Budo Sansho

The appeal of budo sansho
as told by professionals


Captivating customers with a signature dish containing budo sansho

Kaoru Furumoto
Sansho Nabe Toriiki

Interview date:2019.12.9

Kaoru Furumoto

Authentic budo sansho

When asked what the appeal of sansho is, Furumoto-san, owner of Toriiki, answers immediately. “The aroma spreads quickly throughout your mouth, followed by the numbness. The sensation is unforgettable. That’s where it is,” he says with a smile. People from Kyoto love sansho. Whatever the season, sansho is indispensable in Kyoto cuisine. “It’s even compulsory in chicken and egg rice bowls!” Furumoto-san says.

However, some commercially available sansho has no color or aroma, no impact. It lacks that sansho-like quality. “You can’t call that sansho at all. I don’t want people to think that that is the real thing. I want people to know real, authentic sansho.” With this in mind, Furumoto-san put Kyo-sansho hot-pot on his menu. Young and mature chicken pieces along with lots of vegetables are added to a special soup made from delicate chicken bone stock and crushed sansho berries. Brimming with nutrients, the flavor is unforgettable. Finally, ramen noodles and pounded rice cakes containing sansho are added to the soup, which has absorbed the flavors of the chicken, sansho, and vegetables. This signature dish warms both body and mind, and keeps customers coming back for more.

Kyo-sansho hot-pot with budo sansho

“This is perfect!” was Furumoto-san’s impression the first time he tried budo sansho. At the time, he was looking for a sansho to use in the Kyo-sansho hot-pot for his new restaurant in Sanjo, Kyoto. He had in mind a hot-pot similar to that of a former restaurant in Keihoku that specialized in local cuisine and was only known by those in the know. “I want people all over town to be able to eat that delicious hot-pot.” Striving to recreate that taste through trial-and-error, Furumoto-san searched for a sansho that would suit the flavor of the soup. He tried a number of domestic producers before being introduced to budo sansho by someone from Aridagawa Town who happened upon his restaurant. “This is perfect!” thought the convinced Furumoto-san, and the original Kyo-sansho hot-pot was born.

Furumoto-san wants “people who have never experienced real sansho, those who dislike it without having ever tasted it” to try his hot-pot. First try it with just a light amount of sansho. Even those who know they don’t like sansho often find themselves adjusting the flavor by adding more sansho as they eat, and for this reason Furumoto-san has extra sansho on hand for customers to do just that.

The signature dish, Kyo-sansho hot-pot. The rich broth, only made possible through using mature chicken along with stimulating budo sansho, warms you to the cockles of your heart

Furumoto-san’s path to becoming a chef

Furumoto-san’s desire to become a chef came from watching Zenryaku Ofukuro-sama, a TV drama set in a restaurant, when he was a junior high school student. “I want to be a cook! Where is that restaurant? I want to work there!” he thought. Upon doing some research, Furumoto-san discovered that the show’s food advisor was the famous 400-year old restaurant ‘Hyotei’, located in Nanzenji, Kyoto. He studied at a cooking school, and after much effort was accepted into the Hyotei kitchen. At Hyotei, Furumoto-san learned about Japanese tea and flowers, and was able to experience using the best ingredients and tools. After a period of illness and a return to cooking school, he spent 20 years making soba noodles at Izushi Soba.

Following this period Furumoto-san returned to Kyoto and opened the yakitori restaurant Toriiki Honten with his nephew and the help of former classmates and local residents. The restaurant became popular, and Furumoto-san was introduced to the restaurant’s second location in Sanjo, central Kyoto. “Why not give it a go?” he thought. The restaurant in its elegant 80-year old building is always full. “If you visit once, you’ll want to introduce it to someone. Customers tell people ‘have you ever tried this before?’” says Furumoto-san happily. Most customers are repeat customers, and the restaurant is difficult to book.

“Ao-oni-yaki”: fried chicken thigh with sansho

Order while it’s available: “Chicken innard stew”

Popular menu items with budo sansho

The restaurant’s signature sansho hot-pot, with the sansho flavor blended into the broth made with locally-grown chicken, is popular with customers from overseas. This is apparently due to the familiarity of the flavor compared to that of the granulated unripe sansho berry. French customers who are used to rich spices say that some people put a sansho berry into their mouth and take a drink of alcohol. The age range of customers also varies widely, with about 40% of customers being men, compared to 60% who are women. “The hot-pot settles my stomach” and “this seems like good detox food,” say the restaurant’s female fans.

Other menu items also contain budo sansho. One example is ao-oni-yaki, fried chicken with the skin sprinkled with sansho and slowly deep-fried to crisp perfection. “Other restaurants’ are only a little crispy. My chicken skin is the crunchiest!” boasts Furumoto-san with a laugh. Certainly the invigorating numbness of budo sansho is well-suited to the crunch of fried chicken skin. The carefully simmered chicken innard stew, soft and odorless, is also a must-try. This popular dish is often ordered by customers when they make reservations.

To spread the word about the appeal of budo sansho, the restaurant has crêpe decorations and cakes made with sansho to give out as souvenirs. Furumoto-san and his cheerful laugh are avid consumers of budo sansho.

Sansho Nabe Toriiki

36 Kamanzacho, Sanjo, Nakagyo ward, Kyoto City
Kyoto prefecture, 604-8241, Japan
Phone: 075-255-5191

Opening hours: (Mon~Fri)
11:30~14:00 18:00~23:00
(Sat, Sun, Public holidays)
Irregular closures (please enquire)

◎Reservation recommended


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