Miso katsu (味噌カツ)
Miso katsu is basically a deep fried pork cutlet (called tonkatsu) with a rich miso sauce. Coated with panko (bread crumbs), it is nicely crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. What makes the dish so incredible is the sweet and savory miso sauce that goes well with the pork cutlet. Nagoya is known for its special red miso, which has a very rich flavor that is wonderfully addictive and makes the miso katsu served in Nagoya better than anywhere else. The dish usually comes with shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, and soup.
The most famous miso katsu restaurant in Nagoya is Yabaton, with several locations throughout the city. Another place worth trying is called 'Ajidokoro Kanau,' which is the birthplace of miso katsudon (shown below).
Miso nikomi udon (味噌煮込みうどん)
Miso nikomi udon literally means udon noodles simmered (nikomi) in miso. Nagoya is where a special type of miso called "Haccho miso" is made, and this is the type of miso used in the best miso nikomi udon restaurants. The udon (thick wheat noodles) and other ingredients like green onions, shiitake mushrooms, fish cakes, and egg are simmered together in the rich miso sauce. It is served in a small earthen pot that keeps the dish hot.
The best restaurant to try miso nikomi udon is called Yamamotoya Honten. They have been serving a menu of only miso nikomi udon for a long time. There are several shops across Nagoya, so be sure to stop by one when you're in town.
Kishimen is a special type of udon noodles that are wide and flat compared to regular udon. The texture of the noodles is soft and smooth, and the soup that the noodles are served in is usually made from a rich soy sauce and seafood broth. The soup is usually fairly strong since the noodles don't soak it up.
Kishimen Sumiyoshi is a famous small restaurant located inside Nagoya station that is an excellent choice if you're looking for a restaurant to try some kishimen. You can choose from the variety of toppings like tempura and beef.
Doteni is another traditional dish made with Nagoya's famous Hatcho miso. The ingredients like meat (pork or beef) and vegetables are simmered with the miso for a long time so that they become very tender and flavorful. The rich dish goes wonderfully with sake and is often served at izakaya (Japanese style bars) in Nagoya.
If you want to try many kinds of doteni, check out a place called Nonkiya. They use a variety of ingredients and delicious miso sauce. The doteni is served on skewers, which is also common in Nagoya.
Hitsumaushi is a bit pricier than some of the other dishes on this list. It is made of grilled eel (unagi) over rice and is one of the most popular Nagoya specialties. The eel is coated with sweet and savory sauce the enhances the natural taste of the eel. You can find a similar dish called 'unadon' throughout Japan, but there is a clear difference between the two. When you order hitsumabushi, it comes with a delicious umami-filled tea soup. After eating part of the dish, you add the soup to the eel and rice and eat the rest as soup.
Atsuta is definitely one of the best places to try hitsumabushi. They have been serving very high-quality hitsumabushi for over 140 years!
Wait, isn't this article about food in Nagoya?
Taiwan ramen appeared in the 70's, when the owner of a Misen, a Taiwanese/Chinese restaurant in Nagoya attempted to recreate a spicy Taiwanese noodle dish. The dish quickly spread to other restaurants, and is now extremely popular. Ground pork, chives, green onions, and red chiles combine to create a delightful blast of spice and flavor. If you enjoy spicy cuisine, this ramen dish is a must-try.
We reccomend going to the original restaurant where the trend first started, Misen.:
Tenmusu is a onigiri (rice ball) wrapped with nori (seaweed) that is stuffed with shrimp tempura (Japanese deep fried dish). Tenmusu is now commonly eaten around the country, but there are many shops specializing in tenmusu in Nagoya. It is also easy to grab and go, so people often eat it outside.
Senzyu is said to be the shop that made tenmusu popular in Japan. They sell homemade delicious tenmusu for locals and visitors. Check it out and get a tenmusu to go!
Ebi Fry (giant fried shrimp)
Of course you can find fried shrimp in other places throughout Japan, but Nagoya is famous for its many restaurants serving huge, delicious, fried shrimp. Get your phone ready, you're going to want to post a picture of this for sure!
Close to Nagoya station, we reccomend checking out Ebidote for some of the largest fried shrimp you can find anywhere. Get a set, and dip your shrimp in red miso sauce to enjoy another Nagoya specialty while you're at it.
Some of the tastiest chicken wings in Japan are to be found in Nagoya. Fried chicken is extremely popular around Japan, but the popularity of chicken wings started in Nagoya. Sekai no Yama Chan is the most popular restaurant serving tebasaki, and its stores can be found throughout Nagoya and other cities in Japan. Eating the delicious wings with a cold pint of beer is our recommendation.
Unlike traditional Italian spaghetti dishes, the thick noodles in Nagoya's signature spaghetti dish are first pan fried, much like yakisoba. The noodles are then covered with a thick, slightly sweet sauce that incorporates red miso, and are traditionally topped with sausages, onions, and green peppers. Many restaurants also offer the spaghetti topped with the famous Nagoya ebi fry (giant fried shrimp), so this could be a chance to try two Nagoya specialties at once.
If you are looking for ankake spaghetti near Nagoya station, we recommend Speghetti House Chef, a quick 9 minute walk from the station.
Oni manju (鬼まんじゅう)
Oni Manju is a steamed bun made from sweet potato, millet sugar, and glutinous rice flour. Oni means devil in Japanese, and the peculiar lumpy appearance (made of chunks of sweet potato) of the oni manju supposedly looks like the horns of a devil. Despite the scary name, this dessert is sweet, fluffy, and will definitely make you smile.
The top shop to buy oni manju is Baikado, which is so popular that people often line up out the door.
Ogura toast (小倉トースト)
Ogura toast is a Nagoya's specialty breakfast dish with toasted bread topped with sweet red bean paste and butter. The bread (shokupan, a Japanese white bread) is sliced thick and is very soft and fluffy. It might sound strange, but sweet red bean and melting batter are actually some of the most delicious toppings for bread! This ogura toast is commonly served at coffee shops in Nagoya, especially for breakfast with a cup of coffee.
Hase coffee is a cafe whose ogura toast is quite popular. Even in the early morning, the cafe is full of people who crave for the tasty and cheap breakfast.
Learn How to Make Nagoya-Style Food!
If you love good food and cooking, why not learn how to make some of these specialties? There's a Japanese website called Airkitchen that is basically the Airbnb of cooking classes. They currently have over 40 hosts in the Nagoya area, so it's definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in taking a cooking class with a local, right in their home!