osaka 101: namba e amor
Despite having no regional style of ramen to call its own, Osaka is oft considered the culinary epicenter of Japan. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the Dotombori, a shopping/dining/nightlife destination in the heart of the Namba district. I had already completed my night’s slurping at Kinryu ramen. But while in town, how could I pass up the chance to sample some of the Kansai area’s other, more specialized eats?
Takoyaki are virtually synonymous with the third-largest city in Japan. More of a snack than a full meal, octopus balls are diced chunks of tentacly goodness, encased in batter and grilled in egg carton-shaped iron pans. The Dotombori is littered with takoyaki stalls, and famous Osaka chains like Gindako are looking to expand into the United States. Could these be the next big thing stateside? Grilled octopus at the county fair? I’m all for it.
Kani Doraku is likewise an Osaka institution. Their gigantic mechanical crabs are landmarks on the Dotombori - they have three shops a block away from each other! The variety of ways they manage to serve crab can be considered a cuisine all its own., from kani-chiri (crab hot pot) to grilled crab legs to raw crab sashimi. You might break a few teeth getting through all the shells, but it’s definitely worth it.
Okonomiyaki literally translates to “grilled as you like it”. The Osaka-style of Okonomiyaki is to blend all your favorite ingredients (from meats and seafoods to vegetables and cheese) into a cabbage/batter mix and fry it up at your tableside griddle, then brush it with okonomi sauce (a thick, Worcestershiresque thing and top it with mayonnaise and dried seaweed and bonito shavings. This particular shop on the strip has been in business for over seventy years, and was perfect for a hearty lunch right before leaving town.