10 dishes to try in Osaka
Japan is a foodie’s paradise. Dishes like sushi, ramen and katsu curry are known all over the world. But Osaka’s food is truly innovative, and many of Japan’s most delightful culinary surprises can be found here. Tsuruhashi, one of Japan’s most famous Korean neighborhoods, and neighborhoods known for their restaurants, such as Shinsekai and Dotonburi, have much to explore. From small pockets of joy like takoyaki to wholesome and thoughtful innovations like omuris, there is so much food to love in Osaka.
If there’s one food that’s completely associated with Osaka, it’s the fried and diced octopus balls known as takoyaki. The crispy, seasoned batter on the outside complements the gooey softness on the inside and is coated with a combination of sticky sweet sauce, mackerel flakes, mayonnaise and seaweed powder before serving. The balls are fried in a special takoyaki pan, a pan with spherical shapes, and watching the chef expertly sculpt these perfect balls is all in good fun. Usually eaten as street food, you can try them at any of Osaka’s malls or food markets. You can also visit the popular Kugaryu in Shinsaibashi. A portion usually consists of eight to twelve takoyaki and is sure to fill you up for the day.
Okonomiyaki, another of the delicious konamon (flour products) popular in the Kansai region, can quickly be described as a layered savory pancake, but the endless variations of this cheap and delicious staple make it a dish you’ll want to try again and again. Osaka/Kansai-style okonomiyaki mixes ingredients, usually cabbage and pork, in a liquid batter, then fries both sides before adding the filling and sticky sauce. In some places, okonomiyaki can be made on its own or you can watch a chef prepare it right in front of you. Since it is usually a dish that can be easily changed, vegetarian dishes are almost always available. Like takoyaki, you can easily find this inexpensive dish as street food, but if you prefer to sit down, try Mizuno in Dotonburi.
These fried vegetable and meat kebabs, also known as kushiage, are said to have originated in the Shinsekai area of Osaka, an area that should be the best thing about any Osaka food lovers trip. Kushi means kebab, and katsu means meat patty, so many of the kebabs you’ll find will be meat dipped in panko, egg and flour before being deep-fried. Many restaurants will also offer options such as shiitake mushrooms, quail eggs, lotus root, onions and eggplant, so vegetarians can also enjoy this Osaka delicacy. Before eating, dip the skewers in the tonkatsu sauce provided, but since this sauce can be shared with several others, never dip the skewers twice. One of the most famous kushikatsu places is Daruma in Shinsakai.
Pressed sushi (Oshizushi)
While sushi is something you can enjoy all over Japan, Osaka is home to one of the largest fish markets in Japan and generally has a great fishing culture. You can also try Osaka’s signature oshizushi (also known as sushi in a box): sushi pressed into a shape known as an oshibako. One example of Osaka oshizushi includes buttera, which is pressed sushi with mackerel and kombu, named after the Portuguese word for a small boat. Because of the skills required to make these flavorful pressed sushi, there aren’t many places to try them, but a great option is Yoshino sushi. They also serve great lunch sets.
Grilled meat is a real treat in Japan with unparalleled pieces of steak that melt in your mouth. Yakiniku is believed to be of Korean origin (very similar to the famous Korean barbecue), and the Japanese trend is thought to have originated with a Korean living in Osaka. You can cook meat on a traditional charcoal grill or on a flat surface teppan. Both options are equally interesting, and this dish is best for the group. You will usually choose a cut and grade of beef, as well as some vegetable garnishes for the barbecue. One place to try yakiniku is Kitahama Nikuya, which serves some of the best cuts of beef in Japan, as well as an English menu.
Another Osaka delicacy, negiyaki is a favorite relative of okonomiyaki, but the key difference is that instead of cabbage, a ton of green onions are used, resulting in a thinner pancake with a completely different flavor profile. Of course, it’s still covered in the gooey, sweet sauce and filling familiar to okonomiyaki lovers. Yamamoto specializes in Negiyaki and is considered the creator of this alternative savory pancake.
This hearty dish translates as fox udon based on the myth that foxes like to eat fried tofu (the same myth that also gave us the name inarizushi). Thick udon noodles are served in dashi broth and topped with aburaage, or fried slices of tofu stewed in sweet soy sauce. It is said that deep-fried tofu, when wrinkled, resembles a fox. Usami Tei Matsubaya is considered the restaurant where kitsune udon originated and also offers such delicious dishes as tempura.
Although traditionally associated with China, these steamed buns are very popular throughout Japan, and pork buns are a staple in Osaka. In fact, the popular Kansai chain 551 Horai sells more than 170,000 buns a day. Often served with karashi (Japanese mustard), you can eat the buns immediately hot or chilled, which can be stored for days. Outside the Kansai region they are known as nikuman, but because niku refers specifically to beef, the name does not work in Osaka. Hence the name butaman (which means “pork bun”).
While yakiniku focuses on pieces of meat cooked over an open fire, chorumon uses the same principle but applies it to sub-products. Other chorumon-based dishes include two stews namd Chiritori Nabe and Motsu Nabe . Commonly used internal organs include intestines, tongue, kidneys, stomach, and spleen. They are combined with a variety of barbecue vegetables. Considered collagen-rich, it’s inexpensive and extremely popular in Osaka without being a wasteful approach to meat-eating. For an upscale restaurant that specializes in horumone (and yakiniku) with an English menu, head to Mannoya.
One of Japan’s most touching dishes originated in Osaka. It is believed to have originated in 1925 at a popular Hokkyokusei restaurant when customers often ordered an omelet and white rice. The chef decided to combine them by tightly wrapping the rice in a fluffy omelet and then topping it with a spicy tomato sauce. Thus was born the famous Japanese omurice. Since then, several variations have been developed with the addition of curry sauce and various additions, such as fried chicken or mushrooms.
11 Famous Dishes You Should Eat in Osaka
11 Famous Dishes You Should Eat in Osaka
Video: Japanese Street Food Tour in Osaka, Japan 2022, September
Osaka’s status as Japan’s food hub is hard to dispute. Known locally as tenka no daidokoro, or “the kitchen of the nation,” Osaka is a modern tourist destination that has been shaped by its reputation as a center for commerce and entertainment, as food fuels these industries. Here are some of the best dishes to try in the country’s culinary capital.
Takoyaki is the main street food associated with Osaka. This tasty dish is a fried round mixture of batter, octopus, ginger, and usually some vegetables and spices. The best place to pick takoyaki is at one of the grocery stores along Dotonbori, but this dish can be found all over town. Many locals even have special takoyaki grills in their homes.
The city’s second food item is okonomiyaki, sometimes referred to as Japanese pancake. However, this dish is savory rather than sweet and consists of flour, eggs, cabbage, other vegetables, and meat. It is often topped with mayonnaise, bonito flakes and spicy brown sauce. There are many places to shop, many of which are also along Dotonbori, including Fugetsu (the chain) and Mizuno (Osaka’s favorite).
The third member of Osaka’s holy trinity of street food is kushikatsu. This food is elegant in its simplicity-it’s basically just fried stuff on a stick. Common varieties include kebab, onions, asparagus, and cheese, but most kushikatsu restaurants have at least 20 variations. Daruma is probably the most famous kushikatsu place, but this dish can be found in many food stalls along Dotonbori and in the Shinsekai area.
Ehomaki is a sushi roll that originated-or at least gained national popularity-in Osaka. Consisting mainly of eel, egg, pickled pumpkin, and mushrooms, this long roll is eaten once a year during Setsubun (“Bean Toss Ceremony”) for good luck. The ceremony is held annually on February 3, and people from all over Japan eat the echomaki rolls, facing an auspicious direction (which changes annually) to ward off evil.
This dish is famous throughout Japan, but it originated in Osaka, where residents are known to prefer udon (thick wheat noodles) over other types of Japanese noodles. Kitsune udon is made from hot dashi and topped with deep fried tofu.
This Japanese dish is similar to Korean barbecue, so Tsuruhashi, Osaka’s Kosatown, is where you can find the best. The many winding lanes that depart from Tsuruhashi Station contain countless yakiniku restaurants that span a variety of price ranges.
Horumon is a somewhat strange food that originated in Osaka. It is similar to yakiniku grilling, but instead of cooking a selection of beef dishes, animal by-products are used. The Japanese “waste not want” attitude probably prompted people to eat things like liver and intestines, but many find horumon tasty.
551 Horai, a national chain headquartered in Osaka’s Namba district, is one of the best places to find this delicious pork bun. Butaman is especially famous in Osaka and comes with delicious hot mustard.
Being a port city, defined by its many waterways, Osaka is a great place to eat sushi. There are many sushi conveyor belts as well as tasty restaurants, but some of the best can be found at local fish markets such as Kuromon Ichiba and Kizu Wholesale Market.
Osaka is not known for ramen, but Japan, and given that it is the food capital of Japan, ramen is worth finding here. Tourists usually flock to Ippudo or Kinryu, but be sure to try local favorites such as Mitsuka Bose Kamoshi and unique stores including ME-CHA-KU-CHA and Manzeibo Junkie.
Osaka is known as a participating city, so there are many izakaya, or Japanese pubs. One of izakaya’s staples is yakitori: fried chicken and other meat on sticks. This overbaked snack is perfect with a beer at the end of the day.