I’ve been craving sour flavors recently for some reason which means that I’ve been making nanban foods quite a bit. The word _nanban_ uses the kanji characters for ‘south’ and ‘savage’, meaning savages who come from the south. It was originally used to refer to the Portuguese, the first non-Asian foreigners to land on Japanese soil. Later it came to refer all foreigners except for long-time neighbors China and Korea – or in other words, the Europeans. I guess to the Japanese of the 16th century or so, those white people looked like otherworldly savages! In any case, it seems that the Portuguese had some kind of dish that had sour flavors (I haven’t been able to pin down what that dish might have been – if anyone has a clue let me know), and so the term ‘nanban’ came to be used for any dish had a combination of sweet/sour/salty and often spicy-hot flavors.
Nanban sauce or vinegar is most commonly used for nanban dishes. For instance Chicken nanban is a dish that originated at a popular restaurant in Miyazaki prefecture in the southern island of Kyuushuu back in the 1950s, and is basically battered deep fried chicken that’s been doused in this sauce and served with a ton of of tartare sauce. It was popular in Kyuushuu for decades, but only became well known nationwide in the last decade or so when it became a popular item on _famiresu_ (family restaurant) menus, as well as in convenience store bentos. _Wakasaki no nanban zuke_ is another popular dish, consisting of small, whole ice fish (which are a bit like little sardines) that are deep fried and doused in nanban sauce with lots of shredded vegetables. Nanban sauce can also be used on noodles, or with either cooked or raw vegetables. It makes an unusual salad dressing.
I’ll have specific recipes that use nanban sauce. There are almost as many nanban sauce recipes as there are households and restaurants that make nanban dishes, but here I have three variations. We offer special delicious dish with this sauce in CooshySushi. Just pick the one that looks the most appealing to you.
Update: Check out our panfried chicken nanban on JustBento.