Kagoshima Prefecture boasts of having many delicious food items thanks to its flourishing agricultural industry and warm climate. Among the various delicacies which Kagoshima has to offer, have you heard of the “Black Trio” which are actually premium types of meat produced within the prefecture? Read on to find out more and try them for yourself to see if they are really as good as they are reputed to be!
Kagoshima kurobuta (かごしま黒豚) refers to the meat obtained from the Berkshire pigs raised in Kagoshima Prefecture and has been registered as a trademark since 1999. You may have come across pork from black pigs with similar names from places such as Saitama, Gunma, Okayama, and Kagawa, but the Kagoshima version is of a different category with its highest price to date having matched that of B-rank beef!
To make sure that you are getting the real deal, please keep a lookout for the certification sticker on the packaging as featured in the photo above. This type of black pig is also known by the name Roppaku (六白) as there are usually six parts of its body which are white in color i.e. its face, four legs, and backside.
Although there are variations in the composition of the feeds given to the kurobuta, one common ingredient is the satsumaimo i.e. sweet potatoes which are usually added about 60 days before the pigs are due to be shipped. One other similarity is that the farms would have a manmade pool for the pigs since they can’t perspire and like to keep themselves clean by washing away bugs or dirt from their bodies. Last but not least, pigs are allowed to graze primarily because they tend to have a hard time giving birth to their piglets so this helps to reduce their stress and the likelihood of a difficult labor. The kurobuta pigs can be found in almost everywhere of Kagoshima Prefecture but the majority are grown in Soo City (曽於市) and Kimotsuki District (肝属地域) of Osumi Peninsula (大隅半島), and the Kawabe (川辺地域) and Isa (伊佐地域) districts of western Satsuma Peninsula (薩摩半島西部).
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The Kagoshima kurobuta is usually eaten in the form of shabu-shabu where the thinly-sliced pork is dipped briefly into the soup which contains a variety of vegetables and other ingredients. It is also common to see the kurobuta used in dishes such as tonkatsu and barbecue. If you are keen to try the Kagoshima kurobuta dishes, you may wish to consider Roppakutei in Kagoshima City which is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm and check out their menu which has an extensive range of kurobuta dishes. For those who wish to order the kurobuta online and have it delivered to your home in Japan, you can consider Kurobutaya Sato (*Japanese only) which sells value packs and gift sets to suit a variety of needs and budgets.
At the mention of kuroge wagyu i.e. Japanese black-haired beef, the top 3 most well-known brands would have to be Kobe-gyu (神戸牛), Matsusaka-gyu (松阪牛), and Oumi-gyu (近江牛) which is also known as Yonezawa-gyu (米沢牛). However, do you know that the top producer of kuroge wagyu is actually Kagoshima Prefecture?
Kagoshima got into the business of promoting their own brand of wagyu rather late in 1992 as compared to the top 3 branded wagyu which were already very established and well known then. However, awareness about its brand and popularity have increased over the years to the extent that their calves are now shipped to other locations in Japan for rearing, while the processed meat products have been exported overseas since the first batch went to Hong Kong in 2007. As such, it should be easier than before to spot Kagoshima kuroge wagyu products in your local supermarkets or in Japanese restaurants now.
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Similar to the Kagoshima kurobuta, the kuroge wagyu is often eaten in shabu-shabu and barbecue. In Kagoshima City, there is a barbecue restaurant named Gyu-do! (*Japanese only) which specializes in kuroge wagyu dishes. Besides the usual cuts for barbecue, Gyu-do! also offers a wide rendition of the wagyu with its grilled beef steaks, hamburger steaks, soup, rice, and noodle dishes which is sure to impress beef lovers.
Following the success of the kuroge wagyu and kurobuta, farmers in Kagoshima wanted to come up with a third item which could become part of the prefecture’s signature Black Trio. This was what led to the birth of the Kuro Satsuma Dori (黒さつま鶏) i.e. black Satsuma chicken. However, it was not a smooth journey as the research started in 2001 and spanned six long years before the first batch of chickens were ready for distribution in 2011. The Kuro Satsuma Dori is a cross breed of the locally raised free-range Satsumadori (薩摩鶏) as its father and Ouhan Plymouth Rock (横斑プリマスロック) as its mother. The resulting new breed of chickens was then named as such by the mayor of Kagoshima Prefecture at that time.
At birth, all the chicks are completely black but the male ones will have a white spot on their heads. Upon adulthood, the female Kuro Satsuma Dori still looks largely black while the male chickens have white and yellow spots on their feathers. Other than their black appearance which makes it a selling point, there are practical reasons for the prefecture’s decision in rearing the Kuro Satsuma Dori. Due to the fact that these chickens do not fight as much as other species and are generally quite tame, the fatality rate is low and they grow rather fast despite being free-range chickens. In terms of cost, they are not that expensive so they can be enjoyed by many people. Since Kagoshima is already one of the top producers of broilers in Japan, the farmers made use of their existing know-how to achieve cost savings and productivity gains in the rearing of this new species.
Compared to other types of chickens such as broilers, the Kuro Satsuma Dori contains lesser moisture and crude fat with a springy texture, high levels of inosinic acid, and fine fibers which contribute to its unique taste. As such, regardless of which cooking method you use, the Kuro Satsuma Dori does not become hard and is even tasty when left to cool. Just like the kurobuta, there is an official certificate pasted on approved Kuro Satsuma Dori products so you can take a look at the logo on this website (*Japanese only) to make sure you are getting the real thing.
Besides the usual ways of cooking, the most unique way of presenting the Kuro Satsuma Dori will have to be in sashimi form! Most people would probably think that eating something raw is restricted to seafood only as in what we have at sushi restaurants but in Kagoshima, the Kuro Satsuma Dori sashimi is definitely more common than you think. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle raw chicken but if you are game for the challenge, be sure to try this while you are in Kagoshima. On the Kuro Satsuma Dori’s official website (*Japanese only), there is a list of restaurants which specialize in serving cuisine using this type of chicken so this should be a useful resource for both locals and tourists.
Having read so much about the Black Trio of Kagoshima, are you ready to embark on your culinary journey to discover their unique flavors?