[food]* Unique to Abashiri in Hokkaido Prefecture and using only local ingredients, salmon zangi is mixed with rice and yama-wasabi in this highly unusual lunch dish.
Salmon zangi (Hokkaido-style kara-age, or fried nuggets) and other garnishings are laid on top of a bowl of sushi rice, with which is mixed with a copious amount of yama-wasabi (mountain wasabi) to serve.
Zangi - a variant of kara-age prevalent in Hokkaido - differs from normal kara-age in that it uses batter seasoned with garlic and shoyu (soy sauce) in frying, giving a thinner, slightly harder, more flavourful crust as a result.
On the other hand, yama-wasabi is a variant of wasabi specific to Hokkaido, made with horseradish (as opposed to Japanese horseradish usually used for wasabi) and with a creamy, slimy texture similar to natto. The flavour is hard to describe, but it is somewhat sweet, like caramel ice cream gone off, with a slightly mouldy tinge (such as in blue cheese).
Expect to pay around ¥1,000 (£7.40 / $11.60) for a bowl.
Zangi-don is in fact a completely novel invention - a joint collaboration between the city tourism board and a number of local restaurants to create a new dish, unique to the area, to attract visitors. Other cities have already, in the past, pushed specific, locally-available dishes (such as Marugame and their "hone-tsuki drumstick") forward as a sort of local attraction, but Abashiri is the first, as far as I'm aware, to specifically and officially invent and codify a dish for this particular purpose.
As such zangi-don has not drawn or developed from any other Japanese dish, though it would seem particular importance was placed upon the use of local ingredients in its design, and various Abashiri-speciality ingredients feature in the dish, such as the salmon and the horseradish used in yama-wasabi.
In Abashiri, of Hokkaido Prefecture, in any of the restaurants participating in the program. Abashiri is a wide, sparsely-populated city with poor public transport, so the restaurant closest to the JR station - Kihachi - may be a sensible bet. If you're in a hurry, it is also served at the nearby Abashiri Central Hotel.
Served 1100 - 1700
Getting there: 20 min. walk from JR Abashiri Station
Oh, boy. I debated for a long time whether or not to write the following, but decided in the end that honesty trumps professionalism, so just this once I will tell you that zangi-don has all the taste and texture of a slimy alien spawning eggs inside your mouth.
On the plus side the salmon zangi, on its own, was very good - nicely crisp and with that lovely fresh, rich taste characteristic of local origin and excellent quality. But personally speaking, of the dish itself all I could really taste was the yama-wasabi, and if the texture doesn't get to you, the taste will - kind of sweet, in between caramel and ice cream gone bad, with a sort of plastic taste to it that made me gag with every bite.
I'm sorry, but this is probably the one dish in all of Japan I really would not voluntarily eat again. Ick. ♥
For more information: Day 17: Abashiri (blog)
Have you ever tried zangi-don? What do you think? Do you agree with the idea of "inventing" a new dish to attract visitors to an area, or is that just going one step too far? Send in an e-mail, comment below or @reply on Twitter / twitter.com/foodjapan