EAT ‘TIL YOU DROP IN OSAKA
Japan's Second City Offers Pancakes and Puffer Fish
(November 7, 2007)
Osaka, with a population of 2.64 million, is widely regarded as Japan's unofficial second city after Tokyo. Situated somewhat west of the center of Honshu and lying on Osaka Bay, it is the economic hub of western Japan. Since the Edo period (1603-1868) this city has developed as a port where foodstuffs from all across Japan are shipped for distribution. This has made it the site of fierce competition among restaurants and earned it the nickname kuidaore no machi, or "the city where you eat ‘til you drop." Osaka has no shortage of cheap but delicious eateries. The Dotonbori area, in particular, with its cornucopia of restaurants and the flashy displays for which it has become famous, is always abuzz with people seeking to fill their epicurean desires.
Food for the Masses
Takoyaki are a simple snack that can be either bought at a stall or cooked at home. A batter of egg, flour, and kelp and bonito stock is poured into a special griddle with semispherical indentations, and octopus pieces, tenkasu (bits of deep-fried batter), pickled ginger, and spring onion are added. The cook makes the mixture into balls by repeatedly turning it as it cooks in each of the indentations. Like okonomiyaki, takoyaki are eaten with sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito shavings. The surface should be crisp, the inside moist, and the octopus firm.
Puffer Fish: Delicious but Poisonous
Although fugu meat is known for its delicate taste, the fish contains a deadly toxin. Even a tiny amount of the poison can be lethal if ingested, so only chefs who have been specially licensed to remove the toxic parts are allowed to prepare fugu.
The Secret Is in the Stock
Osaka is also home to many high-caliber but affordable restaurants offering Yoshoku (Western-style fare specially arranged for Japanese tastes), such as Japanese-style curry with rice and hayashi-rice (Japanese-style hash with rice). The restaurant that invented omuraisu, now a popular dish nationwide, is located in Osaka. Omuraisu, or rice cooked with chicken and ketchup wrapped in a fluffy omelet and topped with tomato sauce, is favored across Japan for its homely taste.
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