapper. While the head keeps the base flavor of the original sauce alive, the amount of soy sauce and sesame is adjusted to match the consumer's preference.
Commonly, the tai chazuke uses the broth of the red snapper to pour over the rice, however at Wakaeya, they pour light green tea over the rice to keep the flavor of the sesame sauce.
Flavors that Make the Body Happy
Once the dish is brought to you, pour the hot tea over the rice and cover it with the lid. Wait about 3 seconds to allow the red snapper to become tender and tastier.
The chazuke is a dish that allows slurping in the Japanese culture. Take a mouthful to enjoy the flavors of the bold sesame along with the light taste of the red snapper. It only took moments for me to devour the whole thing. You can definitely understand why this dish made the ill feudal lord so happy.
Reserve in Advance to Eat the Ureshino
The restaurant Wakaeya that we have featured in this article has different rooms to enjoy your meal in. There is a grand hall with a Noh stage for large groups along with small private rooms for smaller families. During the lunch hour, it can get crowded so it is advised that you reserve in advance to confirm your seat and enjoy your meal without waiting.
The Charm of Kitsuki
Lastly, we have asked Mr. Goto about the charm of Kitsuki. He passionately said: "Kitsuki is the true Japan. Unlike tourist attractions with replicas, there are plenty of real traditional shops and neighborhoods that have been around since the Edo Period. You can even experience wearing traditional Japanese clothes and stroll through a real historical town!".
If you ever visit Oita, you can slip back in time to experience the remnants of the Edo Period in Kitsuki!