Traditional Horse Meat Gastronomy
For many in the world eating horse meat is considered taboo, as horses are considered to be pets. However, in Japan horse meat has a long cultural tradition dating back to at least the 1500’s. Basashi is the common term today that you will hear being used to describe horse meat, although baniku is also a term used at yakiniku (Japanese barbecue) type places. Furthermore, Horse meat has the same amount of protein as beef, but less fat.
There are not that many places that serve basashi, but I had the good fortune of being introduced to a very good one in Yokohama recently. Kindly I was invited into university professor Mr. Umeda’s family restaurant named Hamakou. (1-24 noge machi naka ku, Yokohama Shi Kanagawa ken) In this cozy traditional feeling restaurant you can sample basashi in some amazing ways!
First off we tried eating basashi raw sashimi style with a little green onion, grated ginger and a dip in shoyu; it was spectacular, the tastes fused together perfectly in your mouth. Then we tried thin strips barbequed with a little lemon, and garlic which came together very nice. Third off was the filet which was absolutely spectacular in every way, very flavorful and perhaps the tenderest of all we tried here.
Finally to call it a night, Professor Umeda brought a grill to the table, and plugged it into the gas supply located on the wall to make sukiyaki for dessert. Now this dish came with two different types of meat on top, one with a cherry blossom a top, and the other a maple. Basashi is also sometimes referred to as sakura nikku, cherry blossom meat, as it is a sweat meat, hence the cherry blossom on top. The other surprise that we received below the maple leaf was deer meat, and let me tell you sukiyaki style is excellent for deer! After the meat bubbled within the flavorful broth and cooked a bit, a quick dip in some raw egg completed this dish like no other!
Needless to say with the kind hospitality of Professor Umeda and his family, we left with our bellies more than satisfied. This truly unique experience to sample a bit of Japanese culture is one that will not fade fast. Often times we need to look past our own western sensibilities in order to truly immerse ourselves into another land. Even throughout many places in Europe like Spain, Italy, and Norway to name a few, as well as in many parts of South America horse is eaten routinely. I would defiantly give Hamakou a go the next time that you find yourself in Yokohama.