What Nanban Means in Japanese Food Names
Nanban Soba, Chicken Nanban, Nanban Zuke, Nanban Gashi… In Japanese food culture, a lot of “Nanban (南蛮)” things can be seen.
But what is Nanban?
Meaning of Nanban (南蛮)
Nanban, when used as a prefix to nouns, can stand for things transmitted from Southeast Asia or Portugal or Spain, or whatever looks exotic.
Because the word initially meant Portugal and Spain that had colonies in Southeast Asia. Therefore, Nanban Gashi refers to confectionery with roots in those countries.
Meanwhile, Nanban stands for Negi or green onions in the names of Udon and Soba dishes such as Curry Nanban, as Japanese at the time believed Spanish and Portuguese people favored Negi.
Further, as seen in the dish of Nanban Zuke, Nanban can also stand for Togarashi or chili peppers. Togarashi has another name of Nanban Garashi.
(Reference Page: Goo Dictionary, j-town.net )