Food & Drink

Mikan wagyu burger in western Japan catches eye of tourists

Kyodo

A local hamburger in Wakayama Prefecture is catching the eye of tourists for its surprisingly good taste and visual impact — mouth-watering wagyu spare ribs sandwiched with a mikan (mandarin orange or tangerine) between the buns.

The locally sourced Kumanogyu and mikan burger was created at a hotel in the city of Wakayama, where staff proposed the idea of using half-sliced mandarin oranges as a topping — much like a tomato would be used — in a menu for the fall-winter season.

Kumanogyu is a well-known brand of wagyu beef cattle originating in the southern Kumano region of the prefecture, according to the prefecture’s tourism association.

Wakayama Prefecture is the country’s leading producer of mikan, a typical citrus fruit grown in temperate regions in Japan. It was the No. 1 harvested fruit nationwide for the 14th consecutive year in 2017, with 144,200 tons, according to data from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

The Kyukamura Kishu Kada hotel has created seasonal local burgers before — a red seabream burger for spring and a daggertooth pike conger (a popular eel in Japanese cuisine) burger for summer. The mikan burger is its third creation and will be sold for a limited time only.

Hotel staff wanted to let people know about local specialties in the prefecture, which is known for its abundance of nature.

Located on the Kii Peninsula, which is blessed with mild climates and fertile soil, Wakayama Prefecture has delicacies from the sea and mountains.

In addition to mikan and a variety of other citrus fruits, it is a major producer of plums, persimmons and peaches, according to the prefecture.

“This is a unique burger originated in Wakayama and I hope people feel refreshed” after eating the burger, said Makoto Nishida, the 55-year-old head chef of the hotel.

Nishida takes a whole mikan, slices it in half for the hamburger and adds marinated beef spare ribs with a special house sauce using mandarin juice.

Most of the customers take photos of the burger first due to its extraordinary appearance, and give positive reviews of its taste as well.

Some of them were quoted as saying, “Mikan’s sweet and sour taste brought out umami (a savory taste) in the beef,” or, “It tasted better than I imagined,” according to the hotel.

The Kumanogyu mikan burger is being served at cafe Kaze no Uta (Song of the Wind) at the hotel through February at a price of ¥500 or ¥800 for a set including a drink.