Sunday, June 4, 2017

[Japan 2016] Osaka: Kuromon Ichiba Market

Photo By: Elin Chow

Leaving Minoo Park, we took the train back to Osaka, arriving at Namba-Osaka Station around noon, with no plans how to spend our remaining few hours in the city before we headed off to Itami Airport for the night.

Feeling hungry, we randomly walked into a small restaurant at Namba Station to grab some lunch. It was a cozy little restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere. The restaurant serves traditional Japanese noodle dishes like soba and udon.

English menu is not available, so we just order whatever that looks nice on the menu. The staffs speak little English, but were very friendly and helpful.

Soba with Dipping Duck Soup

Price: 1026 Yen

Duck Wheat Noodles

Price: 1026 Yen

I ordered soba with dipping duck soup and my husband ordered duck wheat noodles. Serving size were a little small, considering the price we paid. But both were delicious, though not very filling. 

After lunch, we decided to head to Kuromon Ichiba Market since it was still early. It was an unplanned trip, so we do not really know what to expect.

Located just 2 minutes walk away from Nipponbashi Station or about 10 minutes walk from Namba Station, you will find the famous Kuromon Ichiba Market. The market is one of the most popular tourist destination in Osaka - and for a good reason.

Affectionately known as "Osaka's Kitchen", Kuromon Ichiba Market is famous for its diverse and delicious food offerings. The 580-metres long fully covered street is nearly two-centuries old, consisting about 170 small shops and restaurants crowded along narrow streets.

The market specialize in food-related products, with a focus on fresh seafood. Among the 170 shops, about a quarter of them sell fresh fish and seafood while the rest sell fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, pickles and kitchenware. You will find a small number of clothing stores, drugstores and supermarkets in the market as well.

Most of the shops in the market are a mix independent, family run business and larger supermarkets. The market offers some of the best and freshest seafood in Osaka, as well as an abundance of fruits and unusual vegetables. Many professional chefs and owners visit Kuromon Ichiba Market to purchase their ingredients in bulk for their restaurants.

Besides restaurants, Kuromon Ichiba Market cater to the public as well. Many locals visit the market for fresh produce, seafood and meat for their family.

Kuromon Ichiba Market is well loved by the locals, but is increasingly becoming a popular spot for foreign tourists in recent years. Due to that, many shops has expanded to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting the market, offering more dine-in options as compared to the past.

Most of the shops in Kuromon Ichiba Market opens at 9.00 am and closes at 5.30 pm, but hours of operation may vary. The market is slightly touristy, but it is still pleasant and worth a visit, especially if you are a seafood lover.

Kuromon Ichiba Market is a seafood paradise, offering all the usual seafood that you would expect to find in Japan, as well as seasonal treats that you might not have seen before. You will be amazed by the sheer assortment of fresh seafood available at the market.

While strolling down the market, you will find plenty of stalls selling takeaway food like skewers of cooked seafood and meat and many other traditional Japanese street food which you can grab and go. It is incredibly difficult to decide on what to eat as you will be totally spoilt for choice, and will be so tempted to sample everything you see at the market.

Kuromon Ichiba Market is a great place to sample and enjoy some of the best culinary delights of Osaka. But unfortunately, eating in the market can be an expensive affair, even for people with a decent budget. After all, this is still Japan.

If you keep eating and eating from one stall to another, you will actually end up spending a lot. Almost everything sold in the market are locally produced or procured, and are of high quality, so do expect to pay a higher price than normal supermarket. It is actually not a rip-off. The higher prices are due to the high quality of produce offered.

So, be prepared to break your bank and make sure you bring plenty of cash with you as credit card is not widely accepted in the country. Do not come with an empty stomach if you do not want to spend beyond your budget.

Please note that it is generally considered rude to eat while you walk. The Japanese manner place a great emphasis on "ikkai ichi dousa", which literally means "one thing at a time" in English.  So if you do buy anything to eat from one of the stalls, you might want to stand to the side and finish it before you continue your walk down the street. Alternatively, you can also pack the food back to enjoy at your hotel or apartment.

Majority of the vendors at the market speak little English, but they are generally very friendly and approachable. Unlike most of the traditional markets in Asia, Kuromon Ichiba Market is very clean and well-organized. Perhaps because we visited on a weekday afternoon, the market is not as chaotic and crowded as we expected. It was a real pleasure to stroll through the market on a cooling day.

Since we just had our lunch (luckily we did), we did not eat much at the market. Being a huge fan of scallops, we could not resist the temptation to try a few of the scallop delicacies available in the market.

Skewered Scallops

Price: 600 Yen

While strolling through the market, we saw that there are a number of stalls selling grilled scallops on skewers, so we decided to buy one to try. The scallops were very fresh and seasoned with a sweet sauce. It was delicious, but I did not really like the sweet sauce. I believe the scallops will taste even better without the sauce.  

Buttered Grilled Scallops
Continuing down the street, we passed by a small stall on a corner that had a few stacks of fresh scallops ready to be cleaned and grilled. Even though it was expensive, my husband and I could not resist, and we each bought one to try.

The scallop is first popped open, cleaned and then put back to half of its shell before being placed on the grill. Once on the grill, it is seasoned with a dab of butter and dash of salt and pepper, as well as a a spray of soy sauce.

Price: 500 Yen 

Grilled to perfection, the scallop was incredibly delicious. Its meat was very firm but tender and juicy. Fresh from the sea, it is naturally sweet, which complement well with the butter aroma and flavor. The taste was so heavenly, so much better than the skewered scallops we had earlier on!

I wish I could finish the entire stack of scallops, but unfortunately, it was too expensive for a single little treat. Even so, it is still worth the splurge if you love scallops like me.

I tried to eat as slowly as I can so that I can savour every bite. Feeling full and satisfied, we decided to make our way back to Namba-Osaka Station to collect our luggage before heading to Itami Airport for the night. Although Kuromon Ichiba Market is not the cheapest place to eat, it is still a great place to experience Osaka's food culture.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

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