I just returned from two weeks in Japan, Osaka and Kyoto specifically … two glorious weeks where dinnertimes were a dizzying array of authentic Japanese food, everything from sushi to ramen to shabu-shabu to my absolute favorite: tonkatsu, a breaded pork concoction seen above that’s crisp and crunchy on the outside, but moist and tender on the inside!!! The meal also traditionally comes with cabbage (that has its own yummy dressing), rice, miso soup with the little clams in it, and a fine array of crunchy Japanese pickles. It’s amazing as it sounds, especially when you dip it in the thick brown sauce that always come with it.
But to me, visiting Japan is all about the ramen. I always joke that I love ramen so much I would eat it for breakfast if it were socially acceptable, and then suddenly there I was in a country where it is indeed socially acceptable to eat ramen for breakfast! I prefer to call it #ramenheaven.
The only way I can do justice to all the incredible Japanese foods I ate for dinnertime is to share some of it with you. So with no further adieu (mainly because my mouth is watering at the memories), here are some the amazing meals I indulged in during my most recent time in Japan.
Of course, sushi is always on the menu when traveling in Japan, like this sweet presentation in a Osaka sushi joint. I ate sushi four times, including my first night in Japan … seems only apt. Osaka seemed like a big seafood city with lots of seafood restaurants and fresh seafood in the markets. So the sushi was always fresh and creamy … sometimes it just melt in the mouth.
This booth in Osaka’s Kuramon Shopping Area was really interesting. You choose the cut of beef you want …
…in my case a nice slice of Kobe beef, complete with Kobe beef certificate …
The staff cooks your beef on a grill, with liberal dashes of black pepper …
… and then serve it up with onions, garlic chips, scallions, and a nice dipping sauce. Osaka is known as a beefeaters paradise, what with it close proximity to Kobe, so beef restaurants are everywhere, all at varying prices. This little stand in the market served it up perfectly, satisfying my cravings for beef.
Osaka’s Kuromon Market is a foodie paradise. Not only is a haven for fruits, vegetables, electronics and clothing, it also hosts from pretty good restaurants. Vendors will also prepare seafood like fish, scallops and prawns in the same quick grilled manner as the beef stand above. Part of the fun of visiting the market is picking and choosing individual vendors for a quick, cheap, delicious meal on the go.
Shabu-shabu like I’ve never had it before. And that’s because the pic above was my very first foray into this traditional Japanese hotpot meal, and it did not disappoint! Shabu-shabu is basically thinned sliced beef, tofu, and vegetables boiled in water or dashi and eaten with accompanying dipping sauces and steamed rice. The food is cooked piece by piece by the diner at the table. And if all that is not enough, when you’re done with all of the main ingredients, you pour the leftover broth into the steamed rice for a delicious, meal-capping soup!
Hearty and nutritious, I am now looking for good shabu-shabu restaurants here in San Francisco so I can relive the experience again and again, although it’s likely none will come close to matching my first time.
Unagi at a restaurant in Osaka’s Kuromon Market.
Some traditional pastries at a Kyoto teashop …
This is a rice ball stuffed with red bean wrapped in an olive leaf, perfect with a cup of strong green tea.
There was the occasional afternoon salad, this one courtesy of Club Bibliotic Hello!, a funky cafe in Kyoto.
And when one wants a change from Japanese food, Korean hit the spot, like this yummy meal at a Korean restaurant in Kyoto Station.
Got a hankerin’ for Italian? How about individually wrapped pizza slices? These weren’t bad, and at 250 yen they were a bargain. Actually, the Japanese like Italian food, and there are many Italian restaurants for those you may not care for Japanese food (are there really people like that?).
Mid-afternoon coffee and desserts from Second House in Kyoto as the rain came down. The Thelonious Monk dollar is actually the back side of the bill.
Who has room for dessert?
Even the fake food looked (semi) good!
But let’s get to the main event: ramen! Because as the sign above the Kyoto ramen joint Ayam-Ya says in the pic above, “No Ramen, No Life.” Here’s a gallery of just some of the yummy ramen I ate during my two week stay in Japan.
As if there’s not enough going on in this pic of ramen awesomeness, notice the side of gyoza, one of my other favorite Japanese foods!
The two bowls of ramen pictured above and below were found in the excellent Kyoto ramen joint Gogyo. The ramen here was extraordinary, rich and tasty. The pic above is their famous Burnt Miso Ramen. Don’t let the name full you; this is a tasty bowl of soup with a bold but smooth flavor. If you’re in Kyoto, and you love ramen, put Gogyo at the top of the list. And visitors to Tokyo need not worry; there’s a Gogyo there too!
Whew! I’m exhausted! Hope you all enjoyed my little gallery of yummy Japanese food. Thank you for letting me indulge … albeit visually.
More pics and tidbits from my recent trip to Osaka and Kyoto to come!