Lunch at Kumamoto Castle : Honmaru Gozen Palace menu

When travelling in Kumamoto Japan recently, a visit to Kumamoto Castle was made all the more interesting by partaking in (an ancient) lunch within the castle. It was a royal lunch as the menu was a recreation of the palace food that was served historically. Extremely interesting.

Our trays were filled with eight beautifully decorated dishes, mostly covered and proving later to be all extremely tasty, as we sat at the table, crossed legged on tatami, eating delicately with our chopsticks.

1. Okasana

Tofuko miso, myogeji hoshikuromame, genjigaki, awabikamaboko

Tofuko miso paste, Myogeji fermented soybeans (black in colour), Hoshi Kuromame fermented soybeans (white in colour), lotus root stuffed with a spicy mustard. Genjigaki persimmons, cooked shellfish.

The third generation of this family Lord Tadatoshi Hosokawa, was stricken with a weak constition so he was fed such ingredients as miso, mustard, pepper and the like, to bolster his strength. Awabikamaboko abalone paste was a delicacy of the highest degree during the eara nad is served with skewers of roasted sillago goldfish, prawns and egg-based sponge cake. Tofuko miso (also recorded as Touka miso) is created with ingredients like poppy seeds, ginger, cloud ear mushrooms to create a unique flavour. Myogeji dried fermanted soybeans were salted soybeans from the feudal lord’s family Myogeji temple. Hoshi kuromame is another type of dried fermented soybean. Both were traditional preserved foods of Kumamoto. The shellfish, such as abalone, were boiled using the shell as a pot. Genjigaki persimmons are ripened on the tree and coated in wheat flour, then deep fried. This recipe was recorded in the Ryorichinmishu (Book of Delicacies) in 1764.

2. Onamasu (Appetizer)

Suzuki, yawaradako, umebishio

Suzuki is a Japanese sea bass wrapped in a ribbon of konbu kelp and served with tender sliced octopus. The Irizake sauce was used as a flavouring in the Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573) before the spread of soy sauce, and is made by combining sake with dried bonito flakes and adding the squeezed juice from plums. In this dish, the castle kitchens made Irizake from Kumamoto’s traditional red sake adding vinegar, ground sea bream bones and dried bonito flakes.

3. Oshiru (Soup)

Kushiito, sosorofu

Kushito soup was introduced to Japan from Portugal where this particular style of boiled meat originated. Sosorofu was eaten in 1860 to celebrate the appointment of Yoshiyuki Hosokawa as feudal lord.

4. Ochoku

Tamago-fuwafuwa, kurokawa-kabocha, suizenjina

Served in the white porcelain dish in the middle of the tray, Tamago-fuwafuwa is made from fluffy fried hens eggs ligtly beaten and seasoned with Japanese stock and pepper. This dish has appeared in cookbooks since the Edo Period (1603 – 1868.) Kurokawa-kabocha is black skin pumpkin which has been designated as suizenjina traditional Higo produce.

5. Onhirawan

Aomametofu, kuzutataki

Presented in the flat wooden soup bowl placed to the upper right of the rice, Aomametofu is a greensoybean tofu garnished with Kumamoto’s own Suizenji vegetables. Aomametofu is a dish taken from the Hyakuchin Cookbook. Kuzutataki, a traditional dish from the era, is sea bream sprinkled with arrowroot.

6. Gohan (Rice)


Gohan, traditional Japanese cooked rice was served on the lower left corner of the tray. Nameshi, a dish taken from the Amime Seasoning literature, is a riced boiled with greens and garnished with tiny dried Japanese anchovies.

7. Okonomono

Pickles fermented in miso paste.

8. Okashi

Chousen sweets, marumeroko

The chousen sweets (Korean style soft candy) were presented by the Hosokawa family to the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo Period. This delicious treat was made with high quality rice powder sifter through a silk cloth, white sugar and crumbled walnut. Marumeroko is a jam (or paste) that was made by coming quince (which was introduced from Portugal) and white sugar.

It gets busy, so booking for the Kumamoto Castle royal lunch are recommended. I travelled to Japan and lunched with:

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