Seafood galore at Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka
OSAKA, Jan 1 — The Kuromon Ichiba Market, tucked away in the southern side of Chuo Ward in Osaka, Japan, is more than 190 years old and steeped in history and traditions.
Locally, it is also known as “Osaka’s Kitchen” and is gaining prominence among tourists as the place to go to for fresh seafood.
The market is also easily accessible as it is a mere two minutes’ walk from the Nippombashi Station.
Though not a huge market, walking through the jostling crowd made up of mostly tourists is quite a challenge. Due to the many interesting food stalls lining both sides of the market, a walk down the approximately 600 metre-long market can take hours especially if you stop to try out the food and drinks on offer here.
The market starts early with most stalls open and ready from 8.30am onwards. Going to the market early is a good thing as it gives you more time to browse around as the crowd only starts gathering much later from 11am onwards.
The best part is that you can check out the numerous fresh produce available while at the same time enjoy breakfast in this market.
While it is tempting to buy food from these stalls and eat as you walk along the length of the market, this habit is frowned upon in Japan.
It is best to eat the food you purchase either standing outside the stall or if there is space, take a seat inside to finish your meal before moving on. Alternatively, you could have your purchases packed to go; head over to the visitors’ centre in the middle of the market where there are ample seats to eat, drink and rest. It also has restrooms and beverage vending machines.
Seafood, seafood and more seafood
There are over 150 shops lining the whole length of the market and more shops are spread out around it too. A majority of these shops sell fish, seafood, meat, vegetables, fruits and dried foodstuff.
If you are a seafood lover, this is the place to be as you will get to have your fill of a wide variety of fresh seafood from snow crabs to sea urchins to yes, even the rare fugu delicacy.
This is the place to try out sashimi in all its sweet, plump, juicy freshness; best enjoyed with a smidgen of soy sauce and freshly ground wasabi. There are a lot of shops selling fresh raw fish and seafood from salmon to scallops so it is easy to stop at any of these shops to try out what they have on offer.
Some shops have a few tables and chairs so you can pick your sashimi, pay for it and sit there to enjoy your meal too.
There are a few tuna specialty stalls that are simply must-try due to the freshness of the fish and the simple way it is served.
The tuna is either served up as sashimi or plain grilled, both equally delicious depending on your preference. For the adventurous, there are also a smattering of seafood shops that offer fugu, the poisonous puffer fish. The preparation of the fugu is one that requires skill to remove the poison from the fish so caution is required when trying it out.
Of all the common seafood and fish available, perhaps the ones that stand out most (other than fugu) have to be the black, spiky sea urchins and long legged snow crabs. Don’t be intimidated by the ugly outward appearance of the sea urchins, called uni in Japanese, because these are actually sweet, creamy and slightly briny.
As for the snow crabs, as large as they appear, the flesh is soft and succulent. For meat-lovers, there are also shops selling yakitori, fried chicken and yes, even Kobe and Wagyu beef grilled or stir fried on the spot for you.
Wagashi, snacks and souvenirs
You must not miss out on Japanese wagashi such as the kushi-dango, rice flour balls on a stick coated with a sticky, salty and sweet sauce, a variety of mochi from daifuku to kusa mochi and a dizzying array of confectionary from sweet to savoury.
Though limited, there are several shops that sell Japan’s many different variety of manufactured snacks such as the well known Pocky by Glico that comes in a number of different flavours, kaki no tane (seed-shaped senbei rice crackers that are slightly spicy), senbei rice crackers, arare (a type of Japanese crackers made from glutinous rice) and the traditional Japanese flower-shaped candies called konpeito.
Due to the increasing number of tourists thronging the market, more souvenir shops have also opened up in between the fish shops and fruit stalls. There are 100 yen shops, beauty product shops and shops selling a variety of household items and clothing too.
Most of the shops in the market close at 5pm but there are also restaurants in the surrounding areas that open for dinner. To plan your trip to the market, full information on the stalls and a map are available on its website, kuromon.com.