Yesterday was just the day we needed as we’re nearing the end of our wandering adventure: shopping, friends and amazing food that was yaki and yum all at the same time.
To the casual eye we might look like a couple of efficient travellers with our tiny backpacks. I’ve lost count of the times people have said variations of: ‘How can you possibly have everything you need for a year of travel in that?’
The increasing piles of boxes we’ve posted home tell a much different story.
And they must be dangerously overflowing by now. Eeeeep. Sorry mum and dad, but after yesterday’s successes there’s at least one more box coming your way!
And you know what? I lay the blame fair and square with Doguyasuji Shopping Street near Namba Station, Osaka.
Come on, it’s an entire shopping street. Devoted to cooking supplies. Dotted with restaurants and food stalls.
Shop after shop selling utensils, handcrafted Japanese knives (so pretty, so shiny, soooo sharp), and teetering collections of mugs and sprawling piles of plates and bowls in all their hand-crafted, hand-painted glory.
Honestly, can you blame us?
This place is literally Wandercooks heaven.
We could easily have spent the whole day in Doguyasuji if not for that little growl in our tummies.
Time For Some Piping Hot Takoyaki
So there we were, weighing up the food options around us as we walked along, when our friend Rieko stopped in her tracks and said ‘This is it! This is THE MOST famous takoyaki place in Japan. They make the best takoyaki ever!’
Well after that it was a done deal, we just had to find out if it was true.
Now if you’ve never eaten takoyaki before, they’re like squishy little balls of batter that are crispy on the outside, and soft and melty on the inside. What makes them special is the little piece of tako (octopus) smothered inside.
And the takoyaki dished up at Wa Na Ka Takoyaki Shop were bigger than any we’ve tried before.
Takoyaki are ridiculously fun to eat. It’s an actual challenge to pick up them up using those tiny elongated toothpicks without them collapsing mid journey from plate to face.
Settling down in the tiny eating room hidden behind the store, I got to go first.
My takoyaki was quivering on the end of my toothpick, and with no further thought I shoved it in before it could collapse into a melty mess on the table.
This was probably not the best idea.
So there I was, eyes watering, mouth quivering, trying desperately to not choke on the molten lava in my mouth. Thank god for free ice water to ease that burn, that’s all I can say.
Let this be a cautionary tale for all you street food lovers: Just let them cool for like, a minute, okay?
If you can’t make it over to Japan to try them you could always make your own Takoyaki at home. 😉
And Now For Some Crispy Sweet Taiyaki
Turns out the subway ride home was juuuuust long enough for that little snack monster inside to awaken. This time, a sweet little something was just the cure we needed.
We turned to Rieko for another of her famous sweet treat recommendations: this time, Taiyaki.
According to Rieko the BEST Taiyaki can only be found at this one stall around the corner from her apartment in Fukushima, which she’d been wanting us to try for ages.
But what are Taiyaki?
Well, they might have a similar sounding name to Takoyaki, but we can assure you. Taiyaki are a whole different kettle of fish.
For starters, they’re a crispy hot sweet dessert that we’d be more than willing to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Have I got your attention now?
Made from a crispy pancake casing filled with steaming hot sweetened red bean paste, these little fish-shaped treats are almost like a waffle, but way cuter.
I have to admit, I hesitated for just a moment. And not because of my waistline.
That golden little fish was just too cute!
Unfortunately for the Taiyaki, its amazing hot sugary waffle smell was making my mouth water too much to resist any longer.
Guyyyys… wherever you are, you need to try one.
We’re pretty sure you could recreate them using a waffle maker and a decent helping of homemade anko red bean paste, and they’d be just as good.
Hell we’d even try making them with a toastie/sandwich maker.
Do it. 😉
Our Other Favourite Yaki Yums
Yaki means grilled in Japanese, and there are so many amazing grilled delights in Japan. Here are just a few of our favourites:
Yakitori / Yakiniku
Chicken or meat skewers traditionally grilled over a charcoal flame. These things come in all varieties, flavours, and cuts of meat, but no matter which you choose they are guaranteed to be delicious, especially when washed down with your favourite beer.
The standard variety of these droolworthy Japanese pancakes is usually packed with cabbage, bacon and eggs in a dashi-based batter that’s grilled up and topped with Japanese BBQ sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, katsuoboshi (bonito flakes) and aonori (seaweed powder). But you’ll even find them made with kimchi, pork or soba noodles for extra flavour.
Literally ‘grilled noodles’ this is street food heaven on a plate. Usually made with grilled chicken, carrot and and green vegetables, we love yakisoba even better when it’s grilled to crispy perfection and smothered in yakisoba sauce.
What’s your favourite Japanese food? Have you ever made up a plate of yum ‘yaki’ at home? Tell us all your favourites.
P.S. To all our fellow foodies and bloggers: If you ever head to Japan, please, please, PLEASE do yourself a favour and head over to Doguyasuji in Sennichimae/Namba, Osaka – gorge on delicious street food deck out your kitchen with cool gadgets and pretty things for next to nothing.