Osaka Food: 6 Delicious Eats From The Nation's Kitchen

Created 11/14/2022 3:39:41 PM in spotlight | food & drink | guide |

Love Japanese cuisine and regional delicacies? Read our guide to Osaka foods and start eating like a true local!

Foreword from ZenPlus

'Tis the season for red autumn leaves and (very soon) New Year festivals -- which in turn means delicious food stalls as far as the eye can see.

Of course, if it's delicious food you're after, then Osaka is where you'll want to be.

In this post, our food expert Andy explains why Osaka has historically been known as a haven for food lovers -- and explores some of the city's most iconic dishes.

Hungering to learn more? Scroll down to get started!




History of Osaka food culture

Osaka is one of Japan's best cities to visit for all things food (and luckily for us, it's where ZenPlus is actually based as well). We love the comforting warmth that you get tucking into a hearty okonomiyaki (savory pancake) or some steaming hot takoyaki (octopus balls), and no doubt you will too!

But how and why did Osaka get this reputation as a foodie paradise?

Let’s take a quick look!

Osaka: The Nation's Kitchen

Restaurants in Osaka

Osaka is often referred to as The Nation's Kitchen (Tenka no Daidokoro), and understandably so; some of the most iconic, comforting, and delicious dishes originate from this wonderful city in the Kansai region.

During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Osaka was the epicenter for trading as many of the sailing routes would enter through the port city. Its close proximity to the former capital, Kyoto, meant that many merchants across the country migrated to Osaka to get a piece of the action. Fabulous Japanese ingredients, such as rice and flour, were traded, inspiring cooks to create new, cheap, and delicious dishes to fuel all the merchants.

Those humble yet functional beginnings gave birth to some of Japan’s most iconic foods, such as okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and kushikatsu.

Read on to find out about all these Osaka foods and more!

1. Okonomiyaki

Osaka food

Okonomiyaki and Osaka have become synonymous across the world, and it’s not hard to see why.

What is okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki is like a savory pancake made from flour, eggs, tenkasu (tempura scraps), cabbage, and pork belly slices, topped with a special okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed, and bonito flakes. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?!

The word okonomiyaki can be roughly translated to "grill as you like it," and perfectly conveys the fact that you can add and cook ingredients of your choice. While pork belly is typically used, other seafood such as squid and prawns can act as substitutes. Such is the beauty of this dish!

This hearty, sweet and salty savory pancake hits all the right notes to make your taste buds sing, fueling you for more Osaka adventures.

Where to buy okonomiyaki

There's plenty of okonomiyaki restaurants dotted throughout Japan, whether it be famous chain stores or local eateries from times gone by. Depending on the restaurant, you might even be able to have a go at cooking the okonomiyaki yourself!

One of the most renowned okonomiyaki restaurant chains is Chibo, a trendy location with a flagship store in Dotombori (Osaka) and another 57 locations across the country.

Chibo even has an online storefront on ZenPlus, where you can pick up some delicious ingredient sets and sauces.

Osaka food


Browse Chibo Okonomiyaki


Similar foods to okonomiyaki

A similar dish to okonomiyaki is tonpeiyaki. Instead of using a pancake-like batter, tonpeiyaki is wrapped in egg, almost like an omelet.

Another close relative is ikayaki, which uses a similar pancake batter to okonomiyaki but is thinner and filled with squid. The result is a chewy and mochi-like texture, with the delicious taste of the ocean from the squid.


Konamono (“flour things”) is a category of dishes made from flour that, unsurprisingly, includes okonomiyaki.

Flour played an essential role during the growth of Osaka’s cuisine. Its versatility, accessibility and cheapness allowed cooks to create many different types of dishes to meet the merchant’s demands.

Nowadays, many of these historic konamono dishes are known as Japan’s comfort foods and festival foods that you can find across the country.

In fact, you may already be familiar with another popular member of the konamono lineup -- read on to see what!


2. Takoyaki

Osaka food

Takoyaki is another one of Osaka’s classic foods.

What is takoyaki?

Doughy round ball-shaped dumplings filled with octopus and fried to slightly crispy on the outside, while still remaining hot and gooey on the inside. Topped with a special takoyaki sauce, creamy Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed, and bonito flakes, it ranks as one of Japan's top street foods.

Where to buy takoyaki

Takoyaki stalls peppered around town (especially near tourist locations), as well as the occasional dedicated eatery. You'll often find many different flavors at these locations, such as green onion, cheese, or even wasabi!

We particularly love eating takoyaki at a local festival. You can’t get any more Japanese than indulging in some takoyaki and a beer while watching the festive dancing and fireworks!

Be warned, though, that street takoyaki are usually made fresh and so are seriously hot when served. It may be difficult, but we suggest waiting a few minutes before tucking in so that the molten dough doesn't burn the inside of your mouth.


3. Kushikatsu

Osaka food

Do you know what’s better when it’s deep-fried? Everything!

What is kushikatsu?

Various types of meat and vegetables are battered, dipped in panko breadcrumbs, and deep-fried till golden brown and crispy. Then poke it through a skewer and you have kushikatsu.

Everything from beef tongue to quail eggs and even cheese, you can find nearly everything you could ever want deep-fried as kushikatsu. Accompanying the deep-fried skewers is a sweet, salty, and punchy sauce similar to soy sauce (side note: don't double-dip!).

Where to buy kushikatsu

Specialized kushikatsu restaurants that cater to various demographics. From all-you-can-eat locations that open from lunchtime and are especially popular with children and young adults, to izakaya (Japanese bar) style eateries that serve as a quick, affordable party location.


4. Kitsune Udon

Osaka food

Udon is one of Japan’s great comfort foods. Not only is it light and easy on the digestive system (unlike something like ramen, for instance), it's also inexpensive to boot. Plus it works as a hearty meal all year round, because you can generally choose whether to have the broth hot or cold!

One style of udon that you may not know has its roots in the Osaka region is kitsune udon.

What is kitsune udon?

A hot bowl of udon topped with seasoned fried tofu (aburaage). Each mouthful packs a pleasant savory taste that is sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Cheap, filling, and delicious -- it's one of our go-to udon dishes.


5. Ehonmaki

Osaka food

Sushi is not something you may typically associate with Osaka, but two of the most traditional sushi dishes actually originated there!

What is ehonmaki?

Ehonmaki is a long sushi roll filled with seven different ingredients, representing the Seven Gods of Fortune. It's eaten during Setsubun, an annual festival in February that is based on the ancient tradition of driving away demons and welcoming the Lunar New Year.

The tradition is to eat ehonmaki in silence while facing the "lucky direction" for a given year. The practice is, in fact, a form of prayer for prosperity during the coming year.


6. Hakozushi

Osaka food

It may be a far cry from the long, rounded nigiri sushi you're used to seeing, but hakozushi is definitely one of the more unique souvenirs you can take home from your Osaka trip.

(Image from Nikkei Style.)

What is hakozushi?

Hakozushi takes standard nigiri sushi one step further by pressing each piece into a neat cube, forming a beautiful artwork that's perfectly uniform in shape and size. Hako means "box" in Japanese; this not only refers to the square edges, but also the fact that hakozushi itself is generally prepared (and sometimes served ) in a wooden box.


Discover Osaka food culture

In this post we covered a handful of truly iconic Osaka foods -- some of which also happen to be Japan's most popular and well known.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The world of Osaka cuisine is so vast and varied that it deserves its own blog series!

For curious foodies out there, here's a peek at what other unique Osaka foods lie in store:

  • Puffer fish (fugu): Represents luck and happiness, but the poisin inside its body means that only trained and licensed chefs are allowed to prepare it
  • Doteyaki: Stewed beef tendon, konjac, and miso
  • Taiko manjuSweet cakes filled with red bean paste

No matter where you go in Osaka you can find great food! We can’t get enough of food in Osaka and hope you can experience some of it yourself!


Browse Japanese Food


Osaka food


About the author

Andy is a 27-year-old chef, coffee roaster, and now writer from the UK! He is based in Hokkaido and loves all things food, coffee, and Japan. Check out more of his work on his personal website.



Other articles you'll enjoy

For more Japanese cuisine and foodie insights, check out the articles below:

  1. Japanese Cuisine Dreams: From Architect to Chef
  2. 9 Best Matcha Snacks to Buy From Japan
  3. Japanese Kit Kat Flavors: 15 You Never Knew Existed

Thanks for reading!


Like this article? Please share to

Facebook Twitter Reddit WhatsApp WordPress Blogger Share


Related Topics


Back to ZenPlus on  

Back to Blog Top