Poor old Osaka. Kyoto is the traditional heart of Japan, filled with beautiful temples, charming shrines, and centuries of history. Tokyo is, well, Tokyo. Osaka kind of gets left out – it’s nowhere near as popular a travel destination as neighbouring Kyoto, and Tokyo residents are apparently wont to turn up their noses at the distinct (to locals, anyway) Osaka-ben, or regional accent.
Tourists who are brave enough to venture outside of Tokyo and ride the bullet train down to Osaka are rewarded with an absolute foodie paradise, filled with the most delicious edibles imaginable (assuming your diet allows for meat and seafood). Osakans are proud of their city’s culinary prowess, and rightly so. Give yourself a few days in this hopping city and sample everything Osaka has to offer.
Here are just three of my favourite foods to enjoy in Osaka:
This is one of Japan’s most popular street foods, and with good reason – it’s hot, fast, delicious, and easy to eat on the go! A thin, savoury wheat-based batter is poured into a special mould and cooked into airy little balls of molten perfection. The “tako” part of takoyaki means octopus, which is a traditional filling. The little balls are typically topped with Japanese-style mayonnaise (which tends to be a bit sweeter than Western mayonnaise), takoyaki sauce (a brown, slightly sweet sauce) and bonito (dried tuna) shavings, which dance when placed on top of the hot takoyaki. Takoyaki is actually a fairly recent dish, thought to have been developed in the 1930s, though it was based on other traditional snacks. Typically served in a takeaway tray, takoyaki are perfect little savoury morsels to share with friends.
Who doesn’t love fried noodles? This is another fairly recent addition to Japanese cuisine, which has quickly become one of its best known dishes. You can find yakisoba (literally “fried/grilled noodles”) at restaurants all across Japan, but Osaka has some of the best restaurants in which to enjoy this simple, delicious dish. Thick, Chinese-style noodles are stir-fried with cabbage and onions, and topped with a thick, sweet-savoury soy-based sauce. You ca see a giant bowl of yakisoba in the bottom row of dishes in the photo, second from the right, surrounded with delicious dumplings. Oishi (yum)!
Okonomiyaki has to be one of my all-time favourite Japanese dishes. Quick and easy to prepare, it features simple, humble ingredients, and can be easily adapted for different tastes. In fact, the name okonomiyaki literally means “grill/fry what you like”! Okonomiyaki is like a Japanese savoury pancake, though much thicker. A thin batter is mixed with heaps of cabbage, eggs and other fillings, such as octopus, cheese, or bacon, then pan-fried to crispy perfection. It’s served with a tangy brown sauce, more mayonnaise, and bonito flakes, just like takoyaki. A true highlight of any trip to Osaka is a visit to an okonomiyaki restaurant, where staff cook your meal to order on a piping hot griddle right before your eyes. It’s a delicious dinner and a show! This is simple, homestyle cooking, nothing fancy, but incredibly delicious. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Osaka is filled with amazing restaurants to discover, from fancy 5-star establishments to tiny mom and pop holes in the wall. There are so many delightful dishes to be savoured, especially if you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone – Japanese food is about more than ramen, sushi and teriyaki!
I hope you enjoyed this mouthwatering tour of my Osakan dining experience. If you love exploring the world through your tastebuds as much as I do, I’d love to hear about some of your favourite culinary discoveries!!