Osaka is a foodies’ paradise, and it is hard to come up with a list of ONLY 10 foods to eat in Osaka. The people in Osaka take their food very seriously, giving Osaka the nickname the kitchen of Japan. Because we also take the food we eat very seriously, it seemed to be a perfect match.
I like to think of Tokyo like NYC, and Osaka like Chicago. Tokyo and New York are the financial centers, with loads of hard working people. Osaka and Chicago also have lots of corporate employees and hard workers, but the people are nicer, friendlier, and more approachable. In both cities, there tends to be an element of work hard, play hard, which is why there are so many places to eat and drink around both cities. It is also what drove us to spend 10 days with the goal of doing nothing but eating in Osaka.
Although most people say that they lost weight when traveling to Japan, that was certainly not the case for us. Part of the reason was that perhaps we imbibed a bit too much on the sake, but I just can’t help it. I love sake!
The biggest reason, though, was that we wanted to eat ourselves silly. We wanted to practice kuidaore, essentially eating until bankrupt, or eating until you fall over. This meant we ended up eating multiple meals during the day, to get it all in. If our goal was to eat in Osaka, we certainly satisfied it.
Top Foods to Eat in Osaka
Okonomiyaki, is a thick Japanese pancake, and is a speciality of Osaka. It can be found all over the Namba area, and most notably on Dotonburi, the food walk along the river. The pancake batter is mixed with cabbage, tempura bits, and pickled ginger, and cooked on a flat top grill. It is served with okonomiyaki sauce, which is a sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried green seaweed, and dried bonito, or dried tuna flakes.
Okonomiyaki is a must eat in Osaka, but for me, it is something I could eat once and not eat again. When we ate it in 2009, it was not great. This visit, though, we made okonomiyaki during an Osaka cooking class we took with Viator Travel, and it was much better. Perhaps because it was a labor of love, and I had more control over how much bonito and seaweed to add.
Takoyaki, or fried octopus balls, are another speciality of Osaka, and can be found seemingly everywhere, particularly in Dotonburi. It is made with a batter similar to the okonomiyaki, but a lot smaller. The batter is placed into a specially shaped takoyaki pan to make the balls. The pan almost looks like a small cupcake pan, where the batter is ladled in. Pieces of octopus are then placed inside the batter and a pointy metal stick is used to turn the balls to ensure they are cooked on all sides.
It’s even possible to find restaurants where you can make your own takoyaki at the table. I find this interesting, particularly with how much beer and sake is drank in Osaka. Let’s allow people to drink loads of alcohol, place them in front of a searing hot griddle, and provide them with pointy sticks. I don’t know if this would fly in the States.
3. Kushiage or Kushikatsu
Fried stuff on a stick. Honestly, during our stay in Osaka, I had no idea what this type of food was called, and could not remember from our last trip. All I knew was that if I did not provide Eric at least one meal or snack of fried stuff on a stick each day, I would be in trouble. They will take anything and place it on a stick, and dunk it in a deep fryer, from sausages to peppers to beef to pickled ginger, cheese, and rice cakes. Yeah, I just described the perfect plate of kushiage.
The most important rule when eating kushiage is no double dipping! There is a communal sweet brown sauce to dip the fried stuff on a stick into, but only dip once. It’s the George Costanza rule.
Well, this goes without saying. Sushi is a must eat in Osaka, whether a snack of conveyor belt sushi is more your style, or a nicer sushi restaurant in Japan, just go for it. Even better, order a sushi assortment, and allow the chef to pick what you eat. Even if you are not adventurous, go for it anyway! The best we had was at Sushi Hayata, near the Hommachi subway station, and next to the St. Regis.
5. Japanese Curry
Japanese curry was supposedly introduced by the British, who learned about curry in India. My favorite is a fried chicken cutlet, over a bed of rice, slathered in a thick, brown curry sauce, maybe with some additional vegetables. To add a tanginess, throw on some pickled vegetables as a condiment. It is pretty easy to find all over Osaka, but the best we found was Rebel Curry, near the Hommachi subway station. Rebel Curry is located on the second floor of an apartment building in a bar called Rock Bar. They are only open for lunch, and only serve one dish, but it was amazing, almost like a fusion curry, with a bit of saffron and chickpeas. Amazing.
6. Udon Noodles
We ate udon noodles in a ramen style broth, as our first meal in Osaka, and it quickly became a comfort food. I tried mine with a raw egg, which mixed into the soup as it cooked, and a side of tempura to dip into the broth. On a cold Japanese day, this was easily one of my top foods to eat in Osaka.
7. Soba Noodles
Whereas udon noodles are white, wide, and soft (kind of like me right now), soba noodles are made with buckwheat giving them a characteristic dark grey color. They are more dry, thin, and somewhat delicate. They can be added to a soup, like udon, but traditionalists will say it is imperative to eat soba noodles cold, dipped into a little sauce. This enables you to taste the texture and freshness of the noodle.
I don’t remember eating a lot of gyoza during our last trip to Japan, although I’ve probably had about a thousand of these pork and vegetable filled, fried dumplings all over the world. This time around we tried them in a few different places, but the best was a little gyoza shop near our apartment on Shinsaibashi, the shopping arcade of Osaka. They were served piping hot and sizzling in a cast iron skillet.
A day is not a day in Osaka without tempura. Seriously. Sometimes we had tempura for dessert, which we did when meeting up with fellow bloggers Notes of Nomads one of our last nights in Osaka. They may have thought we were strange for having a second meal solely of tempura, but when a plate of shrimp and vegetables arrived, slathered in a perfectly fluffy fried tempura covering, it was just heaven. And, a perfect dish with a cold glass of sake. It almost became a beer snack for us, but for me, beer was generally sake.
Dashimaki is a Japanese sweet omelet, which is either served whole, or sliced, or even as sushi. Dashi is the base for miso soup, and includes dried keep and sliced bonito, the fried fish flakes on top of both okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Neither of these sound appealing, but together in miso, or as an ingredient in the omelet, it somehow works.
When visiting Osaka, I think it is important to allow yourself enough time to eat. These are just 10 of the best foods to eat in Osaka. If you only visit for two nights, you will never get through it all.
I not only engaged in a little bit of kuidaore, but I also captured all of these great eats in Osaka on my Instagram page.
What is your favorite food to eat in Osaka?