Representing byFood, I attended the South of Saga City Society of Commerce and Industry Booth at the Caterex Japan 2020 Trade Show for Catering Industries at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba. Saga Prefecture is famous for being the birthplace of Japanese green tea and its variety of fresh seafood. However, it has much more to offer. Ten different producers from SAGA COLLECTIVE showcased the richness of Saga’s resources.
I was seated at a gorgeous black wood table made by the furniture company Legnatec. According to the company's website, its team of international designers produces simple yet sophisticated office and home furniture made from local hinoki wood. In order to be as ecological as possible, it uses recycled wood, effectively reducing waste. The ceiling of the booth was decorated with magnificent white and blue washi paper produced by Nao Tesuki Washi. It is part of the few remaining artisans that produce washi paper entirely by hand. It is made so as to preserve the mulberry plant’s long strands so it can be reused indefinitely.
To start off, I had Yuzu Awa as a welcome drink. This delicious sparkling drink is perfect for those who want an alcohol-free drink with a fizz. The beverage was made by Kawahara Foods. The company makes quality products out of pesticide-free yuzu (a Japanese citrus which can be best described as a cross between an orange and a lemon). They also have a variety of interesting products such as green yuzu salt made out of young unripe yuzu which flavors and preserves seafood.
Then came the food! A Saga tasting experience was prepared by chefs Marybeth Bollar and Ema Koeda. The delicious dishes combined Saga’s ingredients with Western cooking. The subtle flavors of Saga’s ingredients paired well with the Western cuisine inspired dishes. The food was served in gorgeous porcelain produced by Risogama Porcelain. Their elegant and modern pieces, whether bought as a set or as units, can easily match with any dinnerware. Food and wine specialist Ema Koeda prepared a sansho Japanese pepper and yuzu marinated sea bream carpaccio topped with Sanpuku's crunchy Koumiboshi Nori. Their nori is produced in the rich waters of the Ariake Sea (nicknamed "Treasure Sea"). In the morning, when the tide is high, the seaweed absorbs the nutrient filled waters and, at low tide, the seaweed is exposed to the warm sunlight. This process gives it a rich taste. Then, a nori, chicken and avocado wrap with somen noodles was served. Inoue Seimen created a special low-carb somen noodle perfect for those with dietary restrictions.
The food was accompanied by Tenzan Brewery’s award winning sake. Made mostly from carefully cultivated Saga Prefecture rice, it has a unique and well-rounded flavor. Founded in 1875, it has been making sake for over 145 years! In order to attract younger clients, it created a range of innovative beverages such as a crisp sparkling sake.
For dessert, Chef Boller prepared an almond and aged shoyu cake with caramel shoyu ice cream and a strawberry and rhubarb fruit compote. The saltiness and umami of the shoyu contrasted well with the sweetness of the compote. The shoyu is a product of Maruhide which naturally makes soy sauce and miso using all organic ingredients. They only use the best whole soybeans which give their sauce a more complex and sweet flavor.
The dessert was paired with tamaryokucha. Tamaryoku tea is made of young tea leaves that are dried in a revolving barrel giving them a curved shape. Onohara Seichatonya's tamaryokucha has a distinctive tangy taste. Their top quality tamaryoku tea is produced on site in Ureshino City. It earned a Fine Product Award at the prestigious New Wave Nihon Cha Competition. At the end of the tasting, Tokunaga Seicha held a tea tasting. The company produces a wide variety of green, black and herbal teas. Their teas can be served hot or cold offering a wide array of flavors sure to please Japanese and international customers alike.
I was impressed by SAGA COLLECTIVE's products. On top of our little tasting portions, the chefs prepared beautifully presented dishes. The producers were proud of their products and, after our meal, they kindly answered my questions about them. I felt privileged to be able to enjoy the delights of Saga prefecture and I hope to visit it someday! Saga prefecture might not be a popular touristic destination, but it has much to offer. Located right in between Fukuoka and Nagasaki prefectures, it's a perfect stop for those who want to get their hands on famous pottery from the towns of Aichi, Imari, and Karatsu. While you're there, why not soak in Ureshino Onsen or Takeo Onsen's healing waters?
Has this article convinced you to visit Saga Prefecture? If so, make the most of it and join us on one of our food experiences in Saga!