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Article was written by Hana
Osaka is the third-largest city in Japan and an important commercial centre, well-known for its
nightlife, architecture and historical landmarks. However, the true spirit of Osaka lies in its food
a culture which is represented by the famous saying: “Kuidaore!” with the literal translation: “Eat until
Osaka got its nickname Tenka no daikoro, meaning the nation’s kitchen, in the 17 th century when the
Japanese Emperor moved the royal capital to Kyoto. Even though Kyoto is stunning, its inaccessible
location made it almost impossible to become the trading hotspot, but nearby port city Osaka fit the
position perfectly. The rulers gave orders to collect all the goods here and then distribute them to
the rest of the country. That is how Osaka got its first dibs on the best foods and ever since then its
cuisine just blossomed.
It is very easy to get overwhelmed by all the food choices in Osaka. While walking on the streets, you
are constantly stimulated by different smells coming from countless street vendors lined along the
pavement and selling treats you’ve probably never heard of! Here in this article, I will present you
with some of the most famous and delicious dishes to try in Osaka so you can feast your way around
the city in its full authenticity.
Welcome to our ultimate guide to food in Osaka with the top 10 recommended dishes!
These delicious small hot savory balls with a piece of octopus in the middle are considered the soul food in Japan and they are very popular among locals. Takoyaki literally means grilled octopus, with tako = octopus and yaki = grilled or fried. After the balls are cooked in a special takoyaki pan, traditionally they are brushed with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and Japanese
mayonnaise and sprinkled with fish flakes and aonori (edible green seaweed). Today, however, you can find different types of takoyaki served for example in a soup, or as a sweet treat with chocolate chips inside.
Takoyaki were first invented in 1935 in Osaka by a street vendor Endo Tomekichi. During that time octopus was abundant so he decided to incorporate it into a battered dish shaped like dumplings,
which became an immediate success all over Japan. You can still visit today his original food stall in Osaka – it’s called Aizuya and they have different locations across the city, however, the first one is located in Nishinari Ward.
►Akaoni – Namba
Akaoni is located on a quiet corner in otherwise busy Namba area. It’s not a sit-down restaurant, only a street food stall, but their takoyaki is really special, as they use raw octopus for their balls instead of boiled one, just like most of their competitors. Akaoni is also listed in Michelin guide. This doesn’t mean that they actually have a Michelin star, but being in the guide itself is still a great achievement! You will recognize their stall easily, as there’s an Aka Oni at the front. Aka means red and Oni is a demon in Japanese folklore. This Oni in Akaoni restaurant is, however, a rather cute one.
►Aizuya – Umeda, Namba
The original restaurant chain founded by Endo Tomekichi in the 1930s. Their takoyaki is a little bit different than in other shops, because they don’t use as many toppings and sauces, but the octopus balls are still delicious!
The second most popular dish in Osaka and my personal favourite is Okonomiyaki – a thick savoury pancake generously filled with shredded cabbage and other ingredients, made right in front of you on a traditional teppan table (teppan meaning hot plate). In the teppanyaki-style restaurants, the hot plate is incorporated in the dining table, and the chef comes to you to prepare okonomiyaki (or other dishes, depending on a restaurant), which makes the dining completely different, fun experience. You can enjoy watching them mixing the ingredients and pouring it on teppan, hearing it sizzle and turning it into crispy golden brown discs, which are still creamy on the inside. Lose translation of okonomiyaki is “grilled stuff you like” and I can confirm, it is really everything I like in a dish!
►Fugetsu – Dotombori, Bentencho
►Ajinoya – Namba
Kushikatsu is another traditional dish that originated in Osaka in 1929 in the suburb Shinsekai, where you can still find some of the best kushikatsu restaurants today. It is a dish of meat or vegetables cut into mouthful portions, stuck on a skewer, battered and deep-fried to a crispy golden finish. Kushi refers to the bamboo skewers and katsu means deep-fried cutlet of meat, but as I said, vegetable, seafood, quail eggs or even fruit options are also very popular options on the menu. There are some rules to follow when visiting a kushikatsu restaurant. You will probably notice quite a big tray with mysteriously looking liquid on every table. This is kushikatsu sauce where you dip your skewers before eating. Because the sauce is shared, double-dipping strictly prohibited! Kushikatsu is usually served with cabbage salad to help with digestion, as deep-fried food can be very heavy.
►Daruma - A fun and well-known chain of Kushikatsu. Good value and very tasty.
►Yaekatsu – near Tennoji Park
Tonkatsu is deep-fried tempura pork cutlet covered in panko crumbs and usually served with Japanese Worcestershire sauce, rice and shredded cabbage salad, but you can also find it in a sandwich, as an addition to curry, or served with an egg in a big bowl of udon noodles. It is a pretty straightforward dish, but far from boring. Sometimes the best things are just simple. Even though the dish originated in the early 19th century in Tokyo, Osaka takes its food very seriously and so it’s natural that you can find some of the best tonkatsu restaurants here.
►Yaba Ton Osaka – Dotombori
►Guykatsu Motomura – Namba, Umeda (multiple locations)
This is the best tonkatsu you can get in Osaka. They have multiple locations across the city.
Tonkatsu is a very popular dish all over Japan and you can often find it in grocery stores, Family marts, or 7 Eleven. They make them fresh and honesty, I think they are delicious…. I haven’t got a bad piece so far. It is a great option for a quick snack or dinner.
I would say this is a dish for thrill-seekers who don’t mind paying for their food at a higher price. Fugu is Japanese blowfish, which is prepared to be eaten raw. Nothing unusual about that, if this type of fish wasn’t extremely poisonous and can be fatal if prepared with unskilled hands. Luckily, all the fugu restaurants are strictly controlled by Japanese law and the chefs need special training of three or more years and a license to prepare this delicacy, so you really don’t have to worry if you’d like to try it. The Japanese have been eating fugu for centuries. It is one of the most celebrated and notorious dishes in Japanese cuisine. Usually, it is served in super thin slices of sashimi arranged on a large plate in a floral pattern, but you can also find it in a stew, tempura, hotpot or deep-fried.
►Takoyasu – Minato Ward
This place is considered as the best to enjoy blowfish in Osaka. The restaurant was founded in 1929 and it has got 2 Michelin stars. Their main focus is fugu and they can prepare it in many different ways.
►Zuboraya – Shinsekai
A spot which is easy to find when wandering through Shinsekai, because of their big lantern shaped as blowfish above the entrance. Even though they are missing Michelin stars, this place is one of the most famous to get fugu and they prepare many different dishes from it.
Another very popular dish of the Kansai region is Tonpeiyaki. Similar to okonomiyaki, tonpeiyaki is basically an egg omelette, but not as thick, easier to make and with different fillings. The translation of its name is flat grilled pork, which is one of the main components – other ingredients can be moyashi bean sprouts, cabbage, pickled ginger and spring onions.
You can usually get very good tonpeyaki at the same restaurants as okonomiyaki, or in a street food stall.
►Fukutaro – Nippombashi, 8th floor of Takashimaya department store
It wouldn’t be a trip to Japan without trying the world-famous sushi or sashimi, right? I believe most of you already know and tried this traditional Japanese dish made of rice and seafood, garnished with vegetables and edible seaweed. Osaka being the nation’s kitchen, you can find some of the best sushi and sashimi restaurants here. Traditionally, the presentation of sushi and sashimi is very minimalist and aesthetically pleasing, served on geometric wooden or lacquer plates. The daily offer of many restaurants depends on the catch of the day and the price is usually fixed for the whole set selected by the chef.
►Sushi Hayata – Chuo Ward (between Namba and Umeda)
►Kura Sushi Namba Motomachi – Namba
►Endo Sushi – Fukushima, Miyakojima Ward
Taiyaki is an old dish with a long tradition in Japanese cuisine. It was created over 100 years ago and its creation remained relatively unchanged ever since. Tai means red seabream in Japanese and this dessert is really shaped like a fish. Pancake or waffle batter is poured into special fish-shaped moulds, then they’re filled with different fillings and closed so they’re crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. The traditional filling is sweet red bean paste, but today you can find many different options, for example, caramel, matcha, cream, chocolate, soft-serve ice cream, or even savoury options with sausages or cheese. The origin of the fish shape is unknown, but the most common belief is that, because sea bream was very expensive at that time, the cake was shaped in such way to make the eater feel like they were eating luxuriously. The name taiyaki comes from word Tai which means seabream in Japanese, but it’s also similar to the word medetai which translates as happy or prosperous, so this dish is often eaten for good luck!
►Naruto Taiyaki Hompo – Namba (multiple locations around Umeda, Chuo Ward and
Another internationally famous and beloved heart-warming dish is ramen, whose origin, however, is not in Japan but in China. According to Yokohama Ramen Museum, ramen made its way to Japan in 1859, when it was firstly introduced by Chinese immigrants. Even though this dish wasn’t firstly made in Japan, they personalized it and today each Japanese region has its own recipe and procedure to make their ramen special. Ramen is broadly categorized by two main ingredients: noodles and broth. You can find countless of variations of ramen in Osaka. I would recommend trying something special where there is a low chance you’d find it elsewhere in the world, for example, squid ink ramen, tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen or creamy chilli ramen. In many ramen restaurants, you make your order on an automatic machine in the corner next to the entrance, where you also pay. You can choose from many different toppings, broths or how well the noodles should be cooked (from crunchy to very soft). For the first time, the machine surprised me, but they are easy to use and they have the English translation as well.
►Torisoba Ayam-ya – Namba
►Shoyu-Ramen Sodaisho – near Osaka Station
The last dish on our list is kitsune udon, a dish which is popular all across Japan, but has its origins in Osaka. Standard kitsune udon from Kansai region is characteristic for its light broth served with thick chewy udon noodles and a piece of deep-fried tofu, which simmered in a sweet sauce. It is said that this dish was firstly created in Usami-tei Matsubaya restaurant in Chuo Ward and it represents true soul food of Osaka. And where does its name come from? There is a saying in Japan that “fox likes to eat tofu” and kitsune means fox. I hope this article gives you an idea and inspiration to visit Osaka and try its local dishes! Local people take great pride in their food and I can guarantee that Osaka will always feed you well! Bon appétit, or as we say in Japan: Itadakimasu!
►Nishiya Honten – Chuo Ward