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Miyagi Prefecture Food: 12 Delicious Signature Dishes to Try on Your Next Visit

Just 90 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train and you’ll reach Sendai, the largest city in Miyagi Prefecture, the land of mystery in northeastern Japan.

This region might not be as popular as other big cities, but Miyagi has lots to offer when it comes to food!

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best and most ubiquitous regional specialties, and where to try them.

Where and why food culture in Miyagi Prefecture is special?

Miyagi is one of six prefectures that form the Tohoku region, located on the north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Sendai is the capital city of the Tohoku region, a destination in and of its own right, as well as serving as a gateway to the rest of Miyagi Prefecture and beyond.

This land is blessed with a strong culinary culture because of its unique geographical and climate conditions. Spring is still cold, summer is milder than other nations, fall is short and it has a long winter with deep snow in the interior. 

The East coast faces the Sanriku Rias shoreline towards the Pacific Ocean where warm and cold currents collide. The interior has famous mountains and vast tracts of flat land, which makes rich agricultural products and liquors. Any town you go, you will meet a variety of local cuisines!

Sanma, Pacific saury

Miyagi Prefecture food: A whole grilled sanma (Pacific saury) fish with a serving of daikon radish and a wedge of lime. Behind the plate are several other side dishes, namely pickles, tofu, a bowl of white rice and a bowl of miso soup. All the dishes are on a black tray, which is sitting on a light-colored wooden countertop.
Whole grilled sanma, Pacific Saury. © Machiko

When August is almost over, local people get excited to celebrate the season with this fish.

The most common style of cooking sanma (秋刀魚, さんま, サンマ) is simply grilled with salt. If you can have it charbroiled (grilled over charcoal), that’s the best!

There are festivals in many fishing towns and the biggest festival is held in Onagawa in October. If you happen to be in Miyagi during this time, you can taste the best ones!

Where to try it: Restaurants serving sanma in Onagawa

Hoya, a.k.a sea pineapple

Sixteen hoya (sea squirts) on ice in a white styrofoam box. The hoya themselves are bulbous and a sunset orange-red color with large wart-like bumps on their exterior.
Hoya (sea squirts or sea pineapple) are like the natto of Miyagi, divisive but a must-try! © Machiko

If you have the courage to try mysterious seafood, try this bright orange-colored hoya or sea squirt (海鞘, ほや, ホヤ).

You’ll either love it or hate it, but you’ve got to try raw hoya here because as time passes, they become increasingly bitter. Fresh ones are bouncy in texture and you will taste some sweetness too.

You can also enjoy it as sashimi, with vinegar, boiled or as tempura at local restaurants during the season (May to August).

Pieces of raw sliced hoya (sea squirt), which are yellow in color and slimy in appearance, arranged on a green ceramic plate with a dark rim. Part of the exterior of the hoya can be seen behind it with several more pieces of the raw flesh inside.
Miyagi Prefecture food: A plate of raw hoya (hoya sashimi). © Machiko


Matsushima town is well known for farming oysters (牡蠣, かき, カキ). Needless to say, you will have fresh, milky raw oysters at the restaurants but if you want a unique experience, an oyster shack is fun to go to!

It’s all-you-can-eat steamed shelled oysters within a set time limit.   

Where to try it: Matsushima Fish Market (Matsushima Sakana Ichiba)

Six steamed oysters in the shell arranged on a white plate, atop a wooden table.
You can’t miss the opportunity to try fresh oysters when in Matsushima. © Machiko

Branded Ginzake, farmed coho salmon

A white square plate with slithers of raw ginzake (branded salmon) served with salad greens and two wedges of lime. Next to it is a small round dish with soy sauce and wasabi, and to the back is three pieces of cooked salmon with grated daikon radish and another wedge of lime.
Ginzake, branded salmon, is delicious cooked or as sashimi. © Masae Ishikawa

Miyagi Prefecture holds a staggering 90 percent share of coho salmon farming. Miyagi branded coho salmon is farmed under strict management to improve sustainability and ensure full traceability. 

Look out for names like Ginō (銀王), Date no Gin (伊達のぎん), Miyagi salmon (みやぎサーモン) and Herb-fed Super Salmon (スーパーサーモン ハーブ育ち), all types of branded salmon in Miyagi Prefecture.

Where to try it: Recommended restaurant in Sendai

Shiso Maki, deep fried miso rolled in perilla

Six shiso maki rolls on a skewer laying on a ceramic plate. To the back right is a bowl with a pink and white geometric design and a dark rim filled with white rice and one shisho maki roll on top.
They may look small, but shiso maki rolls are very filling. © Masae Ishikawa

Shiso Maki (しそ巻き, しそまき) is Osaki city’s traditional dish. Sweetened miso paste and crushed walnuts are rolled in perilla leaves then deep fried.

The leaf is crispy but the miso inside is nutty and very dense; you can finish a bowl of rice with just one or two rolls! 

Where to buy it: Shops selling Shiso Maki in Osaki city

Harako Meshi, seasoned rice with salmon and roe

A close-up of a dark wooden bowl filled with seasoned rice along with salmon and its roe on top (a dish known as Harako Meshi in Miyagi Prefecture).
Harako Meshi is a specialty of Watari town, Miyagi Prefecture. @ Ayako Izumi

Watari town is located in the southeast and is famous for their local cuisine, Harako Meshi (はらこ飯, はらこめし).

Every fall, salmon go up the nearby Abukuma River to lay eggs and that’s the time each household or restaurant shows off their own best recipe!

First, sliced salmon and roe are cooked in a soy sauce-based broth. Then the salmon and roe are removed and the remaining seasoned broth is used for steaming the rice. Once the rice is done, the salmon and roe are placed back on top for a meal that is infused with the flavors of the fish and broth throughout.

It’s a seasonal dish available September through early December. 

Where you can try it: Recommended restaurant in Watari (south of Sendai) and Asutonagamachi in Sendai

Sasa-kamaboko, steamed and grilled fish paste in bamboo-leaf shape

Three pieces of sasa kamaboko arranged on a white plate with an accompanying paste to eat with it. Chopsticks sit on a ceramic chopstick rest in front of the plate, and behind it various other Japanese dishes can be seen on the dark wooden table.
Sasa kamaboko fish cakes are quintessential Miyagi Prefecture cuisine. © Masae Ishikawa

Kamaboko, or Japanese fish cake, is made nationwide, but this bamboo-leaf shaped Sasa-kamaboko (笹蒲鉾, 笹かまぼこ, ささかまぼこ – local people simply call it Sasa-kama) is a pride of Miyagi!

Sasa-kama is different because it is broiled or grilled at the end of the process which brings a rich flavor. Each company has their own variations, you can try and find your favorite. My favorite is Sasa-kama with cheese!  

You can experience making Sasa-kama in Matsushima

Grilled Gyutan, grilled beef tongue

A plate of sliced gyutan with a pickled salad. Sitting next to it on the light wooden countertop is a bowl of white rice and a bowl of soup.
Gyutan is a signature dish of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. © Machiko

Sendai city is a mecca for grilled beef tongue. Called Gyutan (牛タン, ぎゅうたん, gyūtan), it is thinly sliced (but not too thin, this is what makes Sendai gyutan special!) and cooked on a charcoal grill.

You will see many Gyutan only restaurants in the city with a line of both locals and tourists. If you order a meal set, it comes with salted cabbage pickles, rice and oxtail soup which is a perfect match for Gyutan. Enjoy the smokey, bouncy texture!

Where to try it: Recommended restaurant in Sendai

Zunda mochi, mashed and sweetened edamame on mochi

A serving of zunda mochi in a small and shallow light-colored ceramic bowl with a cup of Japanese-style tea to the right.
Zunda mochi is a surprising local delight © Masae Ishikawa

If you are a mochi (rice cake) fan, I definitely recommend you try this local green treat! The flavor is earthy, nutty, and a bit crunchy. You will be surprised it’s actually made from edamame (young soy beans)!

There are many zunda variations – zunda shake, zunda manjū, zunda chocolate – but traditional mochi style (ずんだ餅, ずんだもち) is a must-try! 

Where to try it: Recommended sweets shop in Sendai

Shiroishi Umen, short and thin noodles

A bowl of hot shiroishi umen noodles in broth with mushrooms, scallions (spring onions) and two slices of kamaboko fish cake on top. The bowl is white with a blue decorative design and sits on a red wooden serving tray with a black rim. There is a pair of wooden disposable chopsticks sitting on a chopstick rest in front of the bowl. To the back right, we can see five rolled up wet hand towels sitting on a black decorative tray.
Shiroishi umen is a noodle dish from Shiroishi City, located at the bottom of the Zao mountain range. © Masae Ishikawa

As the name suggests, Shiroishi Umen (白石温麺, しろいし・うーめん) is a noodle dish only made in Shiroishi city.

Unlike other noodles, no oil is used in the process of making it. With a history of 400 years, Shiroishi Umen was actually created when a son learned the method of making noodles without using oil for his sick father and he eventually recovered from illness.

“Umen” (ūmen) literally means ‘warm noodle’ but is named to praise a son’s devotion to save his father. It’s a comfort food, good in hot broth or as a cold noodle dipped in a separate dipping sauce. 

Where to try it: Recommended restaurant in Shiroishi (southwest of Sendai)

Seri Nabe, Japanese parsley Hotpot

A ceramic nabe pot on a portable gas stove filled with seri nabe ingredients ready to be cooked. This includes of course seri and its roots, as well as mushroom, carrot, tofu and chicken. A plate with additional ingredients can be seen in the background.
A nabe pot full of seri nabe ingredients ready to be cooked. © Masae Ishikawa

Miyagi is the top Seri producing prefecture in Japan. It has a slightly bitter and strong flavor with a crunchy texture and is used mainly as a side dish.

It is a recent trend to eat seri as a main dish in hotpot during winter and it’s so good! The interesting part with Seri Nabe (せり鍋, せりなべ) is, you will even eat its roots too. Fresh seri and chicken (oysters are popular in the Ishinomaki area) are served in a soy sauce-based hot broth; it will warm you up on cold days in Miyagi!

Where to try it: List of restaurants serving seri nabe in Sendai

Aburafu, deep fried wheat flour dough

A bowl of aburafu with potato, carrot, onion and some greens. The blue, green and white decorative bowl sits on a dark wooden countertop with a red wall behind it. Next to the bowl is a white plate with a long piece of aburafu cut in half (similar in appearance to a churro, but with a smooth exterior).
Aburafu is a great dish for vegetarian and vegan travelers. © Masae Ishikawa

Aburafu (油麩, あぶらふ) is a traditional preserved food produced in Tome city. If you don’t eat meat or seafood, Aburafu is a perfect alternative.

It’s made from wheat flour (gluten) and is a formed dough that is deep fried in vegetable oil. It goes really well with soupy dishes as Aburafu absorbs liquid like a sponge.

Aburafu-don (aburafu on rice) is a very popular dish as an alternative to katsu-don (pork cutlets on rice), and is also great with Shiroishi Umen and Seri Nabe that I mentioned above!  

Have you tried any of these dishes? Which one(s) would you most like to try on your next visit to Miyagi Prefecture?

Read more:
Sendai Food Guide: What to Eat in Tohoku’s Biggest City
A Guide to Onagawa’s Michi-no-Eki: Where and What to Eat and Drink in this Gorgeous Port Town

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Tuesday 1st of February 2022

Wow I knew of most of the seafood/meat dishes but hadn't heard about seri nabe or Shiroishi umen, which is perfect for me as a vegetarian! I'm heading to Miyagi in the spring so hope I get to try them then :)