22 October 2010
Japan Street Food Tour Day 1 - Tachinomi, Tonkotsu Ramen & Love
We hit the ground eating on the first day of our Japanese food fest.
This is our second visit to Japan. We've already toured the main sites so this trip we decide to settle in one spot for a week and immerse ourselves in everyday life and, of course, food! We choose Osaka because it's easy to get around on foot and we're mad urban hikers.
Our neighbourhood of choice in Osaka is Fukushima. Fukushima is one train stop or 10-15 minutes walk to Osaka Station and Umeda, allegedly the city centre. While being quite central, and with more restaurants and bars than we could count on our eight limbs, Fukushima retains a quiet, neighbourhood vibe. There's a great backpacker hostel (J-Hoppers, highly recommended if hostels are your thing). And dig the lovely little street we stayed on. It's a unique place but not everybody's cup of tea, most tourists prefer the neon, glitz and fun around Dotonbori.
We arrive at night and the first joint on our street screams joy. It's a tachinomi bar, everybody stands around the bar, drinks and nibbles on inexpensive munchies. The clientelle is mostly salarymen, men in suits with a hard day's work to forget. We see the occasional woman in these bars but it's mainly a bloke thing.
I struggle to find words to describe how friendly and welcoming the folks in these little bars are. It probably helped that were obviously so excited to be there, oohing and aahing at all the food and taking pictures. The owner lady above worked at least 13 hours a day, we saw her in the mornings preparing food for the day and still serving, smiling and full of beans at ll pm. She even gave us little presents (presento!), a pair sake glasses. Straight to the pool room...
We order a couple of nama beeru, "fresh beer", ie beer on tap, then get stuck into the food. We can't read any Japanese so we order by pointing at other folk's dishes and the little smorgasboard of prepared goodies on the counter. First up is fish. Served at room temperature in a sweet soy/mirin sauce. So simple, so homely, so good.
A lovely, simple, homely stew. We imagine this is what Japanese nannas would make.
Spaghetti with mushrooms and bacon. Unlike most of Asia, Japanese folks make a mean pasta, they are noodle masters after all. This simple little spaghetti dish is wonderful, shitaki (?) mushrooms and bacon, like a Japanese carbonara.
It's even better washed down with a little sake.
Takoyaki - octopus balls - Osaka's famous street food. We love these homemade versions.
Platter of fish cake nibblies.
Exotic alcohol selection.
After a few beers each and a bottle of sake this stand-up bar is about to become a fall-down bar. We worried about the bar tab but is was only about $35. This is going to be a good holiday...
We're still a little hungry and wander around Fukushima. There must be at least 200 restaurants within a 500 metre radius of our hostel. Everything from tiny bars to mysterious upmarket joints with minimal signage, puffer fish restaurants, italian restaurants, McDonalds, Indian and even a Russian vodka bar and restaurant. There's a strong local feel and it's kept lively by a stream of commuters, hence Fukushima is slow on the weekends, Sunday is particularly lazy.
So many places to eat down the side alleys and on the main drag.
Miss Chicken's magical food sniffing beak hones in on this ramen joint.
It's an "order by vending machine" joint. These places often do great food, don't be put off by the vending machine. Sometimes the vending machines have pictures of the dishes, others, like this one, only have Japanese characters. We found the trick is to order dishes 1,2 or 3, it's usually the main dish of the joint.
Tonkotsu ramen - thick porky broth, it reminded of the cult classic Sydney ramen joint, Gumshara. Love the fresh slithers of spring onion.
The pork slices are thick and tender. The noodles are out of this world, thick with plenty of chew.
The owners are lovely, and not shy of the camera, much like most of the people we met in Osaka.