Exploring Yonezawa: A Culinary and Cultural Journey Through the ABCs (Apple, Beef, Carp)
Apples (A for Apple)
When you embark on a journey to Yonezawa, a charming city nestled in the heart of Yamagata Prefecture, you are headed for a foodie’s paradise! The city’s food culture centers around a trio of delightful, delicious treasures: Apples, Beef, and Carp. Let's dive into the essence of Yonezawa's unique food offerings and uncover some hidden gems along the way.
Yonezawa's apple orchards hold a special place in the region's history. The city boasts the distinction of being home to some of the oldest apple trees in Japan, dating back to 1876 in the Meiji era. Today, approximately 50 hectares of orchards are dedicated to apple cultivation. Yonezawa takes pride in growing a variety of apples, including the nostalgic, tangy Akane apples, which remain a beloved choice among locals and visitors alike.
Beef (B for Beef)
Yonezawa beef, called "Yonezawa-gyu," has been popular for over a century. Yonezawa beef's recognition on a global scale began when Charles Henry Dallas, an Englishman who was invited to teach foreign languages at Yonezawa Kojokan High School, brought an entire cow as a souvenir to Yokohama after completing his teaching appointment. Upon tasting Yonezawa beef, the international community in the port city of Yokohama were deeply impressed by its exceptional flavor and incredible marbling. In March 2017, Yonezawa beef received further recognition when it was registered as the 26th Geographical Indication (GI) by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.
The exquisite taste of Yonezawa beef is the result of a harmonious blend of the region's climate, soil, water, and expert cattle-rearing techniques. Yonezawa beef is renowned for its succulent, melt-in-your-mouth marbling and tender, juicy meat. Whether you prefer it as a steak, in a hotpot, or even as sashimi, Yonezawa beef is sure to delight your taste buds.
Carp (C for Carp)
The legacy of Yonezawa's carp dates back to the year 1802, when Uesugi Yozan began raising carp in the moats surrounding Yonezawa Castle to address the lack of quality protein sources for local residents. Today, carp dishes have become integral to Yonezawa's celebrations, including Obon and New Year's festivities, as well as one of the centerpieces of kaiseki-style dinners when staying at hot spring resorts. The author’s personal favorite is carp slowly simmered in a savory broth with sake, soy sauce, and sugar to create a delightful, rich flavor.