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Eating my way through Osaka

Eating my way through Osaka

After taking a cooking class in Bangkok back in August, I was hooked. It’s one thing to chow down on some local food, and quite another to learn about the ingredients and prepare it yourself. The experience provides such a unique insight into the cuisine and culture.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Japan for a long weekend and take another cooking class. Being one of the top destinations for foodies, Osaka proved to be a perfect place to explore my taste buds. Although the class cost almost twice as much as my class in Bangkok, it was worth every second of it.

We had the option to choose between a home style food course or a street food course and while both sounded intriguing – and challenging – we ultimately decided on the street food course which gave us the opportunity to cook chopstick okonomiyaki, udon noodles from scratch and chicken yakitori. All of which were delicious and not too overly complicated to make.

To make chopstick okonomiyaki (my favorite snack from our class), which is typically served and eaten at festivals in Osaka, takes a lot of skill. Our instructor told us that some of the vendors you’ll find at festivals have been practicing for over a decade. I can’t imagine spending decades preparing the same dish multiple times a day, every day, unless it was my Mom’s pasta salad or mashed potatoes.

The recipe itself starts off pretty simple with a batter of egg, rice flour, dashi and water before adding in finely chopped carrots, spring onions and cabbage. After mixing well, you pour the batter on the griddle evenly over a Shiso leaf. You can then add bean sprouts, tempura and pickled ginger to taste (the pickled ginger was by far my favorite part of the entire dish and probably the flavor that sticks out most in the finished product).

Then comes the difficult, I mean fun, part. Once the pancake is mostly cooked, a pair of chopsticks need to be pinched around one end of the pancake and used to help roll the pancake as tightly as possible. If done correctly, the recipient should be able to walk around and eat this delicious treat off the chopsticks. Of course, none of us were quite that good yet and made a bit of a mess when it came time to chow down.

To top it off, you can add chili powder, Bonito flakes, mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce. So. Many. Ingredients. My first bite was an explosion of flavors I would have never thought to put together, but extremely rewarding all the same. My next few days in Osaka I looked for a place to buy some chopstick okonomiyaki to compare, and to get one more taste before leaving, but with no luck.

Although some of the ingredients we used may be hard to find in the States, I am excited to try some of the things I’ve learned again… as soon as I have access to a kitchen.

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