One of the most frequently visited prefectures of Japan, Chiba is at no loss for hungry tourists! Chiba is home to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, two of the most popular Chiba prefecture destinations that host millions of visitors each year, not to mention natural and historical beauties like Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and Shimizu Keiryu Park. With gorgeous coastlines and bountiful waterfalls, orchards, and forests to visit, this peninsula will have you working up an appetite for its unique local seafood dishes! So while you're enjoying your Chiba sightseeing, check out our guide on what to eat in Chiba.
What to Eat in Chiba
Here are our recommendations for local specialties to eat in Chiba!
- Katsuura Tantanmen
- Kujukuri (Sesame Sardines)
- Gau Ramen
- White Gyoza Dumplings
1. Katsuura Tantanmen
While you're visiting the many famous Chiba attractions, why not stop for a bowl of hearty Katsuura Tantanmen? This spicy ramen noodle dish is made with copious amounts of chili oil in a soy sauce-based broth that will have your taste buds tingling!
Famous for its unique toppings such as minced meat and chopped onions, this dish was created in Katsuura City, meant to warm up fishermen after a long day at the harbor. If you like, you can even get Katsuura Tantanmen with the noodles and dipping broth served separately, or fried like an extra spicy version of yakisoba!
2. Kujukuri (Sesame Sardines)
Sardines have long been a famous fish of Chiba Prefecture, heavily fished out of the surrounding waters and served in a variety of delicious ways! One of the most unique regional sardine dishes is Kujukuri, or sesame sardines: dried fish seasoned with mirin and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Only the best sardines from the Pacific waters are chosen and sun-dried in large piles on the harbors of Chiba's Boso peninsula. The Japanese anchovies from the small bay town of Kujukuri are especially delicious and preserved to make the perfect sesame sardines all year round!
In southern Chiba, a dish called namerou is beloved by locals and tourists alike. Namerou (derived from the Japanese "nameru," or "to lick") might look a bit unappetizing, but this fish paste is actually named for being so delectable that one might feel compelled to lick their plate after eating!
Made with minced fish meat like sardine and horse mackerel, shiso herbs, miso flavoring, sticky soybean paste, and shallots, the most delicious namerou can be found in fish shops near the coastline of the Boso Peninsula. You might even come across sangayaki, a version of namerou that's made freshly grilled in a shiso leaf!
4. Gau Ramen
Chiba Prefecture is known for dairy production, which led to the birth of a special dish called Gau Ramen! Chiba's Sodegaura City combines a ginger and milk-based broth with cream cheese, green onions, and seafood or meat toppings to create this truly unique noodle dish. The city's first-rate milk production comes forth in a rich, tangy soup that is literally prize-winning! Try this creative local favorite at Sodegaura's food festival or at one of many ramen joints in Chiba on your next visit.
Unagi, or Japanese freshwater eel, is considered a scrumptious delicacy in Japan, and the seafood-heavy prefecture of Chiba is a stellar place to get it! Served in a multitude of varieties, such as sashimi, sushi, battered and fried, and in rice bowls, this delicately sweet seafood will never get dull.
Hakarime (eel from Futtsu City), named after the eel-shaped weighing scales at fish markets, is especially popular, and is sold piping hot at the hakarime fair in mouth-watering eel rice bowls. You might even receive a special "service," or free side dish, with your hakarime!
Next time you're looking to try something unusual in Chiba, try ordering asaridon, or clam rice bowl! Though it may have originated from fishermen looking for a simple, nutrient-rich meal while at sea, you don't have to be a sailor to enjoy this succulent umami dish.
Made with the meaty short-neck clams that abound in and around Tokyo Bay, Chiba clams are prepared in many different ways; you might even find them butter-cooked! If you're looking for the best clams available, venture out to Futtsu City and sample some hot asari Futtsu-don, a rice bowl made with the freshest clams and vegetables in the prefecture.
If you're looking to try some authentic Chiba sushi, one dish comes to mind: the famous local futomaki, made with loving care for special occasions. Futomaki, or "thick" rolled sushi, is wrapped in nori and cut to reveal beautifully bountiful insides filled with anything from soft egg to glazed vegetables to delicious local seafood ingredients!
Often displayed in fanciful ways on the plate or cut to reveal intricate designs inside, these little masterpieces are the perfect food for celebrations. Try making futomaki, or just enjoy the fruits of authentic local chefs' hard work rolling this festive sushi next time you visit Chiba!
8. White Gyoza Dumplings
Of all Japanese dishes, gyoza might be one of the most well-known, owing to its deliciously crispy exterior and juicy insides! But have you tried Chiba's regional variation, called white gyoza? Locals line up for blocks in hopes of getting their hands on Noda City's original soul food, huge pan-fried gyoza! Legend has it that their name comes from the Chinese chef who. invented the recipe, whose name was Pai (meaning "white" in Chinese). Get these steaming hot dumplings fresh from any of the dozens of white gyoza specialty shops around Chiba Prefecture!
Wondering what to see in Chiba? The answer might surprisingly be "your local fish market" to pick up some of this unique, fresh local cuisine. Surrounded by water and full of rich culinary history tied to the fishing industry, Chiba is just the place for any seafood lover to find loads of regional specialties and eat to their heart's content! So don't forget to try the whole range of these Chiba classics, from namerou fish paste to gorgeous futomaki, on your next trip outside of Tokyo!