13.354 Mapo Doufu

Cycle 13 – Item 354

25 (Sun) December 2022

Mapo Doufu


at Mala Gangho

-Dotonbori, Chuo, Osaka, Japan-

with the Family

Family Holiday in Japan – Winter 2022 (Day 3)

In Osaka.  Our first overseas vacation together in nearly 3 years, previously UAE in 2019 (see 10.301 Fish Harra).  The decision to go and the selection of Osaka, based on the criteria of food and shopping, was made 2 days prior to departure.  Staying for 3 nights in Shinsaibashi, with memories of my past trip to Osaka in 2014 (after my very first duty travel for WHO) (see 5.146 Shime Saba Hakozushi).


Ramen Zundo Ya is a Japanese restaurant.  Specializes in tonkotsu ramen.

Ramen was a must-try for the boys, who are unfamiliar with the dish, which is still relatively rare in Korea.

In light of its Japanese origin and nature as a quick meal, ramen has always seemed to me surprisingly complicated in its toppings, which here include dried laver + sliced pork + boiled eggs + woodear mushrooms + bean sprouts + corn + scallions + garlic + chili sauce + sesame seeds (see also 7.035 W T Fuku?).
By comparison, Korean ramyeon tends to be surprisingly simple, often just poached egg + scallions, maybe rice cakes, even while other Korean soups can be hodgepodge.
Some kind of pickled cabbage (on the house), though I couldn’t tell whether it was meant to be a side dish (like kimchi) or a toppings (like suancai).

They liked it okay, but weren’t entirely enthused.  Same with me.


For our final dinner in town, rather than risk another random restaurant encountered via wandering, I’d done a bit of research to find 3 highly rated sushi restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.  Alas, we discovered upon arrival that all of them required a reservation.  So, we were left to wander yet again.

After 30 minutes of disappointment, W and IZ elected to return to the hotel, where they’d eat cup noodles from a convenience store.

Located in Higishishinsaibashi, about 15 minutes east of the hotel.

Mala Gangho (麻辣江湖) is a Chinese restaurant.  As the name of the place would suggest –  transliterated into Korean from the Chinese characters, no English or Japanese spellings available – the restaurant specializes in mala dishes seasoned with Sichuan pepper.

The customers were all Chinese (or, at least they spoke Chinese).

Since our arrival, I’d been trying to find an opportunity to try Chuka, which is Japanese-style Chinese food.  I know nothing about the cuisine, though I would assume from the Japanese influence that it’s very mild and gentle, maybe like American-style Chinese food.  But the chance had not come up.

So, when DJ and I came across Mala Gangho, I didn’t hesitate.

At the time, unable to read the signage, I just assumed that the restaurant served Chuka and charged in.

More red/oily/spicy/intense dishes on the menu.

Immediately upon entrance, I realized that it wasn’t going to be Chuka.  First, the smell of mala was overpowering.  A quick glance at the food photos on the wall were mostly of the dishes that looked red/oily/spicy/intense – i.e., Sichuanese.

What the hell, we sat down and ordered a couple dishes that seemed manageable.

Both family favorites: mapo doufu and scrambled eggs with garlic chives.

The mapo doufu was awesome.  While red/oily/spicy/intense, the flavors were in perfect harmony – without question the best rendition of the dish that I have every experience, DJ in complete agreement.  I took mental notes in hopes of emulating the formula on my next at-home attempt.

We ended up clearing the table, along with 3 bowls of steamed rice.

Tonight being the first time encountering scrambled eggs with garlic chives in a restaurant, I’d always assumed that it was an improvised home thing that our ethnic Korean-Chinese nanny had invented (see generally 3.154 Buchu & Eggs), rather than an actual dish.  Anyway, if was great too.


Over 3 full days, we did not go anywhere beyond a 1-subway stop walk from the hotel, didn’t do anything beyond eating and shopping.

As evidence of how amazing the Chinese meal had been, DJ actually agreed to do the Glico pose.

The only sightseeing was seeing the Glico sign on our way to Nanba Station.


Though fully satisfied, we agreed to squeeze just a bit more out of our remaining time in Osaka, so we walked back down to Nanba Station to roam the alleys and eat whatever we could find.

A small stall specializing in takoyaki – DJ seemed to enjoy waiting in line, as if to earn the privilege of eating.
I still don’t like the gooey texture.

Coming full circle, we ended up at Daiki Suisan Kaiten Sushi, part of the same chain where we’d eaten lunch on Day 1 – didn’t realize that it at the time, only now as I write the post.

Only sushi place still open (that we could see) at 22:01 on a Sunday night.
The gimmick is that a sushi chef carves the tuna at the entrance for passersby to watch.
We soon realized that the staff (except for the guy out front) were Filipino – probably the only way ownership could afford to stay open so late – as we were leaving, I asked the server to “bill out,” which made her do a double-take, then giggle.
I could’ve eaten here every meal.
Chutoro (3.5): the perfect final bite.

The best part of the evening was spending one-on-one time with DJ.  When did I become a middle-aged man whose teen-aged son doesn’t want to hang out with him anymore?  Even if only for a couple hours in Osaka, I’ll take it.


Punta House

For the duration of the trip, we put Louis Le Pieux in a dog hotel.  We found a good one that’s a stand-alone building on its own plot of land, which keeps the dogs in kennels at night but let’s them run around the grounds during the day.  They sent us a photo of Louis, wishing us a Merry Christmas.

“I don’t like this.”

Hang in there, we’ll be home soon.

(See also BOOZE)



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