Exploring Kumamoto's Local Cuisine: Traditional Dishes, Restaurants, and Recipes

Exploring Kumamoto's Local Cuisine: Traditional Dishes, Restaurants, and Recipes

Exploring Kumamoto's Local Cuisine: Traditional Dishes, Restaurants, and Recipes

Kumamoto Traditional Dishes

Kumamoto, located in the southwestern part of Japan, is famous for its rich and diverse culinary heritage. The region is known for its high-quality ingredients and traditional techniques, which have been passed down through generations. Here are some of the must-try dishes in Kumamoto:

Ikinari Dango

Ikinari Dango is a popular Kumamoto sweet treat made with sweet potato and red bean paste. The sweet potato is mashed and mixed with sugar, creating a sticky and delectable snack. It is then grilled to perfection, giving it a crispy exterior and a soft, sweet interior. Ikinari Dango is a beloved local dessert and can be found in many traditional sweet shops throughout Kumamoto.


Basashi, also known as horse sashimi, is a unique dish famously enjoyed in Kumamoto. The thin slices of raw horse meat are served with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and green onions. The meat is tender and has a subtle, slightly gamey flavor. Despite its unusual nature, Basashi is highly regarded as a delicacy in Kumamoto and can be found in many local restaurants and izakayas.

Kumamoto Ramen

Kumamoto Ramen is a regional variation of the popular Japanese noodle dish. Known for its rich, pork-based broth and straight, thin noodles, Kumamoto Ramen is a must-try for any noodle lover. The broth is flavored with garlic and soy sauce, giving it a distinct savory taste. Toppings often include cha-shu (sliced pork), green onions, and wood ear mushrooms. Many ramen shops in Kumamoto specialize in this local specialty, offering different variations and flavors.

Restaurants in Kumamoto

Kumamoto is home to a wide range of restaurants that serve both traditional local dishes and international cuisines. Here are some notable restaurants to explore during your visit to Kumamoto:


Located in the heart of Kumamoto, Kinokuniya is a renowned restaurant that specializes in traditional Kumamoto cuisine. They offer a wide variety of dishes, ranging from Ikinari Dango to Basashi. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make it a popular choice among locals and tourists alike.

Yakitori Toriki

Yakitori Toriki is a popular izakaya-style restaurant that serves delicious grilled skewers of chicken, vegetables, and other ingredients. The menu features a wide selection of yakitori, along with a variety of small plates and drinks. The casual and lively atmosphere of Yakitori Toriki makes it a great spot to enjoy a fun and flavorful dining experience in Kumamoto.


Shibata is a renowned sushi restaurant that offers a wide range of fresh and expertly prepared sushi and sashimi. The chefs at Shibata take pride in using locally sourced ingredients to create a memorable sushi experience. The elegant ambiance and attention to detail make Shibata a must-visit for sushi enthusiasts in Kumamoto.

Recipes to Try at Home

Can't make it to Kumamoto? Don't worry! You can still enjoy the flavors of Kumamoto's local cuisine in your own kitchen. Here are a couple of recipes for traditional Kumamoto dishes:

Ikinari Dango Recipe


  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup red bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Boil the diced sweet potato until soft. Drain and mash the sweet potato.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the mashed sweet potato and sugar until well combined.
  3. Take a small portion of the sweet potato mixture in your hand and flatten it. Place a dollop of red bean paste in the center.
  4. Gently wrap the sweet potato around the red bean paste, forming a ball shape.
  5. Preheat a grill or skillet over medium heat. Grill the sweet potato balls on each side until golden brown.
  6. Enjoy the Ikinari Dango while still warm.

Kumamoto Ramen Recipe


  • 4 cups pork broth
  • 4 servings of straight, thin noodles
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sliced pork, green onions, wood ear mushrooms (optional toppings)


  1. In a large pot, heat the pork broth over medium heat. Add minced garlic and soy sauce, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, then drain and set aside.
  3. Divide the cooked noodles into four bowls. Pour the hot broth over the noodles.
  4. Top with sliced pork, green onions, and wood ear mushrooms, if desired.
  5. Serve the Kumamoto Ramen hot and enjoy!

Kumamoto Map