This was my first time in Japan. And the funny thing is, my travel money has been spent mostly on either food or experiences. I’m not even mad. That’s the point of travelling isn’t it? To try new things that you ultimately cannot try back home? That’s what I believe anyway. Yeah I bought myself a sweatshirt or two, maybe a new pair of track pants and some souvenirs for the family, cute little trinkets and whatnot. But it’s what I’ve seen and eaten that really counts. Today’s chapter is just some of the mouth-watering and devilishly addictive food I’ve consumed on this trip in no particular order.
Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)
Discovered in: Hiroshima, Japan
I was lucky enough to try Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake) for the first time, but not just any regular old pancake, authentic Hiroshima-style pancake. It was literally a two second walk from our apartment which we just happen to come by. Walking in, the place is filled with smoke and chatter in a cosy diner. We sat in the cushiony stools by the kitchen. It was amazing, the chefs would cook multiple pancakes right in front of us, a horseshoe of hungry customers surrounding them. The head chef particularly, was very inviting and friendly. He spoke to us and ensured we westerners were comfortable. He told us a little about himself. He was originally from Guatemala and opened up this restaurant over 10 years ago.
What exactly is Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki? It’s a savoury Japanese snack containing a variety of ingredients. The name derives from okonomi which translates to either ‘how you like’ or ‘what you like’. The term yaki meaning ‘cooked’. It’s made up of pancake mix made from scratch, two eggs, tender pork, a whole lot of cabbage and soba noodles. The chefs would pack and pack it, tightening it into a pancake while on the flat grill. It’s served to us on the grill with instructions on how to cut, prepare and eat it. The utensil to eat it? A single spatula. Along with this addictive, smoky “maple syrup” that I couldn’t help but drown my pancake in. I enjoyed this meal so much that I’ve had it again and again, multiple times on this trip with nothing but a big smile on my face and a satisfied stomach. If ever in Hiroshima, definitely try this mouthwatering savoury treat.
Go Go Gorilla Curry
Discovered in: Tokyo, Japan
How good is Japanese curry? How good is curry in general? It was the first day in Tokyo and there it was, a bright yellow shack stuck between two massive buildings with a beastly gorilla roaring as the mascot. Upon entering, it was a bar dining-style experience where you can literally peer in and see the chefs prepare the katsu curry up close. What’s a katsu curry made up of anyway? A bed of rice, pork or chicken (or both) katsu, a couple of baby sausages, some cabbage topped with Go Go Gorilla’s signature gravy sauce. And the answer is yes, it tasted as good (if not better) as it sounds. I personally couldn’t choose between the chicken and pork katsu so I ordered both. The rice had a bunch of sizing choices and me, guilty of ordering with my eyes, my fat ass ordered the “Business Size” at 500 grams. That’s half a fucking kilo. Worth it. Demolished the meal, but I sure had a difficult time doing normal, easy activities like you know… walking. Still highly recommend though!
Discovered in: Osaka, Japan
What is Takoyaki? It’s a wholesome Japanese snack that comes in a bite sized arancini ball-shape typically filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion made from a wheat flour-based batter. These amazing creations are cooked in a specially moulded pan, think of cupcake trays but exclusive to Takoyaki. This treat is special, because I have allergies to seafood. And what a delightful surprise it was to learn that I could eat and eat without succumbing to an allergic reaction.
It made the meal that much more tasty knowing I conquered it. If left to my own devices, it’d be dangerous because I could devour so many of this Japanese snack before my stomach realises it’s full.
Discovered in: Osaka, Japan
Let me just say that the Colonel’s Kentucky fried chicken has a special place in my heart. It’s been there for me through thick and thin, the good days and the hungover days. The incredibly hungover days, where all you want is something messy and greasy. The Colonel’s had your back since 1952 when the franchise first began.
Once my ears caught wind that an all-you-can-day KFC buffet existed in Osaka, it wasn’t long after until my stomach gurgled and barged its way in, slapping it on the must-go itinerary. When we arrived, it was an experience like no other KFC experience before it.
Upon making our entrance, we had an hour and a half window to eat to our hearts content. Challenge accepted. What did we have to work with here? Deep breath. The Colonel’s OG chicken, as many nuggets as you could grab, the most tender chicken strips you’ll ever lay eyes on, perfectly salted wedges, roast chicken, cheesy toasties, crisp donut biscuits with maple syrup, gravy (obviously), Japanese curry sauce. Just to name a few. Seconds and thirds, even fourths were welcomed so long as you could muster up the pain of standing up with a full as fuck stomach. Unlimited refills were also on the table. And when you thought it couldn’t get better than that, they hit you with a dessert banquet. Neapolitan ice cream, Japanese edition: Green Tea, Chocolate and Vanilla. Creamy panacotta, coffee brûlée and fruity jelly. It’s as if I died and went straight to heaven. I was stuffed and incapable of eating anything else for the next 12 hours but hey, it’s an experience and I hold no regrets. Highly recommend, so long as you rock up with an empty stomach. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Eleven days into my Japan trip and these are the food highlights but this barely scratches the surface. There’s still so much food to try, so much food consumed and to be consumed that I haven’t covered just yet. I’ll just cover it in part two. Stay tuned!