These soft buns are made by fermenting a flour and water-based batter that is then stuffed with fillings and steamed. Fillings normally include pork and onion, with some shops also adding finely chopped vegetables such as takenoko (bamboo shoots) or dried shiitake mushrooms. They are said to date back to the period following the Meiji Restoration, when Chinese steamed buns that had been introduced to Chinatown were adapted to fit Japanese-style tastes.
They were nominally “meat buns” but could not be sold under that name in the Kansai region; complaints would surely follow since “niku” (meat) in Osaka refers exclusively to beef. And since this dish features pork rather than beef, the dish is referred to in this region as butaman (pork buns).
One well-known chain has opened stores throughout the Kansai region, selling as many as 170,000 buns a day. Osaka is home to an ample number of butaman specialty shops featuring all manner of steamed buns. Some are heavy and bursting at the edges with fillings, while others are miniature-sized and thin-skinned.
Udon & Udonsuki
In Osaka, udon noodles are famed for the way that their softness harmonizes gently with the kombu and skipjack-accented broth. One age-old favorite is salty-sweet kitsune udon, where the noodles are topped with fried tofu boiled to plump perfection.
The style of accenting it with condiments such as takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (green laver, or edible seaweed) and skipjack flakes are said to be an influence from okonomiyaki following the end of the Second World War.
Sushi in Tokyo is known as Edomae, and is pressed by hand. Osaka’s famous style of sushi, meanwhile, is pressed sushi. “Box sushi” is one example: the toppings and vinegared rice are placed into a square wooden mold and pressed to fit. Watching the process of pressing box sushi is mesmeric.
A restaurant customer ordered the same thing daily: an omelette with rice. The cook decided to enliven the dish accenting the rice with ketchup and wrapping it in a thinly fried omelette.
Along with takoyaki, this dish may rightly be described as Osaka soul food. While both dishes involve dissolving flour in dashi, okonomiyaki includes cabbage—a non-negotiable ingredient—usually along with pork, as well as whichever additional ingredients you like.
Kushikatsu eateries are found not only in the Shinsekai district, but all over Osaka . In addition to the lively, bar-like establishments, there are also fancy kushikatsu specialty restaurants with a unique creative menus.
Kappo, which became an established style of Japanese cuisine in the late 1910s, is said to have originated in Osaka.
Japan’s various regions are home to local hot pots, and Osaka is no exception. Local versions include udonsuki and sakanasuki (wheat flour noodles and fish flavored hot pot, respectively), whale meat hot pot, and the much-loved wintry special, tecchiri, or fugu hot pot. Also popular are chiritori (“dustpan”) nabe and motsu nabe, both featuring beef intestines and vegetables.
Conveyor belt sushi
Popular not only throughout Japan, but also now overseas, kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) allows patrons to select their sushi of choice by taking plates off the revolving belt as they pass by.