Japan is always (well if not always, most of the time) associated with ramen, sushi, samurai, hello kitty, cosplay and anime. I will never forget my experience when I was still a newbie here in Sendai; during a school festival I was asked by a television network what I love about Japan: of course, I said “Matcha!!” in my super-genki (lively) tone! The next question was what I love about Sendai and Tohoku…and once again I told them “Matcha!!” without a moment’s hesitation! In my defense, I was just like other foreigners who only know the stereotypical, matcha-and-ramen-loving Japan. I had no idea about the countless other culinary secrets that Sendai and Tohoku have to offer! Luckily, after the interview. my friend told me that each prefecture, city and town in Japan puts a distinctive stamp on the goodies they make in order to showcase the local produce of the area.
Sendai is one of the cities in Japan that takes pride in producing some of the most popular foods like ‘gyutan’ (beef tongue), ‘hagi no tsuki’ (sponge cake with custard filling) and, of course, ‘Zunda’ (soybeans or edamame) food products. Almost all corners of Sendai station and other tourist-spots in Sendai are packed with stores that sell these products. And if you happen to see some samurai walking around the city and screaming some unfamiliar words at you, don’t be afraid!! They are probably just screaming “Zunda Mochi!” (zunda-flavored sticky rice) which is a popular advertising gimmick here in Sendai City (just FYI)!
Zunda is a popular flavour not only in Sendai but across many areas of Tohoku like Fukushima, Iwate, etc. Zunda is paste made from ground soybean or edamame and sweetened to perfection. If my Japanese comprehension did not fail me, my sensei in my Japanese reading class told me that the existence of Zunda dates back to the reign of Date Masamune (famous samurai lord) in Sendai. It was a very popular food during or before going to war and the samurais used their sword to grind the soybeans. I guess back in the day, swords were not only used for war but also for gourmet purposes, too! Pretty awesome background, right?
Getting back to Zunda, it’s a green paste with a crunchy peanut-butter-like consistency. Bonus point – it’s not too sweet and has less calories than other sugary treats which is best for people who have a sweet tooth but want to keep a tab on their calorie intake!
The Zunda hype in Sendai is next-level! From food to little trinkets, they have it all! Although the most popular Zunda flavored food here in Sendai is Zunda mochi, you have got to try the other variations, too! If you are not into rice cakes because of the fear of choking, there are still lots of options for you to taste and indulge yourself. Zunda shakes, Zunda Cheesecake and Zunda roll-cake are highly recommended.
These products are also very easy on the budget. A filling zunda shake is around just 250 yen and the cheesecake and roll-cake range from 500 yen to 1500 yen depending on the size you want to order. The Zunda shakes here in Sendai are not your average shake! They are made with NO artificial flavorings and colourings – very organic! Your palate can really savor the goodness of those soybean chunks which will make your tummy full but also avoid the bloating effect of regular dessert shakes.
If you are a foodie like me and want to eat everything that has Zunda written on it, then you are really in for a treat (literally)! Sendai station and Aoba castle are some of the best places to go if you want to embark on a Zunda food exploration. From mochi, cake, ice cream, cookies, pancakes – every possible dessert you can imagine – Zunda flavor is a definite favourite for both locals and foreign visitors.
These Zunda flavored goodies go perfectly well with tea to create that bitter-sweet balance, so don’t forget to try it when you come to Sendai or Tohoku. Whilst you are encourage to treat yo’self, don’t forget to share some the love by taking some Zunda flavored foods or Zunda inspired souvenirs to your loved-ones and friends too!
Check out these places when you are in Sendai station to fill in your tummy with Zunda delight!
Disclaimer: Some photos were lifted from google, tourists sites and bloggers! Thanks for sharing your awesome pictures!