Wild game gives us some unique ingredients to experiment with in the SoraKitchen.

Japan has had great drink vending machines for decades. Since the start of the pandemic, though, we’ve been seeing a country make huge strides in its variety of food vending machines.

We’re not talking machines with simple boxes of Pocky or bags of wet potato chips, either. We’ve found vending machines selling surprisingly tasty ramen and sushi, and our Japanese-language reporter Haruka Takagi recently came across something even more surprising: a wild game vending machine.

Haruka discovered the machine during her travels in Wakayama City. It’s located right next to the entrance to Inoya, a meat processing center for wild game located along Prefectural Route 7.

The machine sells venison and wild boar, both available sliced or ground. Everything is priced at 1,000 yen (US$7.50), and the machine only accepts 1,000-yen bills. Thankfully, Haruka had two on her, and made her first purchase a 350-gram (12.3-ounce) pack of ground venison.

For her second purchase, Haruka selected a 240-gram pack of wild boar, sliced thin for flat-grilling yakiniku-style.

The machine’s meat is frozen and vacuum-sealed for freshness, so after Haruka got back to her kitchen she opened her purchases up and thawed them out.

Because most people in Japan don’t eat wild game very regularly, the packs come with pamphlets with recommended recipes.

Haruka, though, already had an idea of her own in mind for how to use her ground venison, and she’s generous enough to share it with us here.

● Step 1

Sauté the venison in a frying pan with some cooking oil. Haruka noticed that the meat is very lean, so she was a little worried that it might have a tough texture, but she pushed those concerns aside for now.

● Step 2

Once you’ve browned the meat, add in one diced carrot and five diced small green peppers.

● Step 3

Once the vegetables become tender, add two teaspoons of okonomiyaki sauce, three or four tablespoons of ketchup, and half a cube of chicken consommé. Stir everything together with the heat still on.

● Step 4

Add a splash of red wine.

● Step 5

Add some shredded cheese and continue cooking until it melts into the rest of the ingredients.

● Step 6

Serve over pasta, because you’ve just made Haruka’s Venison Meat Sauce Spaghetti!

Haruka took a taste, and immediately her fears that the venison’s leanness would make it tough were put to rest. It was nice and tender, even as the coarse grinding meant each individual piece of meat was larger and more substantial feeling than what you usually get with meat sauce spaghetti. The flavor wasn’t gamey and felt closer to beef than pork, with a touch of bitterness for an elegant taste that Haruka found very enjoyable. Compared to the pork/beef mix that’s the most commonly sold type of ground meat at Japanese supermarkets, venison is less fatty and lower-calorie, and if Haruka hadn’t added all that cheese, this would probably be a great dieter’s dish too.

Next up: the sliced wild boar meat. This time, Haruka didn’t get fancy, and just tossed it all in the frying pan with some oil to sauté.

▼ With 15 slices in the pack, Haruka figures this is enough to feed two.

Once again, the meat was tenderer than she’d expected. Some of that is probably due to the thin yakiniku-style slices, but in any case it was soft enough for her to eat it with chopsticks alone, with no need for a knife to slice it into smaller pieces.

Compared to the venison, the boar tasted just a touch gamier, but considering that Haruka didn’t add any seasonings to the boar while cooking, maybe that’s to be expected. It still tasted good, though, and a dash of some allspice-like “outdoor spice” she had on hand made it even better.

Inoya’s wild game vending machine is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if you find yourself craving something even more daring, there’s always Haruka’s terrifying how-to guide to making your own sea squirt sashimi.

Vending machine information
Inoya wild game vending machine / いの屋ジビエ自動販売機
Address: Wakayama-ken, Wakayama-shi, Fujita 41-1

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]