With over 12 million visitors a year, Osaka is one of Japan’s most visited cities. And as such, it must have something amazing to offer.
The local chefs are some of the greatest, and many boast Michelin stars as proof. Its cuisine can be traced back to Osaka’s rich history as a trading hub, with influences from China and Korea along the way. Even so, you’ll discover many dishes that are unique to Osaka, Japan that will leave your taste buds with a lasting impression of its culinary heritage.
Here’s what you should eat in this foodie-friendly city:
Okonomiyaki in Osaka, Japan
Okonomiyaki is on just about every street corner in the city, and it’s served at all hours of the day. Invented in the Edo period, this dish has become a quintessential part of that city’s culinary tradition.
A thick batter is mixed with cabbage, green onion, pork belly or shrimp, and other ingredients. It’s then grilled on a hotplate until golden brown and crispy on the outside.
Cooks then load the finished plate with layers of cabbage and meat. You can also ask for an extra egg on top, as many Okonomiyaki lovers do.
They then top the end product with Japanese mayonnaise. Chefs also put a sprinkle of dried bonito flakes on each serving. Locals call these garnishes Katsuobushi.
Unlike other variations, however, Osaka-style Okonomiyaki is crisp on both sides. There’s also less lettuce than other Okonomiyaki options, so it’s a safe bet if you’re not into vegetables.
Osaka is the birthplace of takoyaki, a Japanese delicacy made with octopus and batter. But the US term “octopus balls” doesn’t accurately describe this dish—it’s not about eating tentacles!
Takoyaki is a ball-shaped snack made from wheat flour and filled with octopus, Japanese mayonnaise, pickled ginger, and green onion. It’s then cooked until it turns golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside.
Top it off with more Japanese mayonnaise, and you have a mouthful of deliciousness. Add a little Katsuboshi on top if you’re looking for a full Japanese experience.
Despite the odd combination, this dish is both delicious and approachable for even the pickiest eaters. You can find it at any fast food vendor in Osaka.
They’re also dedicated restaurants for takoyaki. They’re a little more expensive than the fast food versions, but they offer an experience that’s worth it.
Doteyaki, another Osaka staple, was first concocted in the 1920s. Since then, its flavor profile has had some upgrades.
This slow-simmered stew contains beef tendon, konjac, and miso. Chefs garnish with spring onions for crunch, or shichimi spices for extra flavor.
It’s hearty and filling, the perfect dish to enjoy while drinking at an izakaya (Japanese bar). You can order your doteyaki on a skewer without the sauce or have it the traditional way: with a thick gravy of sake, miso, and soy sauce.
Kushikatsu is a traditional Japanese dish you’ll find everywhere—but Osaka has some of the best! It’s a skewered meat or vegetable that’s battered and deep-fried into crispy goodness. Restaurants serve this with a special sauce that combines Japanese Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar.
The crispy, succulent kushikatsu skewers are perfect for sharing with friends over drinks—or just eating on your own. It was popular in the war era, providing working-class residents with a delicious and affordable treat. Now, it’s a gem of Japanese cuisine that no visitor to Osaka should miss.
You can find kushikatsu vendors in many places throughout Osaka, especially near Dotonbori. You can’t miss the restaurants—they’re always packed with people.
Kitsune Udon is made with hearty noodles, a favorite dish in other Eastern areas. You put it in dashi broth, garnished with deep-fried tofu. However, you can choose from a variety of toppings, like cabbage, mushrooms, or carrots.
A quick taste of kitsune udon will tell you it’s made with care and attention to detail. When bought from a traditional Japanese restaurant, the experience becomes much more than simply eating—you’re diving into the Japanese culture.
Kitsune are fox spirits in Japanese folklore and kitsune udon takes its name from this spirit. This spirit’s diet comprised good food, inari age being one of them. It’s thinly sliced, deep-fried tofu that’s often eaten with Japanese food.
The topping is said to be so delicious that Kitsune would often sneak into people’s homes and eat it. Give it a try during your time in Japan. You’ll find the experience to be just as mouthwatering as a fox spirit.
Tecchiri is a type of nabe (Japanese hot pot) that uses pufferfish. It’s a delicacy and is often eaten on special occasions.
The pufferfish is cooked in kombu broth with soy sauce until it becomes tender and edible. You’ll find that it has a meaty texture similar to squid or octopus and will have an earthy flavor that isn’t overpowering.
The risks associated with pufferfish may turn you off, but you can trust that Japanese restaurants know how to prepare tecchiri that’s safe for you to eat. The art of crafting delicious, health-conscious hotpots is a long-standing tradition in Eastern cultures — including China.
If you’re looking for something a little milder than pufferfish, try the dish below.
Oshizushi is a type of sushi that’s pressed and molded into a rectangular shape. It’s made by combining rice with other ingredients, such as cured fish. You place the mixture in a wooden mold, then press and allow it to set.
When you cut into oshizushi, it looks just like a regular sushi roll but without the seaweed wrapper. It has a firm texture and will be more filling than other rolls.
You’ll have no trouble finding this at a traditional Japanese restaurant in the city. But it’s easy to make at home if you have a wooden mold available.