Kobe’s Chinatown also widely known as Nankin-machi is one of the three Chinatowns in Japan. Its popular name comes from the words Nanjing or Nanking as Chinese immigrants are referred to as the people who come from Nanking, a city in China, regardless where in China they come from and “machi” meaning town. It plays a significant role in the development of Kobe’s cultural landscape as the Chinese influences has seeped through their very own strong identity.
Although it was destroyed during the wars and Great Hanshin Earthquake, it has risen from the rubble and continued its colorful and bustling atmosphere to satisfy the tourists and locals in their quest for souvenirs and of course, the distinctive Chinese cuisine. The elaborate and colorful gates are as inviting as the aroma coming from stalls of street food and rows of restaurants that serve lunch and dinner to their hungry and curious clientele.
If you are a tourist who travels for food, this is the best place for you to explore and simply try out their delicacies. Some of these might be all too familiar as they are also served in other Chinatowns around the world but since it’s in Japan and in Kobe, no less, there will always be the intermingling of tastes and flavors in every bite.
Butaman (Steamed Pork Buns) – Roushouki
All you have to do is ask where Roushoki is and most likely anyone will be able to lead you to it and of course the long line outside the shop is a dead giveaway in itself. They are that popular because of the Butaman or steamed pork buns. They started selling these bite sized buns back in 1915 and more than a hundred years later, their buns are still all the rage in this part of town.
Gua Bao (Taiwanese Hamburger) – Tanfachie
It’s a bit like a steamed bun only that the buns are slit in half to create a bed in the middle for the most tender pork and generous helping of pickled vegetables and is eaten like a hamburger. This Taiwanese hamburger has the most authentic taste as the chef faithfully replicated the distinctive taste of the gua bao that he came across when he visited Taiwan.
Xiǎo lóng tāng bāo (Steamed Soup Dumplings) – Daidoko
The fact that their dumplings are juicier than the typical xiǎo lóng bāo or soup dumpling will tell you that it’s definitely not something that you should miss or skip. Nope. Not a chance. This shop with the usual long lines signifying popularity used to be popular for their Black Butaman or Black Steamed Pork Buns that are equally gorgeous and delicious. But in November 2016, the shop released these succulent mounds of soup and minced meat that not long after gained a strong fan contingent in the area.
Gyoza (Chinese Dumpling) – Gyoza Daigaku
Locals from all corners of Kobe and even farther come just for these small pockets of awesomeness. What’s not too familiar is dipping it in miso sauce that is a heavier and more flavorful sauce compared to regular soy sauce. Tourists will be in for a surprise when they taste this interesting but satisfying combination.
Dandan Noodles (Spicy Sesame Ramen) and Xiǎo lóng tāng bāo (Steamed Soup Dumplings) – Yunyun
Everybody loves the steaming soupy goodness of steamed dumplings. Why not? They’re delicate, flavourful and a joy to eat as you have to go through a procedure to enjoy it. And it’s even lovelier to have a bowl of Dandan noodles that are hand cut and served with sweet chili sauce. If you’re craving these, just don’t visit on Thursdays as that’s when they’re closed for the week.
Chukka Niku-Chimaki (Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling with Meat) – Ryuho
You can eat and walk around with it just like steamed pork buns and they’re just as appetizing and flavourful, too. Their rice comes straight from Shiga Prefecture that is known for their high quality rice. If you have no time to go to their stall while in Kobe and still want to try it out, you can purchase their dumplings online and a few quick guidelines are available for you to follow when you’re ready to eat it.
Panda-man & Butachan-man (Animal Shaped Steam Buns) – Rokumeiso
Kids and kids at heart will surely adore these cute animal shaped buns that are maybe too cute to be eaten really. The panda shaped steamed buns are filled with bean paste (which you can eat for dessert) and the butachan-man are the pig shaped steamed pork buns. The shop also sells dim sum combo meals including twelve different kinds of dim sum treats that you can eat in the shop or order for takeaway along with your cute buns.
Peking Duck Wrap
You can enjoy this in different stalls in Nankin-machi. Some of the stalls in this list also sell it so when you buy their popular treats, you might as well grab a wrap and try it too if it’s available. Peking duck is an absolute favorite among locals and tourists as you can just walk around and eat while sampling other treats.
Street food teaches us a lot about a city, town or country’s rich culture and history since you can taste the different influences and their own homegrown flavor in every bite of food that you try whether be it in a restaurant, a sidewalk stall or a cart. Nankin-machi may not be as huge and bustling as other Chinatowns around the world but it has concocted delicacies that have created huge following from all over Kobe and in the Kansai region so it’s a must to come and visit so you can learn and enjoy their history in every bite.