We fry up a feast at Kushiya Monogatari and learn the joy of Japanese skewer restaurants – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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We fry up a feast at Kushiya Monogatari and learn the joy of Japanese skewer restaurants

Written by on November 13, 2021


No wonder these places are such a hit in Osaka!

Kushiage, also known as kushikatsu, is a much-loved dish that involves taking skewers of pretty much anything edible—meat, vegetables, even cheese—dipping it in batter and dusting it with panko breadcrumbs, and then deep-frying it. It’s said to have originated in the streets of Osaka, where the low cost and abundance of the skewers made it a popular choice to wolf down after work with a pint of beer.

Our Japanese-language reporter, Saya Togashi, is from the north of Japan. While kushiage restaurants have opened across Japan, one of the most well-known ones—Kushiya Monogatari—had never opened any branches north of Tochigi Prefecture. Assailed with questions like “how is kushiage any different from regular fried skewers?”, “is it just frozen stuff you heat up yourself at the restaurant?”, and “what kind of stuff do they typically put on the skewers?”, Saya prepared for her first kushiage adventure with some trepidation.

▼ The bright orange sign is a typical sight around Tenjinbashi, Osaka, where the chain was founded.

In she headed, and was promptly guided to a booth. The staff instructed her to stow her bags and coat under her seat, which initially confused her. She was dining alone, and there was plenty of space around the booth… Then she realized that the deep fryer would send a lot of oil into the air, and her things might get damaged if she left them exposed. How conscientious!

Speaking of the deep fryer, it’s set into the table at a lower level than where a customer would eat. This helps to eliminate some of the natural anxiety one has when faced with a deep fat fryer, which sizzles oil at a much higher temperature than you’d like to expose to your bare skin. Saya found her fryer already glistening with oil, prepared for whatever she wanted to feed into it.

Several of her questions were answered right away as soon as she went to fetch some skewers from the serve-yourself buffet. The ingredients for the kushiage were pierced by a skewer, fresh and unbattered. No frozen food staples here! Just fresh pork, chicken, seafood, and various vegetables. There was even some konjac potato jelly, a popular oden ingredient.

Then it’s a matter of daubing your skewer into the provided bowl of batter, ensuring that it’s coated all over.

What comes next? Of course…panko breadcrumbs! Roll that baby all over!

With the skewer duly prepared, it’s time to dunk the skewer into the fryer. Saya pushed it into the oil and watched with fascination as it sizzled and hissed, transforming the breadcrumb-and-batter coating into a golden-brown shell of deliciousness.

▼ In she goes!

▼ Turns out that frying food yourself is really fun!

And don’t worry, all of the skewer ingredients have a recommended time to leave them in the fryer. You won’t be left with something frizzled to a crisp unless you ignore those instructions!

When Saya was satisfied with her deep-fried skewer, her attention turned to the next stage of the process: the sauce. Kushiya Monogatari offers a varied line-up, with everything from mild, sweet sauces to ones with a spicier kick, ponzu sauce, plum sauce, the option to add grated radish… Heck, if you wanted, you could just dust your skewer with a little salt and leave it at that.

▼ An artist’s palette of sauces.

Saya lined up all her fried pieces in a row. Keep in mind that she’s never done this before, so it’s only natural that the batter might be a bit too thick in some places, and that maybe despite all the warnings, she may have fried them for a touch too long…

▼ Note to self: next time, go easier on the batter.

She selected a bacon skewer as her first sample. Crunch!

▼ Yum.

Since she was a newbie to this world, Saya spent a lot of time peering at other tables to copy what they were doing and ensure she wasn’t making any kushiage faux-pas. For example, once you’re down with gnawing on your skewer, you don’t lay it back on the plate. There’s a dedicated container to put all your discarded sticks inside.

Saya’s first-ever konjac skewer was a big hit! Its mild flavor and chewy texture went excellently with all that crunchy batter.

As for vegetables, there were so many on offer it was almost too hard to pick between them. Radish, baby corn, okra… There are mushrooms too! Saya especially loved the mushroom, and potato options.

▼ Deep-fried broccoli looks especially tantalizing.

The meat products at Kushiya Monogatari, naturally, cost more than their veggie counterparts. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a ton of delicious veggies in an admittedly unhealthy way. You might even find an unexpected new favorite amongst the crowd.

Saya’s education in kushiage etiquette was developing nicely as well. By monitoring the other guests, she realized that you can leave the freshly fried skewers on the grate next to the fryer and allow the excess oil to drip off there, without getting your plate oily.

The restaurant has some peculiar alternate options to try as well, like bite-sized churros, cheese, bread, takoyaki, taiyaki…wait, huh?

Taiyaki?!

These gave Saya some pause. Should she dunk these ones in batter too, even though they were already coated? What was the done thing here?! Figuring that a moment of embarrassment was better than a lifetime of shame, she asked the staff. You’re meant to fry them as is and eat them. Ah. Of course.

▼ Mm, takoyaki.

Piping hot from the fryer, Saya couldn’t taste much octopus inside this takoyaki octopus ball… But she honestly didn’t mind, since the texture and steamy heat within that crunchy shell was perfectly delicious without it.

▼ How about the taiyaki?

Crisp on the outside and toothsome on the inside, this was definitely worth the try!

By the way, you can help yourself to as many veggies as you want. This is especially useful once you start to feel weighed down by all that fried batter. Here’s a tasty platter that Saya put together for herself.

In short, Saya had an amazing time at her first-ever kushiage restaurant. There’s an atmosphere at the restaurant not unlike a Japanese festival, where you can indulge your curiosity about what such-and-such a food would taste like when deep fried. To Saya, who has been too intimidated by the unspoken rules at smaller kushiage places, this chain is a perfect place to introduce yourself to Osaka-style fried skewers. Her only regret is that she didn’t get to try the chazuke this time… But hey, there are no rules saying she can’t go back!

Images © SoraNews24
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