Food in Kobe, July 20th 2014

Soon I will be publishing a post about a trip to Kobe I took with my girlfriend Sayaka. This post, however, is focused on the food we ate in Kobe, as in the space of one day we managed to eat a lot. Read about the rest of the trip here.

We started as soon as we arrived, at the Peruvian Festival. We joined the queue, unsure which language to speak, or what we were really ordering. We picked up two plates, sat down and dug in.

The first dish was a large chicken breast, fried and lightly salted. Simple, but very delicious. On the side was rice mixed with coriander and what I think was sweet corn and a small serving of onion salsa. The salsa and rice gave a bit more flavour to the dish, in contrast to the chicken.

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The second dish that we had (we were sharing, like I’m not going to try some of every food she orders…), was a very odd looking thing. A beef curry with carrots, and sides of refried beans, plain white rice and again, salsa. This dish was the opposite of the first, with the beef being incredibly flavoursome while the sides were more basic, with simpler flavours. However, once again they came together nicely.

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We washed that down with some Cristal, imported Peruvian beer, with a strong taste to it, as we sat and watched the dancing. I wasn’t sure if these dishes came from a restaurant, or were home made by members of the community in Kobe. I didn’t see any business cards nearby. However, the food was great, if not a little expensive. I didn’t expect Peruvian food to be like that at all, as I thought it would be closer to Spanish or Mexican food (despite the refried beans and the rice).

Some hours later, and a few more drinks in, we sauntered, by mistake to the Minami Matsuri. A mixture of tipsiness, lots of walking, and amazing smells coming from the stalls made us hungry again. We found a small Thai stall, serving food that they have on the menu at their restaurant in downtown Kobe. We picked up a plate of Thai green curry with chicken and bamboo, and a side of rice. Now, it was a fairly hot day in Kobe, despite being overcast and at times a little rainy. So eating an incredibly hot Thai curry didn’t help. It wasn’t long before we were both sweating, gulpin down water and furiously fanning ourselves.

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The spice aside, the curry was actually very nice, with the softness of the chicken contrasting the crunch of the bamboo, both soaked in a creamy sauce, and rice on the side to help a little with the heat. We took our time eating it, sitting by the grass as we watched families and couples stroll past, the distant sound of samba music drifting in the air.

By evening, we had found our way to Kobe’s Chinatown, bustling as the evening set in, with people coming in and out of restaurants as touts barraged us with noise from every corner, every street and every shop doorway. Unfortunately, the nationally famous pork bun shop (Nikuman in Japanese, Cha Siu Bao in Chinese) had already shut for the day, undoubtedly having sold out. Well we were in Chinatown, so why not get Chinese food? Sayaka chose a restaurant, seemingly at random. We were quickly seated in the fairly quiet place, and the purple clad waitresses took our orders. We decided to both get a set menu, as it was easier and good value for money, coming with a bowl of noodles, and a 10-piece roll and dumpling set and a piece of fried chicken. I can’t recall all of the 10-piece set, but all the regulars were there: spring roll, pork bun, pork dumpling and so on. Sayaka had a simple pork noodle soup, while I had shark-fin soup (I know, it’s unethical to eat it). The dumplings and rolls were actually better than the main dish. Shark fin soup has no depth of flavour, and the only flavour that is there, from the shark fin, is very rich. After a few mouthfuls it starts getting boring, and a few mouthfuls more it becomes difficult. Sayaka’s pork noodle soup tasted much better, though again fairly simplistic in the flavours, a simple watery pork stock, a few slices of pork and some onion.

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All in all we had a lot of good food and good drink in Kobe. It’s a very multicultural city (compared to most in Japan), and the food shows it. It also beat my record for number of different nationalities food I’ve eaten in one day!

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