When I got back from my travels, I promised myself that I would try and complete the whole Japan food experience before the end of the summer so I could continue blogging about other things once everyone got back to work and our holidays were long forgotten. However, It’s taking a bit longer than I had planned…
Looking back through my photos and trying to piece together a food journey through Japan is easier said than done considering the extensive travelling we embarked upon taking us from one point of the country to the other.
We left our westernmost point, Hiroshima, and made our way back to Tokyo via Osaka.
Osaka is described in tourist guides as “the belly of Japan.”
Walking around Dotonbori, a very popular tourist area in Osaka, you quickly realise that this sentiment is not exaggerated. Tripadvisor’s #1 thing to do in Osaka is to visit Dotonbori!
“Osaka is known for its food, and Dotonbori is the main destination for food travel.”
A plethora of restaurants, stalls and bars that line the streets of Dotonbori. I was clearly going to be a very happy man.
During the day, even under the intense summer sun, street vendors line the streets selling food items such as barbeque scallops, gyoza, roast chestnuts and the ubiquitous takoyaki (Octopus balls).
Takoyaki – described as Octopus Balls; think of these are the savoury version of a cake pop. And can be found everywhere! Cooked in what appear to be cake-pop pans over gas burners. Whether at a restaurant or on the street, this is definitely worth a watch. These Takoyaki chefs half-fill the ‘cake-pop’ pans with a very liquidy batter. They then place an octopus piece into each and sprinkle with plenty of spring onions and red ginger, then pour over more batter.
Once the batter begins to set they go at it with metal chopsticks and make sure each ball is cooked all the way through, perfectly spherical and evenly browned. Then all that’s left is for you to decide how many pieces you want – these are either smothered in Takoyaki sauce, drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise or sprinkled with nori pieces depending on the establishment.
We went to a few different stalls trying different takoyaki in boxes of 6 – some people happily walking away with boxes of 24 balls!
Scallops cooked over charcoal – Another absolute delight were the scallops cooked on a grill. The man who ran the stall, would cook the scallops in a small wrought iron frying pan and as people ordered he would place the shell on the grill and place the scallop on the shell with a knob of butter and blowtorch it until the butter was frothy. Sadly, he wouldn’t serve you the scallop in the shell but in a polystyrene tray. Admittedly, the shell would be so hot that there is no way you’d be able to hold it anyway! Shell or no shell – lip smackingly delicious!
Gyoza – were also prevalent throughout Dotonbori. We stumbled upon a chef who was making 100’s of these and placing them into crates ready for the lunchtime trade. I can imagine he would have to undertake the same routine later on in the afternoon to have enough gyoza for the night time trade.
Crescent shaped, pork filled, fried and steamed dumplings – Oishi!
Gyoza are tasty and moreish – regardless of how full up you were from the takoyaki and scallop – there is always room for a gyoza… or three!
The streets around Dotonbori, resonate with the multitudes of people getting to and from work, popping out during their lunch break to grab a quick bite to eat or even take a box of 24 takoyaki back to the office. However, at night time, Dotonbori takes on a whole new persona.
With its attractions like the Glico running man at the ‘pick-up bridge’ and giant food signs, loud music and even more people; many rushing to dinner reservations – the vibe is electric!
That evening we dined at Gyumabe M a specialist in Matsusaka Beef, IMO better than the very over-rated Kobe Beef! (Kobe is very near Osaka).
In the centre of our table was a hot plate heated by gas burners underneath. The beef selection we chose was presented to us on a beautiful platter and the waiter identified a piece of fat that had been taken from one of the steaks. We were subsequently shown how to render the fat on the hotplate and use this to stop the beef from sticking, instead of using oil or butter. So tongs in hand, we went about cooking our beef to our liking – rare for me!
Once we had finished our meal, the manager, chef and waiters, with props in hand, posed with us for a few photos… this was a super fun place to come.
The following morning, we descended for breakfast and in the exuberance of Dotonbori I piled my plate high with Japanese and Western items for breakfast. Finishing with a corn dog!
Kore wa, amerikandoggudesu