Okayama restaurants promote curry with hidden taste of peach

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Setouchi Seafood Okayama Curry dish is served at Wayobizen Setouchi restaurant in Okayama. Brochures listing restaurants participating in the campaign are seen in the background.

OKAYAMA — More than 40 restaurants in the city of Okayama are working on a campaign to offer Okayama curry, a dish that uses white peaches grown in the prefecture as a special ingredient.

The restaurants are all using peach chutney, a seasoning made by boiling down white peaches and other ingredients, in dishes based on their own original recipes. The chutney is enjoyed in various ways, including on pizza, in the filling of fried curry bread and in other dishes.

“We would like to make it a local specialty and revitalize the area,” a person involved in the project said.

Chutney opportunity

The project is run by Okayama Machiokoshi-tai, a town revitalization group made up of companies, department stores and shops at shopping arcades in the city. As of late January, 42 stores were participating in the campaign, which was initially launched in November 2020 with stores near JR Okayama Station. The second phase of the project was launched in December, expanding its scope to the entire city.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Peaches are seen at a fair in Okayama in 2015.

The idea to use peach chutney came from Rie Matsuno, a staff member of the town revitalization group and a member of the prefectural tourism federation. She devised the idea with advice from cooks she knows, taking inspiration from how farmers in the prefecture use their surplus peaches for cooking.

The chutney used at each restaurant is made from peaches that are not shipped from farmers in the prefecture because they are sometimes irregularly shaped or bruised, but are purchased and processed by a company in the city.

The chutney is mixed with curry to add the richness and sweetness of the peaches to the spicy taste, which according to Matsuno gives the curry a deeper flavor.

Wayobizen Setouchi in Okayama Takashimaya department store, one of the participating restaurants, serves Setouchi Seafood Okayama Curry priced at ¥1,540. The dish has been popular among tourists for its combination of shrimp rice, a specialty of the restaurant, the curry roux made with peach chutney, and fried eel from the Seto Inland Sea as a topping.

“As the dish has various Okayama flavors, customers can enjoy the rich taste, and it’s selling well,” said Masahiro Ota, the manager of the restaurant.

The town revitalization group is recruiting more stores to participate in the campaign.

“We want to make Okayama known as the place for curry. I hope that more people will join us in developing the Okayama curry,” Matsuno said.

Brochures with photos of the participating restaurants and dishes are available at the city’s sightseeing centers, JR Okayama Station and shopping malls.

They can also be found on the special page of the prefecture’s official tourism website (https://www.okayama-kanko.jp/okayamacurry/).