Exploring Japan’s Kitchen: The Foodie’s Guide to Osaka

Culinary Tourism

Japanese cuisine has fans all over the world thanks to its most well-known exports such as ramen, sushi and tempura. When in Osaka, though, you’ve got plenty of other unique dishes to try. It’s no surprise, why this rambunctious port city is often referred to as the nation’s kitchen because of its plethora of options.

If you’re a foodie, book yourself an Osaka tour package to get to the good stuff fast. But before you pack for your trip, read on to get an idea of the culinary delights this city has to offer.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki is a proudly Osakan creation. It was invented in 1935 by street vendor Tomekichi Endo, who operated out of the famous Dotonbori district. For this dish, minced octopus, pickled ginger and green onion are mixed into a wheat flour batter. Afterwards, they are formed into balls using a cratered griddle especially designed for making takoyaki. Once cooked, they’re topped with a savoury soy-based sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, powdered green laver (aonori), and shavings of dried bonito (katsuobushi).
They’re served hot, as they’re meant to be consumed while standing.

Though they’re widely available, the best place to get them is at Tomekichi’s humble stall called Aizuya. It has seen expanded into a chain of restaurants, and has even been included in the 2018 Michelin Guide. Head to the branch in Umeda for a sit-down experience, as they’ve got a parlor in the back for
patrons to rest their legs. You can also visit their stall at the Takoyaki Museum, located along Universal Studios Japan’s Universal CityWalk. Another noteworthy establishment is Dotonbori’s Konamon Museum. It’s hard to miss thanks to its constantly massive queue and huge red octopus sign above the stall.

Okonomiyaki

Due to its flat appearance and generous toppings, some in the West refer to this dish as a Japanese pizza. However, okonomiyaki is closer to a savory pancake, as it’s made with flour, eggs, grated nagaimo (Chinese yam), and shredded cabbage.

Because its name essentially means “what you like, fried,” people top their okonomiyaki with all kinds of ingredients. Some add seafood bits, vegetables, or cheese. Others add konjac jelly or mochi (Japanese rice cakes) to add chewiness.

The best okonomiyaki restaurants have grill-equipped tables where you can cook your okonomiyaki yourself, or where you can sit at the counter and watch it be prepared in front of you. Dotonburi’s most popular establishment for okonomiyaki is called Mizuno, which has been serving this dish since 1945. If you’re hankering for more, hop over to Umeda to try Kiji’s okonomiyaki, which has received the Bib Gourmand distinction from the Michelin Guide.

Kitsune Udon

Osaka is a city that has a long-standing love affair with udon. These thick, hearty noodles are made with wheat flour and have a chewy, springy texture. They are used in a wide variety of dishes, including one that traces its roots to this very region.

This Osakan dish, called Kitsune Udon, gets its name from legends stating that the kitsune (fox)’s favourite food is aburaage (seasoned tofu pockets)This hot noodle soup dish made of udon, dashi broth, and scallions is aburaage to symbolize the pairs of fox statues that watch over many temple gates.

The best place to try them is at Usami-Tei Matsubaya, where they were first created during the Meiji era in 1893. The restaurant is a mere 10-minute walk from Shinsaibashi Station. If you’d rather stay in Dotonbori, though, Imai Honten serves an equally respectable version of the dish.

Oshizushi

Though it is one of Japan’s most popular dishes, you might find it difficult to look for this dish. Oshizushi (pressed sushi) is an Osakan original specialty that evolved from narezushi, the oldest form of sushi in Japan. Oshizushi can be topped with a variety of ingredients, including Japanese rolled omelet.

Since its popularity has declined over the years, very few establishments are left. Your safest bet is to head to Yoshino’s flagship branch, which is just a stone’s throw away from Osaka Station. Since its opening in 1841 this sushi restaurant has a deserving oshizushi.

With all of the options we’ve listed, try more types of Japanese dishes. You’ll surely find a new favourite that will have you booking your next visit sooner than you think.

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