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 simplicity of the dish is deceptive, however, as it is impossible to cut corners with its preparation. And despite its cheap price, the low wages earned by common people of the day led to fierce competition among restaurants that served it.
One much-loved traditional Osaka dish is udonsuki, a type of hot pot loaded with different types of ingredients cooked right at the table. The highlight of this meal is the udon, which are simmered in a light dashi broth while also absorbing additional umami flavors from the accompanying vegetables, seafood and meat.
Another recent addition to the local culinary scene is Osaka Sanuki, a portmanteau of the firmly-textured Sanuki udon from Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku island together with dashi from Osaka. The chewy, nearly pudding-like smoothness and slightly zesty kick of the Sanuki udon stand in contrast to the udon noodles from Osaka, which tend to take a backstage role to the broth, and are generally evaluated in terms of how well the flavor pairs with the dashi. The ingenious fusion of Sanuki udon with Osaka dashi, however, has resulted in numerous restaurants riding this trend to great acclaim by offering Osaka Sanuki on their menus.
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.
These soft buns are made by fermenting a flour and water-based batter that is then stuffed with fillings and steamed.