Osaka is a foodies’ paradise, and it is hard to come up with a list of ONLY 10 Osaka must eat foods. 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. We enjoyed doing the research of what to eat in Osaka.
>>Top Osaka Restaurant Reviews – 2018 Update<<
What to Eat in Osaka
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 famous Osaka food.
Although most people say that they lose 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. And Osaka is home to all of the most famous Japanese food!
Top Foods to Eat in Osaka
1. Okonomiyaki Osaka – a local speciality
Okonomiyaki, is a thick Japanese pancake, and as a speciality of Osaka, it can be considered the best food in Osaka. It can be found all over the Namba area, one of the top Osaka places of interest. And it’s found most notably on Dotonburi, the food walk along the river, an Osaka must see. 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. For me, this version became the best okonomiyaki in Osaka.
Eating Okonomiyaki is a must do in Osaka!
Takoyaki, or fried octopus balls, are another speciality of Osaka, and can be found seemingly everywhere, particularly in Dotonburi. It’s easy to find, even if hard to find the best takoyaki in Osaka. 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. But, it’s a “must to do in Osaka.”
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. And, I didn’t find an Osaka travel blog to tell me. 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.
But, let’s talk about conveyor belt sushi in Osaka. Is conveyor belt sushi the best sushi in Osaka? Probably not. But, it’s cheap and fun. And, a conveyor belt Osaka sushi restaurant can be a great value!
5. Japanese Curry
Japanese curry was supposedly introduced by the British, who learned about curry in India. My favorite is a fried chicken cutlet. It’s served 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 in Osaka
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. Udon noodles can be some of the best ramen 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 in Osaka 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 eating 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 in Osaka. 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.
FAQs – Where to Eat in Osaka
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. Here’s our final bits of advice on what to eat in Osaka.
- Are there picture menus? Yes! If you don’t speak Japanese, you can still eat in Japanese! Did we understand everything at every Osaka Japanese restaurant? No, but between picture menus and Google Translate, we never ordered wrong.
- How do you find the best restaurants in Osaka? Go where the locals go. If there is a line, wait your turn.
- Is there good Osaka street food? Yes, there are a handful of foods you can eat on the street, but, even a regular Osaka restaurant can offer great food, cheap, and sometimes while standing.
- How do you eat Osaka? Perfect question! Don’t plan 3 meals a day. Just spend the day snacking, so you can try the most Osaka foods possible. Food is one of the Osaka top attractions. Or, take an Osaka food tour to try it all!
- How much does it cost to eat in Japan? Check out our Japanese food blog all about the costs of food in Japan.
Looking to Learn More About Japanese Food?
We loved eating in Osaka, but there are so many great ways to learn about Japanese food. Here are our recommendations for some of the best tours that involve traditional Japanese meals, Osaka cooking classes, and Japanese market tours.
|Tour||City||Duration||Price From||Book It|
|Tokyo by Night - Japanese Food Tour||Tokyo||3 Hours||$114|
|Challenge a Sumo Wrestler Over Lunch||Tokyo||2 Hours||$114|
|Combo: Sushi Making, Tsujiki Market & Sake Tasting||Tokyo||4 Hours||$207|
|Tsujiji Fish Marketing & Sushi Making||Tokyo||4 Hours||$130||
|Evening Food & Drink Tour in Osaka||Osaka||3 Hours||$100|
|Osaka Cooking Class||Osaka||2.5 Hours||$86|
|Nishiki Market Tour & 7 Course Lunch||Kyoto||3 Hours||$129||
|Japanese Tea Ceremony With Tea Master||Kyoto||Varies||$40|
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