Guest Blogger from Osaka
Osaka, Kansai Region, Japan
aka "Japan's Kitchen" because
it is the center of Japan's gourmet food scene
My dear friend, who was born in Japan, but moved to the USA as a young child with her parents, is currently visiting Japan. My Friend has spent her formative years in the USA, has spent more years in the USA than she ever has in Japan, and she is as red white and blue as you and me. Recently, my Friend scraped together her pennies, and decided to go visit Osaka, the city of her family's origin. Friend told me she would chronicle her Osaka food adventures while she was there. So, here is Osaka Part 1 from my Friend the Guest Food Blogger from Osaka.
Here is the deal. After rice, the noodle is revered and taken very seriously in most East Asian nations, including Japan, and the city of Osaka. Ramen and Saimen noodles are so bastardized here in the USA, and are actually not good food. Just because I actually do like and embrace the Maruchan and Nissin noodles ($0.10 per pack) does not mean they are actually good food. Mauchan and Nissin style noodles are one of my comfort foods when I need a quick meal (like mac and cheese from the blue box [which also is not good food, but I like it too]). I think most starving college kids know about the Maruchan ramen noodle, and when they graduate and years after, they will have some sort of relationship with (either avoid or embrace) the Maruchan ramen noodle package.
The above photo of my Friend and her mom is at a little ramen restaurant in one of Osaka's train stations. It is Friend's mom's favorite noodle soup joint. The noodles, broth and accompaniments are freshly made, not out of a plastic wrapper. The soup base is a fermented soy bean base similar to a rich miso, the toppings include real seaweed, and the ramen are fresh made wheat noodles. This is a real satisfying meal. This noodle served here has been made the same way for a thousand years, and will continue to be made in the traditional noodle manner. There is nothing that resembles that dried noodle packages here in the USA. This noodle soup joint in Osaka warms the tummies of many travelers, and residents alike.
Another East Asian yummy is the dried fish snacks. Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, etc all have some form or dried fish snacks. I grew up with dried squid as a potato chip meets beef jerky snack. I have also has some forms of preserved fish when I was a kid too. My Korean friends have the same thing. Apparently the Japanese have dried fish snacks too. I suppose Japan should have a tradition of fish because they have a lot of Pacific Ocean shoreline and plenty of fishing opportunities. Pictured above are dried fish snack packs you can find everywhere in Osaka. My Friend points out how the maker preserved the fish to look like a natural fish, and then they shrink wrapped the fish, so the snack can have the shelf life of a whole new emperor's lifetime.
Apparently yakitori (grilled food on a stick) is very popular in Osaka. I mean, what is not to love about fun food on a stick? Here in the USA, grilled chicken on a stick is very popular at Thai, Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Food on a stick at county fairs is also very popular. Look at the corn dog on a stick, pineapple on a stick, mango on stick, fried twinkie on a stick, we love food on stick! The Osakans seem to love food on stick too! There are ton of yakitori and beer joints all over Osaka. I think grilled chicken on a stick and a cold one sounds like a great idea! But that is not all that is served up at these places. There is the otsukuri course, or the raw meat portion of the dining and drinking experience. This raw chicken thing basically freaked out my friend because she is as USA as any USA citizen, and she is accustom to fully cooking chicken. My friend, up until a couple months ago was a vegetarian who ate eggs, milk and honey, but no meat including chicken. Luckily, she changed her ways when she needed more protein in her diet, so eating chicken in Japan would not freak her out. I admit, I am a bit freaked out at the thought of eating raw chicken.
What you see in the photo are raw chicken meat and raw chicken organ pieces. Before she tried the raw meat, she asked her relatives 10 times and more about e-coli and other diseases we have in the USA based on the industrial chicken. Japan has not had any e-coli with regards to domestic chicken, so my Friend gave a taste. What she said was that the raw chicken tasted like chicken. Who knew?
Stay tuned for more Osaka food adventures!
P.S. after I posted this blog post, it was time for a snack. I was jones-ing for some ramen after writing about the ramen, so I went to the pile of Maruchan packs and cooked myself up a package $0.10 ramen. It resembled nothing like the fresh ramem my Friend has. Oh, but it is the best worst food in the world.