While Japan is widely known for being a superb culinary destination, it likely means you’ll have a never-ending list of food to try when you visit!
Being Japan’s second largest city affords Osaka (and the wider Kansai region that it’s found in) a wide variety of food that the city prides itself on. There’s a popular saying that Osaka locals will spend all their money in pursuit of good food and drink – a saying we’re wholeheartedly behind! If this doesn’t give you hope that Osaka is a foodie city, then we don’t know what will. Here’s a quick hit list of how to eat your way around Osaka.
Despite being able to find kitsune udon in other parts of Japan, the Kansai region version is up there as one of the most sought-after meals in Osaka. It’s the broth that is unique to the region, made with light soy sauce giving it a real umami flavour. While kitsune udon is only comprised of simple ingredients – broth, udon noodles and a sheet of fried, sweet tofu – it’s super refreshing.
Describing a type of Japanese BBQ that specialises in marinated beef or pork tripe, horumonyaki had humble beginnings but is now an Osaka delicacy. Although offal may be off putting, we’d recommend giving it a taste! Its texture and taste, combined with the marinade, make a good pairing with a cold glass of Asahi (or any beer on offer, for that matter!).
The word ‘taiko’ means drum which these sweet treats are named for. A batter of flour, eggs and sugar is baked in a special steel mould with the added surprise of red bean paste in the middle! As you can see, the mould gives taiko manju their unique shape and are best enjoyed hot.
There’s a simple joy that comes with eating a delicious, deep-fried morsel off a stick, isn’t there? Head to the Tsutenkaku area in Osaka where you’ll find a number of kushikatsu restaurants. Take your pick of deep-fried meat and vegetables, delivered hot and crispy to your table. You can then dip your skewer into the special sauce container on your table – just once, mind, no double dipping is allowed!
Fugu is probably Japan’s most deadly delicacy. The pufferfish contains lethal poison so only trained chefs can prepare it for consumption. Japan has strict rules in place for restaurant preparation of fugu, and chefs must train for a minimum of three years before qualifying. Chefs works delicately to ensure they remove all toxic parts whilst also not contaminating other parts of the fish, and themselves. Don’t let this put you off trying it though! The fish has a mild flavour and in Osaka, is cooked in a hot pot with vegetables and broth for a warming meal.
While we may have all heard of okonomiyaki, negiyaki is Osaka’s version of the savoury pancake. Negiyaki is packed full of the simple, but tasty, addition of Japanese leek (negi), and topped with diced onion and okonomiyaki sauce for a real kick.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the region without a meal of kobe beef! Kobe is a city in the Hyogo prefecture, found just 40 minutes west of Osaka. There are three interesting facts about how kobe beef is produced:
- The cows are fed beer to induce their appetite,
- The cows are massaged daily to increase the marbling of the beef, and
- Classical music is played to the cows as a relaxation technique
The end result is a superior flavour, a high amount of marbling and extreme tenderness. This premium cut of meat does come with a price tag, but it’s well worth it! There are a few ways to enjoy it, but most locals tend to have it as a steak or grilled on a BBQ.
How could we look past takoyaki? Similar to taiko menju, this popular street food snack is cooked in a special ball mould. Also known as octopus balls in the Western world, it’s fascinating to watch the speed at which chefs quickly flip the takoyaki to ensure an even cook. Best enjoyed straight from the mould, they’re covered with lashings of a special sauce and mayonnaise and sprinkled with bonito flakes and dried nori powder.