The Kujo Leek Festival
|Category||Event / Festival|
The Kujo Leek Festival is a food festival first held in October 2012 to promote Kyoto’s famous specialty, the Kujo Leek. Last year’s event, which drew close to 100,000 visitors, is back again and better than ever. With, of course, last year’s overwhelmingly popular Ramen Battle, local gourmet Kyoto specialities on sale, and fun shows on the big stage, this is one huge foodie extravaganza. So, here’s our report on the events of the day.
This year’s festival was held in Umekoji Park, like last year. To buy concessions from the Ramen Battle or food stands, you first purchase tickets from the main ticket booth near the entrance to the festival grounds, or from one of several ticket booths inside.
As soon as you enter the festival, you’ll stumble into the Ramen Battle arena. Here, chefs from local ramen eateries in Kyoto as well as from famous shops around the country face off to see who can create the best Kujo leek ramen. The champion is then decided by a democratic customer vote.
The area is packed with lines of hungry customers waiting eagerly at every shop. Consult the sign above to find out what the wait times were for each stand.
And, of course, we treated ourselves to some ramen, too! It was a difficult decision with all of the delicious-looking ramen about, but the chashuu (roast pork) ramen here looked too good to be true!
Voila! The pork simmered in melty, flavorful fat was fantastic! With loads of leeks on top, it was a feast fit for a king-or us :)
Because servings are small, you can go around taste-testing ramen from various stalls. One purchase equals one vote, so be careful to place your vote with your favorite.
Beyond the Ramen Battle arena lay the local gourmet and specialty foods stalls and the events stage.
For starters, we headed on over to the Kyoto brand sake tasting and sales floor. With twelve different breweries to choose from, you can get a real feel for Japan’s first love. (Tickets are required.) A crowd-pleaser for sake-lovers and experts alike.
Continuing even further into the festival, we find the local gourmet area. The food stalls lined up neatly in a row are also a big hit. Let’s see what kinds of cuisine they’ve dished up today!
There was a wide variety of piping hot treats to choose from: festival standards like yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), along with more uncommon fare, like gyouza (potstickers), omuraisu (Japanese-style omelette wrapped around rice), and seafood teppanyaki (often called “hibachi” in the US).
It looked so terrific, we had to try some! Here, it’s served rare and topped with grated daikon and a generous helping of the topping of the day, Kujo leek.
A long line of people were queueing up consistently for this mouth-watering snack - mochimochi poteto, i.e. soft n’ chewy fries.
This tray of French fries will fill you right up. Out of the flavors available, we chose to order ours Kyoto-style - sprinkled with maccha (green tea) salt. Chewy in texture as well as in name, they were oh-so-good to the last bite. Definitely worth the wait!
Mouth-watering chicken lined up to be grilled. It was juicy and soft, with the Kujo leek sandwiched in the middle adding the perfect pocket of flavor.
This is horumon udon (thick noodles with pork or beef offal). This dish has grown to be a classic local specialty. As opposed to yakisoba, it has its own special charm :)
To top it all off, there was even dessert! Because we were feeling thirsty, we picked up some kakigoori (shaved ice with condensed milk and fruit). It was covered in a luxurious strawberry syrup, complete with real fruit chunks. Although, we admit, this really has nothing to do with leeks, you won’t hear us complaining…. :D
The Kujo Leek Festival is a brand new event, still just in its second year. We fully expect next year’s festival to be even more full of fun and flavor than the last. If you get the chance, we definitely recommend you take the time to check it out !