Eating out / Restaurant seeks to revitalize Niigata city with taro noodles

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Satoimo noodles in kenchin-jiru style, which include large pieces of Kinuotome taro and gobo burdock roots

By Kisho Hamada / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterGOSEN, Niigata — Right beside the entrance to Hinode Shokudo, an old-style eatery located in a shopping street near a train station, is a hand-made signboard saying, “We have satoimo noodles.” The shop’s owner devised the noodles using a satoimo, or taro, variety called kinuotome, which is the city’s specialty.

Third-generation owner Hideyuki Shibano, 54, trained at Chinese and French restaurants in Tokyo after graduating from high school in Niigata, and then took over Hinode Shokudo. It offers about 60 items, ranging from rice bowl dishes to set meals. Dishes using the taro noodles that the eatery began offering in December 2010 are particularly popular.

After the collapse of the bubble economy, “the city’s population declined, and little by little it got stagnant,” Shibano said. Hoping to create a new local food that would attract people to Gosen, Shibano came up with the idea of making noodles from satoimo.

Shibano worked with another restaurant that has a noodle-making machine, and they spent about two years developing the new noodle. It has a chewy texture and doesn’t get too soft, and also goes well with Japanese, Western, Chinese and other foods. They grind kinuotome into powder to mix with flour.

This method made it possible to offer the noodles throughout the year.  

The most popular menu item is satoimo noodles in kenchin-jiru style, priced at ¥800 and offered only from October to May. Kenchin-jiru is a soup using root vegetables, tofu and other ingredients.

The dish has many ingredients, such as large pieces of kinuotome, carrots and daikon radish, and the wavy noodles go well with the bonito stock-based soup. Cream pasta and pan-fried noodles, both priced at ¥800, are also popular.

Dishes using satoimo noodles are now offered at about 10 restaurants in the city, according to Shibano. “I hope satoimo noodles will become more famous in the future, so that many visitors come to Gosen to eat them from around the prefecture and elsewhere,” he said.  

Hinode Shokudo

Open: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Closed on an irregular schedule

Address: 1-8-4 Ekimae, Gosen, Niigata Prefecture

Phone: (0250) 42-2331

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