Osaka is famous in Japan – and beyond – for being a foodies’ paradise. With a slightly more relaxed atmosphere as compared to other Japanese cities, Osaka’s signature cuisine is a far cry from the elaborate kaiseki banquets found in nearby Kyoto. Some of the dishes are sold by street vendors, while others can be enjoyed in the cheerfully rowdy setting of an izayaka, or Japanese pub. Here are ten typically Osakan dishes to try while you explore Japan’s second city:
Undoubtedly the most famous Osakan street food – these ball-shaped snacks are made from a pancake-like batter containing small pieces of octopus. The balls are fried in a special pan (it’s a hypnotising process!) and once cooked are coated with takoyaki sauce (similar to brown sauce), mayonnaise, seaweed and bonito flakes. A top tip is to wait a few minutes before tucking in as they are usually served piping hot!
This dish – the name of which translates as ‘what you like’ – is a savoury pancake containing a huge variety of ingredients. As its name suggests, most okonomiyaki restaurants allow you to customise your order and many have tables with built-in grills, allowing you to cook your pancake yourself. Okonomiyaki most often contain a base of pancake batter and shredded cabbage, with optional ingredients including: prawns (shrimp), bacon, cheese, octopus and rice cakes (to name a few!). Then, (much like takoyaki), you can top your pancake with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and bonito.
A variation on okonomiyaki, these pancakes have a batter loaded with shredded spring onion (scallions) instead of cabbage.
These baked desserts are made from a cake-like batter and are usually filled with sweet red bean paste. Other fillings include vanilla custard and fruit compote. They get their name from the famous taiko drum.
Breaded meat, vegetables or rice cakes, deep-fried and served on a wooden skewer – a dish unlikely to offend even the pickiest eaters. Kushikatsu can be found in speciality restaurants and at street food stalls all over the city.
Beef tendon slow cooked in a sauce of miso, sake and sugar and served as a stew – it’s not the most Instagram-able of dishes but it packs a punch in terms of flavour.
This Osakan take on sushi – which dates back to the Meiji Period (1868-1912) – is made using a rectangular mould rather than being formed by hand. A variety of raw fish and delicately cooked vegetables are layered on top of vinegar-seasoned sushi rice and served as a selection in a wooden box.
This unusual street food snack consists of a glazed baby octopus with a quail’s egg stuffed into its head – served grilled on a skewer. Perhaps not one for the faint of heart.
Horumon-yaki encompasses a variety of grilled offal dishes. Variations include horumon tempura and horumon-don – pieces of grilled offal served over rice. A classic Osakan dish for those keen on nose-to-tail eating.
Japan has some of the best crab in the world and Osaka is particularly proud of its crustacean-centric fare. Chances are you will have seen photographs of the gigantic mechanical crab that is mounted on the exterior of the Kanidoraku Honten restaurant. Over the years it has become one of the city’s most recognisable symbols.
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