Osaka is where Japan’s gastronomy meets innovation and the beat of life echoes throughout the city. Located in the heart of the Kansai region, this bright place is truly a treasure trove of delicious food. But what kind of food has so captured the hearts of local Osakans? In this article, we will introduce 10 foods that Osaka people love and are a MUST try when you visit!
One of Osaka’s most iconic soul foods is okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is made by tossing vegetables, meat, seafood, and other ingredients in flour mixed with water, and then cooked on a teppan grill or frying pan. After grilling, okonomiyaki sauce is poured over the top, and the final toppings are aonori (dried green lavers), mayonnaise, and dried bonito flakes.
The texture is very fluffy, and the sweetness and salty of the sauce can be very addictive. The taste of okonomiyaki varies greatly depending on the ingredients, so it is a good idea to try different kinds of ingredients to find your favorite taste.
Takoyaki is probably one of the most famous foods of Osaka and is made by putting a mixture of flour and soup stock into a unique hemispherical griddle that is heated to a high temperature. The main ingredients (octopus, tenkasu, green onion, and red ginger) and there you have your takoyaki!
Takoyaki is usually topped with the sauce just like okonomiyaki and then sprinkled with toppings such as aonori and dried bonito flakes. You can gobble it up in just one bite and it is considered a staple food in Osaka, often eaten at home or in restaurants.
Ikayaki is a squid dish that is perceived very differently in East and West Japan. If you ask people from the Kanto region, “What is ikayaki?”, their answer will be, “It’s a single grilled squid with a sweet and spicy sauce”. But if you ask the same question to people from Kansai region, they will probably say something like “it is made by baking squid in a mixture of flour and water in a sandwich style”.
While there is a bit of a regional disagreement as to what ikayaki should taste and look like, everyone agrees that it is delicious. The dough is chewy and the flavor of squid fills your mouth when you eat it and it is usually eaten with okonomiyaki sauce after it’s baked.
Kushikatsu is made by skewering meat or vegetables, searing them, and then dipping them in the sauce. Many Osaka kushikatsu restaurants have a “no double-dipping” rule, as everyone uses the sauce-filled jar that is placed at each table.
Ingredients used for kushikatsu vary, often including meat like beef, chicken, seafood such as shrimp and crab, and vegetables such as green onions. Basically, one or two ingredients are fried on each skewer, therefore, the prices are very reasonable. Kushikatsu is recommended for those who want to enjoy Osaka food in a casual atmosphere.
5. Kitsune Udon
One of the most beloved foods throughout Japan is udon. Udon is made by kneading wheat flour with water, stretching it thin, cutting it into noodles, and then boiling them. There are two standard types of udon: kitsune and tanuki. Kitsune is an udon noodle in a light broth topped with a large piece of fried tofu. Tanuki is the same type of udon topped with many tempura scraps. For Kitsune Udon, the deep richness comes from the fried tofu and makes your udon flavorful. It is the perfect Osaka udon for the cold season!
Tecchiri is a nabe, hot pot, made using fugu (blowfish). Because fugu is highly poisonous, regular people are not allowed to handle it by themselves unless they have a special license. Fugu nabe is commonly eaten throughout Japan, but the variation made in Osaka is often referred to as “tecchiri”.
Since blowfish has a very light flavor, a light kelp broth is often used for the nabe in order to let the blowfish flavor stand out. Ingredients for this nabe are often standard items such as green onions, napa cabbage, tofu, and mushrooms. After blowfish and other ingredients are stewed in the nabe, try eating it with ponzu (Japanese sauce made of citrus juice and dashi soy sauce). This Osaka nabe is recommended during the cold winter months!
7. Taiko Manju
It is hard to imagine a sweet with so many names in all of Japan other than 太鼓饅頭 (Taiko manju). The dough is a mixture of flour, water, and sugar, and it is filled with anko (red bean paste) inside and baked. Its taste is very similar to that of dorayaki.
Incidentally, it is called “太鼓饅頭 (taiko manju)” mainly in Osaka, while in Tokyo it is called “今川焼 (Imagawa-yaki)”. In other regions, it is called “回転焼き(kaitenyaki)”, “大判焼き(ōbanyaki)”, and so on, and there are dozens of different names for it throughout Japan! The inside of Taiko manju is usually filled with anko, red bean paste, but may also contain custard sauce, cheese, or other ingredients. It is a Japanese-style sweet that is perfect for eating while walking around!
8. Yakiniku (horumon)
Suppose you want to enjoy sightseeing in Osaka and stay stocked up on energy. In that case, it is recommended for you to eat hormone-yaki. Hormone-yaki is a dish made from grilled beef or pork offal, which generally refers to the intestines of beef and pork.
Seasonings vary, including miso-based, soy sauce-based, and salt-based. The juicy grilled hormone on the charcoal grill net will give you a nice crunchy texture and strong flavor that you’re sure not to forget.
Teppan-yaki is a dish in which various ingredients are grilled or stir-fried in oil on a heated iron plate. Anything grilled on a teppan may be called teppan-yaki cuisine. For example, a recommended ingredient here is tender and juicy Wagyu beef.
At teppanyaki restaurants, the restaurant staff cooks the meat in front of you, so you can enjoy the finest steak. Seafood such as shrimp and squid are also not to be missed. All dishes are simply seasoned, therefore, you can enjoy the original flavors of the ingredients. Enjoy these foods freshly cooked on the teppan!
Negiyaki is a food similar to okonomiyaki, but made with finely chopped green onions. The main difference between Negiyaki and Okonomiyaki is the seasoning. While okonomiyaki is usually dipped in okonomiyaki sauce, Negiyaki is dipped in light soy sauce or dashi soy sauce. Therefore, it is not as heavy and the flavor of green onion pops in your mouth. If you like negi dishes, Negiyaki is here for you!
Having introduced ten Osaka foods in this article, were there any that stood out? Of course, Osaka food does not stop with the above. From street food to sweets, the world of Osaka food is very deep and full of delicious foods. When you come to Osaka, we hope you will enjoy a lot of delicious food. Many Osaka people will be waiting to make you happy with their wonderful cuisine!
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education in Japan and got her Master’s degree in March 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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