Nagasaki’s Fascinating Food History

1It’s nearly the end of the year and boy have things been hectic! I’m so sorry for my lack of posts lately – but I’m recently back from abroad (you guessed it – Japan) and have a really interesting post for you today!2I’ve covered Japan on BBITES in the past (for my Crave Magazine Nakasendo feature), but this time I want to share a slice of the fascinating multicultural cuisine of Nagasaki with you, that I discovered while on my family vacation there this month.

Nagasaki has a really unique culture due to its history as a trading port and as Japan’s window to the outside world from the 16th Century onwards.
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Nations that made their way into Japan through Nagasaki were:

Portugal in the 16th Century. The Portuguese brought Christian missionaries with them and gained quite a foothold in Southern Japan. They were expelled from Japan by the Shogun, who disliked their growing power, in the mid-17th Century.

China in the 16th Century. The first Chinese ships arrived around the same time as the first Portuguese.

Holland in the 17th Century. The first Dutch ship, led by an English captain, arrived in 1600. After the Portuguese were expelled, only Dutch and Chinese ships were allowed to trade in Japan for almost two centuries.3With that (very condensed) bit of history out of the way, here comes the food photos!

One of our memorable meals was at a historic restaurant called Ichiriki (which means “one force”). Our dinner was called a ‘tafel’ meal – which means ‘table’ in Dutch – and indeed we ate sitting at a table and not on our knees, as is regular Japanese custom.

What followed was a culinary personification of the various fusions that have made their way into Nagasaki culture and food…4Meatballs are very Dutch. This amazing pie was served in a blue-and-white delft casserole.4bIn the photo above, the green candies reflect Nagasaki’s preference for sweetness (sugar was introduced to Japan through Nagasaki, and sweet treats there tend to be much more sugary than other parts of Japan).

An unagi-filled pastry is another fusion that I particularly enjoyed… note the sliced gherkins.5Chinese influences also found their way onto our plates, and nearby to Ichiriki (which is located on Temple Street), you can visit beautiful red temples built in the Chinese style, dating back hundreds of years.6The way in which these foods were presented is not typically Japanese, but more Chinese. Usually, Japanese meals are served on trays and each guest has their individual food laid out in front of them, instead of having to reach out and take from a communal plate.7During our stay in Nagasaki, we also paid a visit to the legendary Fukusaya Castella shop, which has been open since 1624, and is reputed to be the city’s best.

Castella evolved from Portuguese cakes brought to Japan in the 1500s, and is made with egg yolk. The natural rich yellow colour of Fukusaya‘s cakes is said to be thanks to their high-quality free range eggs.

The bat logo used on its store front and packaging is borrowed from a nearby Chinese temple; bats are an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture.

Another fascinating fact is that the quintissential Japanese food tempura was derived from a fried food batter introduced by the Portuguese!! Incredible…
8Thanks for reading, and enjoy your parties tonight for New Year’s!!!! If you still have some time to kill before heading out, here’s a link to my BBITES hangover cures that I posted this time last year: CLICK HERE.

May they come in handy, and see you next year!

Bakker x

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One response to “Nagasaki’s Fascinating Food History

  1. Ferdinand de Bakker

    Nice !   Ferdinand (‘Ferry’) de BakkerManaging Director La Croisette Pte. Ltd.  22 Nassim Hill   #04-11 The Loft   Singapore 258468 T +65-65201286   M +65-97546250   Skype fdebakker

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