Thursday 11 August 2016

Kuromon Market | Kuromon Ichiba ~ Namba

Kuromon Market, a wet-market in the heart of Osaka not only sells meat, fruit and vegetables but functions almost like a tourist attraction with lots of food choices and even a nice seating/eating area equipped with clean public toilets. Also known as Osaka's Kitchen, this is a must-visit for cheap eats and cheap buys.

This is the entrance right outside Nippombashi train station Exit 9. 

Zoom in to see the map

Be sure to pick up this map from inside the station or access it here

Zoom in for a sample of a store description
It's a booklet that features all the shops in Kuromon Market. There's a description of every shop and their specialties.

Here are a few things we did at Kuromon Ichiba.

Bought Coffee Beans

As you enter the market, directly on the left is a coffee shop which sells whole beans, ground if needed. This shop is not stated on the map but it's close to Exit 9 of the Nippombashi station.

The lady managing the shop doesn't speak English but she tries to communicate with you regardless. Thanks to that, we managed to buy a bag of coffee beans from her. We had coffee made from the beans just recently and it was good - smokey and bitter, a good pick-me-up in the morning.

Further up at the 2nd intersection of the market sits Green Beans Parlor - a store that sells yet-to-be-roasted green coffee beans, only roasted when purchased.

The variety is quite amazing - sacks fill the store leaving you with little space to walk around. The actual roasting and cooling time depends on whether there are beans roasting in the single machine available. Take a long walk after purchasing your choice of beans to give them adequate time to roast and cool your selected bag of beans.

Each sack has a label which states the name, the price, the acidity level, the bitterness and other characteristics the coffee beans may have. We purchased a pack of Caramelado and regretted we didn't get more. It was an excellent choice with low acidity and pretty mellow bitterness. The minimum purchase quantity is 300 grams.

Ate 250 yen Sushi at Uotake Sushi

Uotake is located at Shop No. 50 on the map, the quieter section of Kuromon Market. At a glance, the biggest attraction is that all the fresh sushi is 250 yen per plate (about RM9.50)!

Click to zoom in on the menu!
There's about 30 options of sushi as well as fresh oysters and noodles (udon/soba).

It's a small stall with about 12-15 seats. You're served straight from the counter. 

Salmon, Ebi & Tako (Octopus)
The ebi and tako sushi were mine here. There's quite a bit of wasabi under those slices of meat so I coughed and hacked from that very fresh grated wasabi. The sushi chef was so concerned, he gave me less wasabi for the rest of my sushi. The seafood were very fresh - no fishy smell and still with a bouncy texture. The tako sushi was a little bit tough but that's to be expected when they serve you pieces of tentacle.

Tuna, Inari & Unagi
The inari was good here, served in 3 pieces (to make it value for money) with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and tiny bit of wasabi. Then we got to the unagi sushi. 

It was amazing. 

The slices of eel were torched and glazed a few times creating a caramelized crust on the top so you get sweet, smokey and salty all in one bite. Absolutely heavenly.

Savored Amazing Kobe Beef Cooked On-The-Spot at Kobeya

Kobeya, located at Shop No. 7 has 2 sections - a butcher downstairs and a restaurant upstairs.

Zoom in to read the signs
For those who are travelling, Kobeya offers vacuum packing for your Kobe beef plus ice packs or ice boxes that will last 8-10 hours. That would have definitely lasted the trip back to KL!

Even though the section downstairs is a butcher, they do serve a Jjigae soup and Wagyu or Kobe beef parts of your choice, broiled on the spot. The only requirement is that it weighs at least 100 grams.

You may think 100 grams is a lot but it's only about 5 pieces as pictured above. It will however be the most memorable 5 pieces of beef you'll every have. Broiled with just salt and pepper, eat it on it's own or lightly dip it into the flavored salt, it's amazing either way. The meat is stupendously tender that chewing takes no effort all and it melts in your mouth like butter. 

Despite the minimal seasoning, the meat was so flavorful and cooked really well even though I worried for every second it was on that broiler (will it overcook? will it be too tough?). It's not every day you get your meat prepared in such a way in a market. For the best beef in Osaka, save up and have your fill at Kobeya.

Slurped Up Fresh Giant Grilled Scallops at Uofuku

Located at Shop No. 37, Uofuku is hard to miss because there will be a crowd surrounding the tiny stall and the smell of grilled seafood will hit you almost immediately.

Uofuku only sells grilled scallops. You pick the scallop size you want based on your budget and it'll be cracked open and grilled before your eyes. They season the scallop with butter and soy sauce. 

A mixture of butter and soy sauce may sound a little strange but you'll be surprise how both go so well together on scallop.

The scallop was fresh, tasty and absolutely briny. There were parts I almost spat out because it was too fishy but do try not to waste all that good scallop meat that's there.

Munched on Tempura at Nisshindou

While waiting for your scallop to cook (it'll take awhile), hop over to Nisshindou (not located on the map) just opposite of Uofuku for tempura.

Pick what you'd like fried - labels in English with pictures will guide you adequately. 

Items I didn't expect to be cooked tempura style were available like chikuwa (Japanese fish cake) and the pink pickled ginger which goes into bento boxes. The variety is impressive, lots of vegetarian items to pick from too! 

We chose to have Ebi, the most common tempura and I selected a piece of pumpkin as well. All 3 were picked up from the display area and flash-fried before being passed to you. I suppose that's how it remains crispy and fresh.

Had Soft-serve at Yamaguchien

Our last stop was at Shop No. 25, Yamaguchien the Tea Shop. Even though they specialize in tea, it's this machine outside that attracts the most attention.

A soft-serve ice-cream machine. 

This machine is not like the usual soft-serve machines were you pull a lever and out comes ice-cream. We watched as the lady took out a single-serve tub flavor of your choice and popped it into the machine, pulled a lever then out came soft serve.

I obviously didn't mind so much on how it was made as long as it was delicious. This is a peach soft serve that was flavorful and fragrant with tiny bits of peach in it. Of course, we did step into the shop for tea samples before purchasing some tea bags. This is the quietest part of Kuromon Ichiba so do drop by for some lovely soft serve and tea.

It's easy to forget that Kuromon Ichiba is essentially a wet market (like the ones in KL) with all the food taking centerstage. Household items and services are available too like this laundry area near Uotake Sushi.

Click to zoom in!

Fish, fish and more fish line the main street. Those are the largest puffer fish I've ever seen!

For tourists, souvenirs in all cute shapes and sizes will surely tempt.

And of course, fresh fruit is abundant here. White strawberries were in season while we were there and even though they look gorgeous regardless of the size, it's the big ones that are sweet and juicy. We made the mistake of going for tiny, cheaper ones that turned out sour.

Take your time to explore Kuromon Ichiba and snack on the way if not all the way. Allocate at least half a day here then probably go to Namba or Dotonbori for dinner - that's if you still have stomach space.