Nara is famous for its temples, the Big Buddha in Todaiji, and the deer in Nara Park. But not many foreign visitors come to Nara for its delicacy, unlike when they visit Kobe for Kobe beef, Osaka for [insert Japanese street food names here], or Kyoto for kaiseki ryori or anything with matcha.
When in Nara, I found this small restaurant called Izasa, just a stone’s throw away from the main entrance to Nara Park. It occupied a two-storey building; the dining area was on the second floor while the first floor was a shop selling take-away sushi. I ordered their “Izasa set”: hors d’oeuvre, a bowl of miwa nyumen noodles, and five pieces of sushi. Nara’s specialty noodles are actually called miwa somen and normally served cold, while nyumen is the hot, soup-based version of the dish, usually eaten during the autumn and winter months. Curiously, there was a piece of sakura sushi, something that’s most often associated with spring. But talking about something that’s unique to Nara, those two identical wrapped sushi are another example of what you’ll want to try while there. They’re called kakinohazushi （柿の葉寿司）, mackerel sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves. If you fancy them, they’re also available on the first floor’s take-away counter.
Now the souvenir food. (The persimmon leaf sushi can be for souvenirs as well!) Well, anything with a picture of the mascot deer on it, be it biscuits or chocolate, will do. You may also want to buy a small bag of tiny chocolate balls that’s so unfortunately labelled “deer poop”. They’re indeed chocolate (Yes, from cocoa), but for me, the name is an insult (Lol!) to my most favourite food in the world.
Anyway, I found this souvenir snack called Rahotsu at the Kintetsu Nara Station. The word rahotsu actually refers to the beads on the Buddha’s head. The snack itself was karinto manju, a manju that can be made crunchy like karinto (a brown sugar-covered, deep-fried snack) if you heat them in a toaster oven.
The karinto manju came in 4 flavours: tsubuan (whole-bean red bean paste), koshian (smooth red bean paste), matcha and the very autumn-ly chestnut-and-pumpkin. Beware, though, that unlike the mascot deer biscuits and mini matcha tart cookies in the previous picture, the colourful manju were pretty pricey!