Akita Prefecture is a northern region known for its rice production and other agricultural pursuits. However, our reporter Nakano went out with a different goal. He heard rumors of a village that served a superb donburi (rice bowl) with horse meat.

It doesn’t take much more than that to get one of our reporters on the move, so Nakano booked a ticket and packed his bags to head out to the snow-laden town of Kamikoani. His mission: to try some of their legendary banikudon (horse meat rice bowl).

Kamikoani Road Station is just a few minutes’ drive from Odate-Noshiro Airport on the side of Highway 285. Like many rest areas, this one has a wide range of local foods and souvenirs. Given Akita’s agricultural background, there was a lot of produce on sale that was both surprisingly cheap and fresh.

It all looked good, but Nakano had to keep his eye on the prize. In Japan, horse meat can be pretty expensive and he wanted to make sure he had enough cash on hand for it. So, he bypassed all other temptations and went for the dining section.

His first surprise came after looking at the menu. Everything was quite cheap and even though the baniku donburi was among the most expensive dishes it was still a mere 660 yen (US$5.52).

There was a lot of variety on the menu and Nakano had to fight the urge to order the other dishes, telling himself he could try something else after the banikudon. Little did he know at the time that he would never get that chance.

A few minutes after placing his order, he was shocked at the huge pile of food that came out. Usually donburi have thin slices of meat like beef or pork but this rice bowl was topped with thick chunks of meat simmered in ginger and soy sauce and served piping hot.

On top of that was a hearty portion of pickled ginger, onions, and a dollop of mayo along with half a hard-boiled egg. On the side sat a bowl of pickles, a simple salad, and a rather large bowl of miso soup. For the price it was quite a feast and a whole lot more that he was expecting.

The taste didn’t disappoint either. The meat had a smooth flavor from the simmering and was not at all gamey.

In Kyushu they say “horse meat keeps the doctor away” because of its high amount of vitamins. Still, Nakano felt the banikudon was far too gluttonous to be all that healthy. The salad helped to balance it out though.

He never did get to make another order after polishing off the last of his meal, but Nakano had room for just a little bit more in his stomach. So, he went around the corner and found a miso tanpo vendor.

Miso tanpo is like a little toasted rice cake stick flavored with sweet miso. For just 100 yen ($0.84) is was quite tasty and the perfect capper to an exquisite banikudon meal. The only disappointment was that he would have to leave this place far behind as he returned to Tokyo (although he can always look forward to eating raw horsemeat sushi in the nation’s capital).

However, Nakano would urge anyone who happens to visit Kamikoani to check out their banikudon for its price, quality, and sheer volume. Chances are slim that your business will take you out to those parts, but if you happen to be a doctor there might be an opening.

Source: Kamikoani Road Station
Original article by Nakano

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