Most people think that Tokyo is a far superior city for food than Osaka. What they fail to realize is that Osaka is considered the food capital of Japan. Osaka is a city for food lovers and has just as great of food, or even better, than Tokyo.
Some of the most famous and delicious foods in Osaka are those being sold by street vendors (and in restaurants all over the city). If you are visiting Osaka, make sure you try some of these delicious and classic street foods such as takoyaki, kushikatsu, and okonomiyaki.
Takoyaki is a ball shaped Japanese snack that originates in Osaka and is one of the cities signature street foods.
These balls of flour are filled with large pieces of diced octopus (tako), ginger, and green onions. They are then topped with takoyaki sauce, dried bonito fish flakes, dried seaweed, and sometimes a dab of mayonnaise.
Takoyaki is made by street vendors all over Osaka. Watching them make this popular snack is also a great experience. Street vendors use their skill of speed, and a cast iron takoyaki pan, to grill and serve hundreds of these delicious balls of hot dough per hour.
One tip : be careful when consuming takoyaki when it is first removed from the takoyaki pan. It can be extremely hot and gooey which could burn your mouth.
If you are looking to try some takoyaki, head on over to Dotonbori where you can watch it being made right in front of you.
Kushikatsu is simply an assortment of deep fried skewers of meats, vegetables, and other tasty treats.
These skewers are then dipped into a light batter, coated with breadcrumbs, and deep fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. This is similar to tonkatsu (pork cutlet).
Restaurants serving kushikatsu may offer as many as 50 different combinations of deep fried goodies. Pork may be the most popular but you will also find a long list of meats such as beef and chicken, seafood such as squid and octopus, and almost any imaginable vegetable. Kushikatsu are usually accompanied with an assortment of dipping sauces and alcoholic beverages.
One of the most popular places in Osaka to try kushikatsu is in the Shinsekai neighborhood. One of the oldest kushikatsu restaurants is Daruma (2-3-9 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka).
Okonomiyaki is a popular and inexpensive dish found all over Osaka that resembles a thick and savoury pancake filled with whatever you would like. Some even refer to okonomiyaki as an omelette or even a Japanese pizza.
The simple dish is made using a batter of flour mixed with an endless assortment of fillings including cheeses, vegetables such as onions and cabbage, and meats and seafood including beef, pork belly, squid, shrimp, and octopus. Whatever you can imagine can be added to the dish.
Okonomiyaki is most often cooked on an iron hotplate known as a teppan. Most restaurants will do the cooking for you which adds to the whole experience, especially if you are new to Japanese food and a little nervous.
There are around 25,000 restaurants in Japan alone serving okonomiyaki. Around 4,000 of these restaurants are found in Osaka.
Many of these restaurants display plastic models of the food they serve in the windows at the front of the restaurant. If you do not know Japanese, these models make ordering easy. Just point to what you would like, and before you know it, you will be enjoying delicious okonomiyaki or whatever else you choose.
One great place to try okonomiyaki is at Okonomiyaki Kiji. This small but friendly place is located in the maze of restaurants in the basement of the futuristic Umeda Sky Building. The restaurant full of locals may be difficult to find but the staff and food makes the search well worth it. English menus are not to be found, but since the food is made on flat top grills at the bar, just point at what looks good. Just note that the okonomiyaki are massive so come hungry.
Osaka has an amazing and delicious food scene that will leave even the pickiest of eaters satisfied. When you think of Japanese food, you probably think of sushi and ramen first, which are great, but if you are in the Osaka area and want to try something unique and new, be sure to give takoyaki, kushikatsu, and okonomiyaki a try.