There have been a handful of times when we are traveling where we have felt truly special and lucky. Often times it involves meeting fascinating people with inside knowledge of their city or culture. A few times, this special treatment is the result of being invited into someone’s home. When we booked our Osaka Cooking Class we had no idea that we would be invited into the home of two lovely sisters, who offered us an inside look at food in Osaka, Japan. And they opened up the secrets to Japanese cooking.
Top Osaka Restaurant Reviews – 2018 Update
There is just something amazing about seeing the inside of a home in a foreign country. To be able to see how people live, and what homes and apartments are like. Yeah, we can get this experience by renting apartments overseas, and attempting to live like a local when traveling. But, being hosted by a local is an entirely different story. It was also the perfect thing to do in Osaka when we were there because it was indoors! The Osaka weather was not great during our winter visit. It even snowed!
Yayo met us at her local train station, only a few stops from central Osaka. She escorted us to the apartment she shares with her sister, Hiroko, and their adorable little terrier, Akane. We had no idea where the Osaka cooking class was going to take place, until we walked up to Yayo’s apartment building.
Many of the cooking classes we’ve taken have been in a fancy cooking studio at a fancy Japanese culinary school. Sometimes that’s fine. But learning to cook Osaka food, in a private home, from two sisters. That was special. There was an attention to detail because I felt like we were cooking in Japanese.
An At-Home Osaka Cooking Class
We started with Hiroko preparing matcha tea, in a traditional ceremony. All while dressed in a bright green, floral kimono. Hiroko was shy, focusing on the tea, with an almost bashful face. It seemed to be a serious affair until Akane, came running in, yapping away, looking for attention.
We enjoyed our match tea, at the low lying table, in the traditional Japanese tatami, or mat room. Although at first I felt like we were breaking all sorts of rules, Akane helped to break the ice. Once I had my tea and a few dog kisses, we almost felt like family.
The girls’ apartment was lovely, very open, bright and clean, with a decent sized kitchen and a full size titanium refrigerator. This was a big change from our tiny salaryman apartment in Osaka, which barely had enough room for Eric and I to walk around at the same time.
Once we started to our Japanese cooking class, Yayo provided us loads of information. Much of it about the surprising ingredients in some of the most traditional dishes, and how they learned to cook from their grandmother. Not having a relationship with much of my family, I always love the quaintness of hearing that people learn how to cook their country’s cuisine from their mother or grandmother. It was true Japanese home cooking, all in an Osaka kitchen.
And, then, we cooked.
The Secrets Learned in an Osaka Cooking Class
We watched Hiroko demonstrate how to make miso soup, made with dashi, a mixture of dried kelp and sliced dried bonito, or dried tuna flakes, and water. Dashi is essentially a soup stock, which is then heated and mixed with miso, or fermented soybeans, along with tofu, and seaweed. I have never been a fan of miso.
It always just seemed like a nuisance when served along with my sushi at a Japanese restaurant in the States. But, they definitely are not working with Yayo and Hiroko’s grandmother’s recipe. The tofu was soft, and melted in the mouth. The dashi was warm and savory, without being too fishy. It was perfect miso soup.
Next up in our Osaka cooking class was dashimaki, a sweet egg omelet, made with the same dashi that was used in the miso, but then mixed with eggs and mirin, or a sweet sake. It is cooked in layers, and rolled. Hiroko added a small ladle of egg to cook in a square pan, rolled it, and then repeated the process to create subtle layers within the omelet. I always wondered how dahimaki came out so fluffy, and this was the secret. Eric and I took turns trying to cook the egg and roll it, with varying degrees of success.
Okonomiyaki, a speciality of Osaka, is a thick, Japanese pancake, also made with dashi. While Hiroko worked her frying pan, Eric and I made our own okonomiyaki on a large griddle, with the girls looking on, to make sure we didn’t mess up.
We added cabbage, fried tempura bits, and pickled red ginger to the batter. Eric was thrilled to layer on every bit of pork belly he was given onto his okonomiyaki. After we carefully flipped the pancake, we covered the okonomiyaki with a sweet, brown sauce, made it pretty with lines of mayonnaise, and then sprinkled on dried, green seaweed, and sliced, dried bonito. Similar to miso, the few times I had okonomiyaki during a prior trip to Osaka, I was just not a fan, thinking it was a little too fishy, and too sweet. But, something that the girls’ did, and I imagine it was something their grandmother taught them, made the pancake perfect.
The last dish in our Osaka cooking class was takoyaki, or fried octopus balls. We were allowed some individuality with our takoyaki. Normally, you would only find octopus, or you minimally you must find octopus inside the takoyaki. Otherwise it’s not takoyaki. But cooking Japanese food doesn’t always mean tradition.
Yayo allowed us to add red ginger bits, tempura bits, corn, and even baby shrimp. We learned how to delicately turn and flip the takoyaki with a metal skewer. I imagined the girls’ grandmother teaching them the tricks of how to turn the takoyaki, without destroying it. Of course, once finished, the takoyaki were covered with sweet, brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried green seaweed, and dried bonito, just like the okonomiyaki.
As much as this was a tour, for the few hours we were in that apartment building, in our Osaka cooking class, we felt like we were visiting friends, and learning from them. We were laughing and taking photos, and playing with the dog. It was a perfect morning and one that I will not soon forget.
Looking to Learn More About Japanese Food?
We loved our Osaka cooking class, but there are so many great ways to learn about Japanese food. Here are our recommendations for a Japanese food tour, an Osaka street food tour, and a search for the best ramen in Osaka. Plus more!
A lot of these food tours make it possible to “eat in Japanese” – to get the inside scoop on where to eat in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo!
They are some of the top Japanese classes involving food. And, if you only have one day in Osaka (or in Japan) these tours can help maximize your time.
|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|
We were supported by Viator Travel during this amazing Osaka cooking class, but my opinions, as always are my own. This cooking class experience can be booked through Viator, starting at $75 per person.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Traveling to Osaka?
Where to Stay in Osaka:
What to do in Osaka: Take a Japanese Cooking Class
What to eat in Osaka: The top 10 dishes to eat in Osaka.
Find more Japan posts here.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.