Osaka is famous as the place to go to “eat till you drop” - or literally “kuidaore” in Japanese. In the Edo era it was also known as being the “kitchen” of Japan for being where a large amount of rice was stored in warehouses.
Today, the Dotonbori area is the place to head to for your fill of “konomono”, which means “food made from flour”. That includes the popular local dishes of okonomiyaki pancakes, takoyaki octopus balls and ikayaki grilled squid crackers.
These dishes are the soul food of Osaka, suiting the locals’ preference for food that is fast, filling, affordable and needless to say, tasty.
Okonomiyaki means “fry up whatever you like”, and the pancake comes with various ingredients, the basic being pork and cabbage, topped with a sweet and tangy sauce that is similar to Worcester sauce but a bit thicker, an artistic criss-cross of mayonnaise and bonito flakes. You can also choose from seafood fillings, cheese, and the local specialty of “gyusuji”, or beef tendon. Takoyaki, or grilled octopus balls, are made of flour with octopus pieces and also topped with sauce and mayonnaise. You can also choose form various toppings such as a mountain of chopped spring onions, or various sauces. Osaka prides itself as the origin of takoyaki, and it is very good here - crispy on the outside and creamy inside. Having a serving of steaming hot, freshly grilled takoyaki is a great way to warm up during the winter!
The ikayaki is a thin cracker that has a whole pressed squid in it, and is a handy snack to eat while walking and sightseeing. Fried Foods
Osaka is also home to kushikatsu - or fried things on sticks. The original ingredient was beef, or gyukushi, but now the menu has expanded to include all sorts of meats, seafood, vegetables and even rice cakes - and ice cream in some places!The fried breadcrumb coating is thin and crispy for a delicate crunch, and it is dipped in sauce that comes in a communal sauce container. For hygienic reasons, you are only allowed to dip each stick once.Kushikatsu restaurants also usually provide a free flow of raw cabbage for free, to help offset the otherwise fried foods, and if you choose to dip these in the sauce it is customary to do this with your hands, not utensils that you have eaten from.
The Tsutenkaku area, and in particular the Jan Jan Yokocho, or Jan Jan Alley, is known as the best place to head to for kushikatsu. There are many kushikatsu restaurants here, as well as greasy spoons serving up small dishes to go with beer or sake from as early as 10am.
Recently, Kuromon Market, a covered wet market centrally located near Namba, has become extremely popular with tourists as a place to graze on fresh seafood such as crabs, scallops and wagyu Japanese beef in tourist-friendly sampling portions.
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