Dotonbori in Osaka – Eaters’ Paradise
Cherry Blossoms Trip Part 3
I have never been to Osaka before, this was my first visit. Osaka is sometimes recognized as the capital of food in Japan, and as food lovers we were happy to find lots of attractive snacks which were not only tasty but also gorgeous to look at. Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi districts are just a stone’s throw from each other, separated by the Dotonbori canal. The former is known for its bright neon signs and mouthwatering Japanese food hidden in the streets and alleys, and the latter is packed with trendy fashion outlets.
Above, clockwise: 1. Shinsaibashi is a hot shopping area, 2. The beautiful Dotonbori canal at night, 3. The symbolic “Crab” shop at the entrance of Dotonbori, 4. The crowd flocking into Dotonbori after dark to get a taste of Japanese cuisine and snacks.
The history of Dotonbori dates back to the 17th century. The name comes from a man by the name of Doton, who envisaged the business opportunities around the rivers around Osaka. He then built a canal connecting the tributaries, now known as the Dotonbori canal, the term coined by the lord of Osaka castle at that time. Our journey of Japanese culinary experience starts from a commonplace hotpot shop. We went there because it was included in our tour, but the freshness of the hotpot ingredients quite lived up to our expectations.
The Red Monster
However, as worshippers of good food, we had kept an eye on the colorful streets in the district which offered so much more. Our first stop is the “Red Monster” (what a mascot he is, just look at the lower left photo!), serving the exciting sizzling hot Cuttlefish balls and a range of authentic Hiroshima-styled pancakes.
Here comes the great snacks. We have their equivalent counterparts in Hong Kong, but not half as marvelous! The cuttlefish balls had a creamy paste stuffed with cuttlefish bits with a crispy thin shell. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a savory pancake containing a rich mixture of octopus, baggage and an assortment of vegetables topped with salad dressing – was grilled in front of our eyes. The young master chef glazed the top of the pancake with a sweet sauce and then added salad dressing on to it.
The Gold Dragon
Our stomachs were nearly full by this time but we simply couldn’t stop. The next outlet we tried was just opposite to the “Red Monster” – the famous “Gold Dragon” noodle place. You can never miss the shop as it appears in every guidebook and its lively logo, a real dragon climbs down from above the shop to greet you…
Drawn closer to the shop, we were attracted by the fumes coming from boiling soup. We ordered the barbecued pork ramen, served in pork bone soup, otherwise known as Tonkotsu (豚骨) or white soup. The thick broth was kept boiling for many hours until the essence of the pork bone dissolved into the whitish soup. Traditionally the soup in Japanese ramen has four different varieties, the “salt”, “pork bone”, “soya sauce” and “miso”, and their popularity varies from region to region across the country. For example, in Kyushu down south their specially is pork bone ramen and you wouldn’t dare try any other variety of soup (because it’s that good, I heard!).
This time our stomachs were really full. But still we could carry on with another feast – a visual one! The many different signs and objects in the streets and alleys were just amazing. It was fun just to walk with the crowd, no matter looking at the exterior of beautifully decorated shops or the delicate candies and cakes inside the shops.
Our hearts full of satisfaction, we strolled down the Shinsaibashi back to our hotel. It was a night we could never forget.