The most famous Osaka fast food, takoyaki octopus dumplings—which may be purchased at roadside stalls and eaten casually on street corners—are actually a relative newcomer on the scene, having begun to crop up around town only around the 1950s. The dish itself embodies the Osaka waste-not-want-not ethos, wherein the abundant catch of octopus from Osaka Bay was put straight to good use in the form of dumplings. While a number of theories exist as to who is the originator of takoyaki, its roots are said to lie in precursor dishes such as choboyaki and radioyaki. Choboyaki was made by drizzling a flour and water-based batter into the half-spherical cups lining a copper or cast-iron griddle—reminiscent of today’s takoyaki—and then adding red pickled ginger, konjac, onions and shoyu before grilling the mixture into dumplings. Sold at venues including mom-and-pop candy stores, choboyaki was likely known at the time as a sort of children’s snack. Taking its hint from this dish, its successor takoyaki involved dissolving the flour in dashi instead of water, and then adding octopus in order to extend the appeal of the snack to adults as well as children.
Its flavor varied depending upon the batter, flavoring, and length of grilling—making it a simple and yet deeply satisfying light meal.
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.
Typically made at stalls by young men adorned with headbands, who nimbly work their metal picks to flip the dumplings and work them into a spherical shape—it’s a mesmerizing scene.
Served in boat-shaped bamboo dishes, the piping hot balls are picked up and ferried into one’s mouth using toothpicks—with the perfect takoyaki featuring a crisped skin and tender filling.
Meanwhile, in the city of Akashi in neighboring Hyogo prefecture, Akashiyaki dumplings feature soft spheres resembling takoyaki that are laid out atop a wooden chopping board doubling as a plate.
The eggy balls are dipped into a type of clear broth.
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.
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.
These soft buns are made by fermenting a flour and water-based batter that is then stuffed with fillings and steamed.