Thursday, 22 September 2011

Takoyaki & Okonomiyaki

The second installment in the tale of our trip to Japan over Chuseok (Korean National Holiday).

So after our rather large lunch, we had already spent 30 quid despite our initial intentions to find a cheaper options and save ourselves for the evening. This was proving difficult so we took some down time and headed over to The Blarney Stone, an Irish pub on a side street off Shinsaibashi shopping mall. The Blarney Stone is a very typical pub, bar stools covered with robust and stain proof carpet material and a huge projector screen was in place for the England v. Argentina rugby match. Tom couldn't possibly miss the action despite our current exciting location, but I didn't begrudge him. I was pretty knocked out from the heat and walking about. There was a promotion out front, a free shot incentive for anyone wearing a team shirt and I surmised it was a foreigner haunt rather than a Japanese local. But where else would we find the rugby match? We stayed for the duration of the game, had a few beers and were subjected to the taunts of the rest of the patrons who all seemed to be supporting Argentina. That just gave us all the more satisfaction when our team won! We were the only two celebrating so I felt a longing pride for my homeland!

We asked the Kiwi bar tender if he had any good restaurant recommendations, but all he said was, 'why not stay here'. The food was the usual pub grub and we didn't come to Japan to sample more of that so we moved on.

We headed back towards the river and crossed south where we found a wealth of food vendors and exuberant restaurants to tempt us. There was too much choice and variety! Although most of it seemed a little pricey, I know I keep coming back to that point but my one gripe with Japan is its damn expense!
We found a nice little Takoyaki stand to sample the famous Osaka street food. Takoyaki is a batter ball, filled with sliced octopus, almost like a fried dumpling and served with takoyaki or soy sauce. We went for the plain version. It was delicious and incredibly hot having just left the moulding grill. It was fun to try something so different and the appearance of all the huge protruding dragons and octopus along the street brought a level of ridiculousness while eating this snack. It was only a snack though, so we continued our search.

The second food we wanted to sample was the okonomiyaki. ''Okonomi'' meaning what you like, and ''yaki'' meaning fried. It was a strange feeling walking around the busy streets. In India we were used to touts approaching with the hard sell, not taking no for an answer. In Japan however, we were approached by a few vendors but when we told them we were looking for okonomiyaki, they young salesmen pointed us to a competing restaurant, one man said it was his favorite! How refreshing, a bit of honesty and guidance! I liked Japan more and more!

So after walking through the arcade, past a lonely wandering bear which only presented itself as another example of Japan's quirky spirit, we walked down some stairs to a small grill café where we ordered a seafood okonomiyaki and waited patiently, observing the other patrons so we could figure out what we were supposed to do when the food came out. We are used to Koreans pretty much taking over the bbq whenever we show our foreign faces, as though we can't figure out how to do it without constant supervision. But when the waitress brought out the ready made seafood, vegetable and what seemed to be eggy pancake, she only advised we put on some teriyaki sauce and mayo which we did and we cut the patty with the spatula and tucked in.

It was rather small and not so different from a regular savoury pancake. I actually prefer the Korean Pajeon. I did however like the sentiment of the hot plate and sharing the food. The taste was a rather comforting hotchpotch of bubble and squeak without potato and with added seafood. It had a re-fried left overs element which isn't as bad as it sounds, and anyway what is wrong with eating left overs!

We took a nice walk along the river and through the Dotonbori area, then called it a night. It was a lovely city walk if ever there was one, filled with the spirit of bright lights, happy faces and full bellies.

I think this sums up the expense of Japan, but neglects to tell you that you will also lose you health because of all the food you will be eating!

And so concludes our fist day in Osaka. Mainly eating and browsing shops, but that seems to be the running theme that allows Osaka to function! Next….. Kyoto.

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