Kuidaore in Dotombori a food mecca

Through the Shinsaibashi shopping arcade and under the flashes of neon lights, gigantic billboards and mechanical mascots lies the food mecca of Osaka, Dotombori located in the minami area of Osaka. Compared to the Kita Osaka, Minami Osaka is where you'll find the hustle and bustle with restaurants, bars, karaoke, clubs, pachinko parlours lining and squeezed in every nook and cranny of Dotombori.

Dotombori has a food culture and of course there is an abundance of food everywhere to satisfy any of your food cravings. There is saying in Osaka "kuidaore" which means to 'enjoy and eat food past your hearts content' until you ruin yourself and wallet – sort of like the food version of 'shop til you drop' ๐Ÿ˜› So we did just that…gorging on Osaka's street food.

We enjoyed walked along Dotomborigawa (river) which is said to have inspired Bladerunner and watched the dazzling lights of the billboards (though not all of them were lit up to conserve energy and respect Northern Japan), listened to the buskers on Ebisubashi bridge and people watched the young fashionistas. I loved the liveliness and the fun atmosphere of Dotombori and it's vibrance where here the flashiest seems to mean the best.


Shinsaibashi the start of the 600m roofed shopping arcade

Lotteria Ebi (prawn) Burger
Lotteria is a burger chain in Japan where I had an Ebi Burger (290Y) better than KFC Shanghai and Bill had a Cheeseburger set with melon soda and a juicy fried chicked for around 870Y and fought over a crispy sausage roll…in hindsight t was only 190Y so we probably should have gotten two… Overall Lotteria burgers are good but I still prefer the burgers at Freshness Burger which is another burger chain in Japan.

Glico Man of Glico candy

Tsubora-ya famous for you guessed it fugu!

Otakoya
No they don't really sell takoyaki in Coke cups but in boat cups for only 300Y (not $8AUD like in Chinatown). Instead of takoyaki again we shared an ika-yaki which is a deliciously baked squid encased in a cracked egg.

Ika-yaki

Glico Confectionary
Glico produces many of my childhoold favourites including Pocky, Caramel and Bisco which are bite size wheat germ crackers with a milky cream filling.

Coco-Rico crepes

Banana Strawbery Chocolate Crepe


Giant Takoyaki Pretz and Green Tea Pretz

You'll come to realise Japan loves limited editions and seasonal items so there are Pretz flavours you're only able to buy in certain areas like the takoyaki flavour and okonomiyaki flavours are only sold in the Kansai region.

Korean Cultural Cooking class LA Galbi and Kochujang Jiggae

Annyeong! I love Korean food, especially hot pots and I love having Korean bbq with friends (not so much having the bbq smell in my hair) and kimchi and korean fried chicken are staples in my house but I've no idea how to make most of these korean dishes. So I was excited when Heather Jeong of SBS Korean Food Safari and SBS Kitchen Conversations fame invited me to attend one of her popular Korean cooking classes held at the Korean Cultural Office (255 Elizabeth Street, Sydney). I was a bit confused as I'd walked past Elizabeth Street several times but I've never seen the KCO well it's not because I'm going mad but it's fairly new and opened in 2011 the year of friendship between Korea and Australia. The Korean Cultural Office is more like a museum and currently exhibitis ancient tools, Korean arts and instruments.

Our class was a small group of six and I was lucky enough to bump into the lovely Vivian there too. I especially loved how intimate the class felt and made it a very enjoyable hands-on class. Heather started to demonstrate and explain Korean cuisine and core ingredients whilst we nibbled on some gingko nuts, said to improve your memory.
One of the dishes we were taught was LA Galbi a dish which has increased in popularity in Hawaii and Los Angeles. This is one of Bill's favourite dishes and we almost always order these marinated short ribs when we go Korean bbq. Heather kindly explained the different cuts of meat, showed us how to butterfly the meat and tips on how to buy them at the butchers – ask for pyeon galbi (non-marinated). We each marinated our own cuts of meat with sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, refined brown sugar and some kiwi to break down the meat with acidity and popped it in the fridge to absorb all the flavours and ready to cook later at home. Heather had  pre-marinated some LA galbi which she simmered over a low heat (on baking paper so the sugar doesn't ruin the pan) and we had a plate of tender, sweet short ribs best wrapped in a korean lettuce.
Kochujang jiggae and sundubu were one of the first Korean dishes I tried and I've loved Korean cuisine ever since. Kochujang jiggae is a korean chilli hotpot, a sort of comfort food to eat with a bowl of steamed rice. It's a one pot dish and very easy to make, as long as you have some core ingredients – kochujang – a vibrant red chilli paste made from harvested and sundried chillis and doen jang – a fermented soybean paste. The seasoning (kochujang, doen jang, dash of soy sauce) along with your vegetables (tofu, zucchini, potatoes) and pork mince are cooked in the korean claypot called a duk baegi which can be bought at Korean grocery shops. After 10 minutes it should a vibrant red and be bubbling hot, ready to eat with a bowl of rice.

Once we had the hands-on cooking experience and gained knowledge of the korean culture as well as the cuisine, the class concluded with a sit down meal, sampling the dishes we made today and banchan which are side dishes normally served at each meal to accompany your rice – I love banchan served at korean restaurants I would be happy eating just that with rice! Heather generously prepared a colourful array of banchan including kimchi, kongnamul (bean sprouts in sesame oil), a Japanese style sunomono and lotus root jorim (simmered in broth). Heather also bbqed some strips of wagyu which were marbled beautifully, seafood pajeon (pancake) with squid and mung bean pajeon to sample. Due to the sweetness of korean dishes, dessert is normally fruit however since it is nearing "Chuseok" the celebration of the harvest moon and Korean thanksgiving, we were treated to some pretty rice crisps!

The Korean Cultural Office cooking class was a great experience and I had a lot of fun learning to make some of my favourite korean dishes. The classes are intimate and Heather is a lovely teacher providing guidance along the way. It was a great way to learn further about the korean culture and the unique ingredients and techniques particular to korean cuisine. The Korean Cultural Office are holding cooking classes in October and November and are very affordable and pays for itself with the sit down meal at the end ๐Ÿ˜‰ For further information head on over here Traditional and Modern Tastes of Korea. Happy Chuseok and Moon Festival everyone!

Korean Cultural Office Cooking Class

Pyeon galbi

Butterfly and score the meat

Marinate in sesame oil, soy, green shallots, ginger, garlic and brown refined sugar

Simmer over a low heat for sweet, tender LA Galbi

Doen Jang – soybean paste

Kochujang Jiggae

Steamed rice

Wagyu strips


Mung bean pajeon

Banchan

Happy Chuseok!

Heather Jeong

Thank you KCO for a lovely afternoon and beautiful meal. Ayana attended courtesy of Korean Cultural Office.

Shiki

I just read on twitter that Shiki is celebrating their 27th anniversary! Shiki (Argyle St, The Rocks) is the longest established Japanese reaturant in Sydney and though my parents dined here when they first arrived in Australia some 23years ago, it was only earlier this year that I dined here for the first time. It's quite fancy, the interior is roomy and the dark furnishings matched with the jazz music made it that much more romantic.

We were here with another couple and the staff gave us the flexibility of ordering degustation as well as the a la carte menu. Our besties opted to order the monthly degustation which changes each month which is a very good reason to go back each month to try something new! On the other hand Bill and I chose a few items from the a la carte menu. We ordered the Deluxe Sashimi platter a chefs selection of sashimi which included thick pieces of fresh succulent ocean trout, maguro (tuna), hamachi (kingfish), tai (snapper), hotate (scallop) and bonito and followed by Wagyu Sirloin steak cooked to order medium rare and served with ponzu – my favourite condiment. While I was happily eating away at my Seafood Chawanmushi our pink ganen plate arrives along with the seafood platter. Shiki is known for their pink ganen (rock salt) hot plate which is a natural salt from the Himalaya which won me over with the phrase "absorbs the excess fat making it extremely healthy" and "no chance of food being burnt" – a win for both Bill and I since we had to cook it ourselves. The seafood was grilled lightly on the pink salt plate bringing out the natural flavour of the seafood and since it absorbed a small amount of the pink salt I found it quite cleansing on the palate. I'm a sucker for shiratama so when I spot this on the menu we finished the night off on a sweet note sharing a dessert plate of Green Tea ice cream, red bean, strawberries and shiratama.

If you're in the mood for traditional Japanese food which is a little fancy you should definitely consider Shiki. I'm looking forward to trying one of their monthly degustations next time.

Shiki Sydney

Umeshu

Deluxe Sashimi Plate

Wagyu Sirloin Steak


Seafood Chawanmushi

Natural Pink Ganen plate

Pink Salt Seafood plate

Dessert Plate

Shiki on Urbanspoon

Spring and sakura in Osaka, Japan

Hurrah spring has finally arrived! It was only a few months ago when I was experiencing spring in Japan where we were blesssed as the sakura were still blooming when we arrived. It was quite unimaginable to think how tumltuous the month leading into spring was in Japan but the cherry blossoms in all it's breathtaking beauty brought a calm and sense of hope to the nation.

Our first leg of our Japan trip was in Osaka having arrived at Kansai airport. Osaka is only three hours from Tokyo on the shinkansen and a mere 15mins from Kyoto. It is generally divided into Kita (north) where the business district is as well as the bigger department stores and Minami (south) is where Osaka through the hustle and bustle of the city comes to life.  

On our first full day in Japan we decided to view Osaka castle and the surrounding park located in Kita Osaka. Osaka-jo (castle) was once built to signify unity in Japan however after several civil wars saw it subsequently destroyed, it is now a recontruction of the original castle. It's a beautiful and regal tower gilded in gold rising above Osaka and surrounded by a deep moat. Unfortunately it's not really a "castle" and inside it actually houses a museum documenting the history of Osaka castle.
From Osaka station we hopped on a train to Tenmabashi (a 10min walk from Osaka castle). However from the window of our train we saw a wide river lined with cherry blossoms and spontaneously got off the train without knowing where we were which is very unlike me and a result of Bill's influences. It happened to be Sakuranomiya station and we followed the crowds to Sakuranomiya park which is know for it's 4700 cherry blossom trees. We took a casual stroll along Ogawa (literally big river) under the very impressive sakura trees and headed towards Osaka castle which we could see in the distance. It turned out to be a fairly long walk but we were mesmerised by the blue sky lined with pink clouds and from watching petals gently flutter to the ground in front of our paths. I think our walk took two hours to eventually reach the castle but we had so much fun people watching on our way as groups camped along the river with their grills and booze, and checked out small food stalls along the way (mostly selling takoyaki).


The view from the train


Osaka castle in the distance

After two hours…Osaka-jo
Our morning "stroll" over we headed back to Osaka station which just so happens to be really close to all the luxury stores and big department stores such as Daimaru, Yodobashi Camera, Hankyu department store and Hep Five where a huge ferris wheel sits atop it. Being the main transport hub in Osaka we did get a little lost but found an awesome "water" clock on the south side of the building which we watched in awe with a couple of younger kids.

Before intensely hitting the shopping strips we take a break at Starbucks and we were presented and overwhelmed by the "sakura" options they had on offer – I went a little crazy and we shared a sakura macaron, sakura latte, sakura frappuccino and sakura chiffon cake… they also had sakura scones and sakura cake pops. Unfortunately the sakura macaron was pretty but had no substance, but on the other hand the sakura chiffon cake was fluffy and surprisingly I even enjoyed the icing on top. We weren't sure what to expect from the sakura frappuccino but it was quite refreshing with a hint of sourness but the sakura latte was too milky to be able to anjoy the flavours.

With our sugar levels back up it was time to hit Shinsaibashi a 600m shopping arcade ๐Ÿ˜€


Osaka Station

Osaka South Side Building

more sakura!

pretty patterns

OSAKA WOW!

Yes, we're easily amused and that is another minute of our life gonee

Starbucks Sakura Latte, Sakura Macaron and Sakura Chiffon Cake