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The most celebrated dish in Fukuoka is tonkotsu ramen, a strongly flavored pork-bone-based soup with extra-thin noodles, scallions, and strips of roasted pork. Usually it gets heaps of garlic, chili pepper, and other toppings. Wherever you are on Kyushu, ramen can never be too far, and it's always good.

Popular in Nagasaki, shippoku consists of elaborately prepared dishes that blend the flavors of Asia and Europe. Served Chinese style on a revolving round tabletop and perfect for large groups, shippoku is not a solitary affair. Another Nagasaki favorite, chanpon, consists of Chinese-style noodles, vegetables, and shellfish in a thick soup. Sara udon has the chanpon ingredients fried crispy instead of boiled.

Ba-sashi (raw horse meat) is a Kumamoto specialty. Perhaps an easier-to-swallow delicacy is karashi renkon, slices of lotus root stuffed with mustard and/or cayenne and deep-fried. Compared to the subdued flavors of most Japanese cuisine, these dishes attest to the region's bolder palate.

In Kagoshima, don't pass up a chance to try the famed kurobuta tonkatsu, or breaded fried pork cutlet from locally bred black pigs. There's also satsuma-age, a fried-fish cake stuffed with ingredients like garlic, cheese, meat, potato, or burdock root. Imo-jochu, a much-loved regional spirit distilled from sweet potatoes, helps wash down these goodies.

Updated: 02-2014

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