Fact 8: The popular Castella sponge cake was created from an age-old European recipe
Last but not least, the Dutch and European influence is not only found in the city’s architecture and landscape, but also in the local confectionery. Many people, locals and tourists alike, enjoy a bite of the popular Castella sponge cake. Did you know that this sweet sponge cake was actually brought into Japan by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century? The original Castella recipe from Europe involved only 3 ingredients - flour, sugar and eggs. However, in the Edo period, the Japanese added starch syrup and other ingredients as a sweetener to the cake. Because of the innovative Japanese spirit, the recipe continued to be improved. What we get to see and taste today is a moist and sweet Castella, a unique Nagasaki souvenir that the locals are proud of. Try the best Castella at Bunmei-do main branch before you leave the city!
Fact 7: Port Hoorn Nagasaki is the newest Netherlands themed village in Nagasaki
Port Hoorn Nagasaki is the latest addition of a Dutch-themed park that opened in April 2016 in the cosmopolitan city. Although it may not be as big as Huis Ten Bosch, but admission to the restored Holland Village is free! Enjoy strolling through the Dutch-influenced streets filled with shops and restaurants. Shop, eat and relax as you soak in the nostalgic feel of the former Holland Village. You can even take the free shuttle to Nagasaki Biopark that is just 10 minutes’ drive from Port Hoorn to meet some adorable capybaras if time permits.
Fact 6: Nagasaki’s signature Shippoku Ryori is influenced by the Japanese, Chinese and Dutch
Our 1st night in Japan, it's 3:45am and of course we can't sleep - what better time then to Instagram! We return to Kyushu, hiring a car, we will be driving around the island for most of our two weeks in Kyushu - our 1st stop was Nagasaki where I wanted to return for two main reasons (in addition to seeing this beautiful city again): 1. To try Shippoku Ryōri (picture above), this is Nagasaki style kaiseki, a multi-coursed meal taking seasonal and local ingredients that combine Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch influences. One of the most celebrated restaurants in Nagasaki for Shippoku Ryōri is Shippoku Hamakatsu where we had this wonderful 12-course banquet tonight, at about £50pp this was also excellent value. Pictured are just the first 3 starters. During the Edo Period, Nagasaki was the only Japanese port open to trade with the outside world and as a result it developed a cosmopolitan character. The Shippoku Ryōri style of cooking was adapted from traditional formal banquets in ancient China. Circular red tables are arranged with a mix of Japanese delicacies, Chinese-style dishes, and also foods introduced by European traders. 2. To try Nagasaki's KASUTERA (Castela) cake, a featherlight sponge cake of Portuguese origin which was adopted and reinvented/perfected in this town. Kasutera cake is synonymous with Nagasaki and a visit here without trying it (or buying it as omiyage or souvenir for Japanese friends and family back home) is a foodie sacrilege.
Mention signature dishes in Nagasaki, and the Shippoku Ryori is bound to be on the list. Shippoku (卓袱) is the first Japanese fusion cuisine that is an interesting mix of Japanese, Chinese and Dutch dishes. 8 to 10 dishes are served on the round table in this traditional Nagasaki-style cuisine, for sharing with everyone around the table. Being the only window to the outside world, Nagasaki was the only place where foreigners were able to interact with the Japanese in the 19th century. This was how the Shippoku Ryori was born, using a multitude of ingredients from the region. Don’t leave Nagasaki without tasting the best local cuisine that has evolved over the years to combine the best of China, Japan and the Netherlands!