Take A Street Food Tour Of Downtown Osaka
A guide to Japan's kitchen.
Osaka is “Japan’s kitchen”: a delicious melting pot of flavours, broths and steam. A place where food is queued for and obsessed over, invented and improved, slurped and chewed.
The cool thing about Osaka is that lots of your favourite Japanese cuisines have been created there, so you can employ the “But it’s the home of…” excuse at every turn. Not that you need an excuse – you’re in Osaka. Along with the sushi, sashimi and Japanese curries, there are some thing’s you’ve just gotta try when you’re in town.
Yakiniku is the practice of grilling meat over a hot plate in the middle of the table. But not just any meat. The very finest, top-of-the-range meat, marbled, tender and mind-blowingly tasty. It’s barbecued until browned to your personal preference over a plate of fiery charcoal.
You can also opt for the all-you-can-eat Yakiniku option, or experience horomun barbecue with the offcuts of meat.
One restaurant, called Tajimaya E-ma smokes theirs meat for 50 hours before it makes it to the table. Another, Ogawatei Torachan serves highly rare Yamagata beef that can only be obtained through the chef’s personal connection. Ajiyoshi won’t even bother to source their Japanese Black beef from the market for the day if it’s not up to standard.
Yakiniku is serious business in Osaka.
While you’ve probably tried ramen before, you’ve never tried ramen like they do in Osaka. There’s a lot to know about the different parts of the dish before you begin your experience. According to Osaka Insider, you can have four different kinds of broth (shoyu, miso, shio and tonkotsu), noodles served either katame (harder) or yawarakame (softer) and a variety of toppings ranging from boiled egg, to chashu (pork slices) to kamaboko (fish cake) and a bunch more. It can also be served hot or cold.
You could start with the Takaida-kei style ramen, which is Osaka’s classic variation on the dish. It’s got as shoyu (soy sauce) broth, menma (fermented bamboo shoots) and thickly cut noodles and onion. It’s super salty with chewy noodles, and 7.5Hz does a famously great version.
Takoyaki is so quintessentially Osaka, we’d say it would be almost sacrilege to make a trip to the city without giving it a go. It consists of a fried, crispy ball of dough with a cooked piece of octopus in the middle smothered with your choice of sauces.
Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake filled with cabbage and topped with your choice of ingredients. You can get meat, noodles, sauces and veggies piled on top.
Try out Okonomiyaki Kiji and Ajinoya Okonomiyaki. Definitely hit up Okaru, where the chef will come around and draw a little picture on top of your delicious, custom-made pancake. Cute.
People are often a little hesitant to try oden. Unlike the bright colours, creamy sauces and steamy rice in other Japanese dishes, Oden’s make up of various beige-coloured foods floating around in a similarly beige broth doesn’t look too appetising. But, once you get past the fact that it’s not very pretty and get right to the delicious, homey flavours, you’ll start to appreciate oden as it should be. A traditional comfort food made for everyone to enjoy.
You should try it at Hanakujira, arguably the most popular spot for oden in the city. It’s also worth hitting up Sakamoto and the stalls at Kuromen market. It’s also available at service stations and 7-Elevens, but, with all the oden options to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. Head here for a handy explainer.
Kushikatsu is literally fried things on a stick. Fried pickles, vegetables, meat all stuck on a stick and dipped in ponzo sauce. Kind of like carnival food but much more flavoursome, especially when dipped in the tangy sauce. Just don’t double-dip in the shared pot.
You can find Kushikatsu when strolling the markets, or at the chain restaurant Kushikatsu Daruma that originated in Osaka. Yakko Kushikatsu is another good place to head to.
You hungry yet? Same.
(Lead image: Pedro Szekely / Flickr)