Mikan Gohan: Japanese soul food or…Japanese myth?

A strange local specialty that took the nation by surprise.

Wherever you travel in Japan, you are sure to come across local specialties that are the pride of each region. For example, Hyogos Himeji City is known for almond toast, while Okinawa is known for spam onigiri. And over in Wakayama Prefecture, one of the main regions in the country that produces mikan (mandarins), you’ll find a specialty called Mikan Gohan.

Or will you? That’s the question people are asking themselves after this tweet came out showing the unusual dish.

I came home to an acquaintance
Shocking rice came out! pic.twitter.com/hhPcbcWHUF

– Zasan @ ZX-14 (@ zasan_zzr1400) December 18, 2020

As the above photo shows, Mikan Gohan is simply made up of Rice cooked with peeled, whole mikans. Whether or not this is a real local specialty is a mystery, however, as it is certainly not an ordinary dish in the region, and according to Twitter user @ zasan_zzr1400, who posted the tweet, they got the “shocking food.” “Served when you have eaten at a friend’s house.

After doing some research on the internet, @ zasan_zzr1400 found some websites that Mikan Gohan called “Wakayama soul food“. However, many Wakayama people spoke up to say they had never seen or heard of this dish before.

▼ This Twitter user says, “I’m from Wakayama, but …” with a picture underneath that says, “I never knew about it.”

I’m from Wakayama but pic.twitter.com/b8yJD7m4yt

– OneManGames🐲 (@ OneManGames51) December 19, 2020

Other comments were:

“Wakayama was born and raised here, but I’ve never eaten that. This is the first time I’ve heard of something like this! “
“I am a citizen of Wakayama, but I know absolutely nothing about it! And I think I wouldn’t want to eat it either. “
“Mikan and rice are best enjoyed separately.”
“I was born in a Mikan production region, but I’ve never seen that in my entire life!”
“I’ve heard of orange chicken, but not orange rice.”
“I saw a TV show that rice was made with Pom-branded mikan juice. Maybe that has something to do with it?”

While cooking rice with mikan juice is not uncommon in Japan – some schools even serve it to their students for lunch – putting whole mikans on top of rice is a whole different story.

▼ Rice cooked in mikan juice.

While mikan producers likely wouldn’t have complaints about the popularization of the dish since so many people are surprised to hear from Mikan Gohan, it looks like the food has a long way to go before it is recognized as a local specialty or Food in the region can be branded as “soul”.

While it’s not yet a famous regional soul food, the divisive dish has got people talking about Mikans and looking at them in a whole new light, which is never a bad thing. And we’ve seen Mikans appear in unusual places, like the whirlpools of water pigs bathing, so who knows – maybe this dish will really become a famous Wakayama specialty in the future!

Source: Twitter / @ zasan_zzr1400 via Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Twitter / @ zasan_zzr1400
Insert picture © SoraNews24
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