Tourists flock from around the globe to eat Kobe’s famous beef. But you’re a local now, and you’ve been there, and done that. Now it’s time to give some local delicacies a try. Here are the top five tasty treats the locals enjoy in Kobe.
Gyoza are delicious Japanese-style dumplings filled with some kind of ground meat and veggies, and wrapped in a paper-thin dough. They come in three styles, just like the chinese potstickers: pan fried, boiled, and deep fried.
You can get gyoza at just about any noodle shop, or casual dining establishment. They usually come at about a half-a-dozen per serving, and you dip them in a sauce that’s a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sometimes a bit of chili oil for a kick.
There are various kinds of Gyoza that you can find throughout Kobe, and across the country. But when in Kobe, the locals swear by Hyotan. The restaurant has been open for over 40 years, and they are famous for their gyoza filled with minced pork, cabbage, and leek.
Hyotan may be tricky to find if you don’t speak Japanese yet — it’s under the train tracks of the Hanshin Sannomiya Station, and boasts red noren curtains you can’t miss.
The place is always packed with locals, especially during lunch. So if you want an authentic dining experience, head here!
1-31-37 Kitanagasadori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0012 (map link)
Open: 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. (weekdays)
11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Saturday, Sunday & Holidays)
2. Ramen, of course!
Ramen isn’t just delicious, it’s a fundamental part of life in Japan. But this isn’t the cheap, dried and packaged soup you’re used to finding at the grocery store. Japanese ramen is fresh, and indulgently simple.
The broth is usually pork based, but you can also get it with miso, salt, or soy sauce based broths. And inside are these delicious noodles — handmade and garnished with tender pork, and chives, and sometimes even an egg.
A local favorite in Kobe is Ramen Taro. They’re known for their fresh ingredients, and incredible pork broth. They also offer an all you can eat kimchi deal that the locals drool over. Kimchi isn’t Japanese though, it’s a Korean dish consisting of spicy pickled cabbage, seasoning, and sometimes other vegetables too. Give it a try!
1-10-10 Nakayamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Tensei Bdg 1F, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture (map link)
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 a.m.
3. Okonomiyaki, known in the Kansai region
Okonomiyaki is described by outsiders as a crepe, pizza, pancake-like concoction that’s quintessential comfort food for the Japanese. But, those descriptions don’t get it quite right.
The dish is a flour based mixture with cabbage cooked on a griddle, and you can top it with whatever you’d like. So while it’s cooked more like a pancake or crepe, it’s more pizza-like in the sense that you can have whatever you want on it, and it’s not sweet or fluffy. Okonomiyaki roughly translates to ‘whatever you like grilled’.
Okonomiyaki is famous in the Kansai region, where Kobe is located. Kansai style means that you mix everything in the bowl first, then cook it on the griddle, and this is believed to be the original variation of the recipe. The other way to make it is similar, you just cook the batter and the ingredients separately, then add them together in the end.
There are entire restaurants that cater just to Okonomiyaki, so get out there and give it a try!
4. Takoyaki, another local specialty
These ball-shaped snacks are a flour batter filled with octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion — all fried up in a special pan. The little balls are then topped in takoyaki sauce (which is similar to worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise, and garnished with green laver (seaweed) and dried bonito (fish).
This dish is also a local speciality of the Kansai region, and can be found at entire restaurants that cater to the tasty treat, as well as food stands on the side of the road.
5. The baked goodies at Café Freundlieb
The cafe is a former church, turned German bakery. The couple was married in the church, and later purchased it and turned it into a cafe that is now a local landmark. It’s special to the locals because of it’s unique architecture, and the more European based menu. So while it’s not Japanese, it’s definitely a place the locals like to grab a sandwich, or enjoy a coffee with a pastry.
4-6-15 Ikuta-cho, Chuo-ku Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays)
Website (Japanese): www.freundlieb.jp
6. The coffee at Nishimura
Kobe is known for serving up delicious coffee, and the locals say the best place to enjoy it is at Nishimura. The cafe’s been open since 1948, and it offers 20 different blends of coffee, making it the best place to get a brew in town. It was also one of the first restaurants to introduce cappuccinos to the Japanese public — which are now extremely popular.
The cafe is located in a German-style house that’s become a Kobe landmark in itself. Inside you’re surrounded by antiques and wooden furniture, making it a cozy place to curl up with a cook, or have a chat with friends. This is where the locals hangout, and you should too.
So, get eating!
While we’ve recommended some great places to try these local specialities, there are plenty of places throughout Kobe that serve these dishes. So get out and explore Kobe, and try the delicious treats they have to offer.