All over Japan, food is a big attraction for foreign tourists, but nowhere more so than in Osaka, for this city is known as the culinary capital of Japan!
Everywhere you step on the streets you will see giant signboards or statues or even animatronic figurines that boast what is sold inside a particular shop (i.e. a giant puffer fish hanging from the roof outside to let you know that fugu is sold indoors!). There’s plenty more to see here, too, of course, such as Universal Studios Japan, a couple of great Buddhist temples, and one of the world’s largest aquariums. However, compared to Tokyo, the attractions are less plentiful. Maybe this is why people focus on the food more when they come to Osaka?
Probably the most famous street food to emanate from Osaka is takoyaki. These are delicate little balls of octopus (tako) that are coated in batter and special sauce and usually served up in ‘boat-shaped’ cartons. I have tried takoyaki all over the world, but nowhere tastes as nice and authentic as the original stuff in Osaka. You cannot come here and not try your very first octopus! Sellers all over the Shinshibashi area and beyond are known to sell delectable tako, so it’s very easy to find. Surprisingly, the fishy taste is at a minimum, as the sauce and batter command more attention from your tastebuds.
Another thing I enjoyed munching on my way through Osaka was kushikatsu. Kushikatsu can be made with meats (“katsu”) such as chicken, pork, or seafood. These are skewered on bamboo skewers called “kushi”, then dipped in panko and deep-fried. Most of the kushikatsu I ate were served with tonkatsu sauce. I found the Shinsekai neighbourhood of Osaka was most famous for its kushikatsu. I still don’t know what the difference is between kushikatsu and yakitori, but whatever, they are both delicious!
If sushi is your thing, you can bet your life that you will find plenty of the stuff here in Osaka. Rather than expensive restaurants, I would recommend searching through the many markets and buying takeaway boxes and platters, as these are invariably cheaper.
I don’t know which part of Japan that Yaki Imo comes from but I tasted some amazing ones here in Osaka. They are basically just fried potatoes, and I think they are one of the most popular kinds of street food in the whole country – even though in Osaka they can often be hidden by the glories of other finger foods (katsukushi – I am looking at you!). Yaki Imo are usually sold from very unimaginative stalls, but don’t let the visuals put you off, for they are extremely cheap – and maybe one isn’t enough?!
After takoyaki, Okonomiyaki is another dish for which Osaka is world renowned. I never used to be a fan of this pancake-like dish, but after my brief visit to Osaka, I began to appreciate it a lot more. It reminds me of the pajeon in Korean cuisine. Okonomiyaki is made from a flour batter and typically filled with pork belly, shrimp, and/or cheese, after which time it is coated in a delectable sauce and aonori (seaweed) toppings. The dish is prepared teppanyaki style, in the sense that both sides of the pancake are fried on a teppan grill before being sliced up for serving. My okonomiyaki was always served t me whole, but I guess when you’re munching your way through Osaka, you’ve gotta be greedy!
Much like the night markets in Thailand and the pasar malams in Malaysia, many of Osaka’s markets go on well into the early hours of the morning, so you could theoretically stay up all night munching your way through the city. Street food in Osaka is also relatively cheap, and cheaper than in Tokyo and Kyoto, in my experience. I find it’s always best to find 3 or 4 dishes you want to try and then tick them off one by one, rather than attempting to scoff down dozens on the same night!
But it’s not just me who finds it impossible to stop munching when in this part of Japan. See what this guy at Will Fly For Food got up to when he ‘Ate’ Osaka! Alternatively, check out this blog from With Husband In Tow to see 10 of the best foods to eat when in Osaka! Happy munching!