Osakans call it kuidaore – eating until you drop. Eating is big business in the central Japanese city, and nowhere is it more in evidence than in Osaka’s best street food.
From skewered meats to gravity-defying sweets, the city’s distinct street food culture draws in crowds from across Japan – and the world. It centres around the vibrant Dotonbori strip – home to a host of restaurants, cafes and street food vendors serving up homegrown delicacies. But the culinary scene spans the entire city, and here we round up the best street food dishes in Osaka, and where to find them.
1. Takoyaki at Yama-Chan
Takoyaki are an Osaka street snack with a global reputation. These crisp, battered balls are filled with soft diced octopus, spring onion and pickled ginger, often topped with shavings of bonito flakes which waver in the steam. Yama-chan in the Tennoji district is one of the best Takoyaki spots in town – the secret is purportedly in the broth they use in the batter. Have yours plain to really take in the flavour, topped with soy sauce and mayonnaise (the traditional accompaniments), or with sesame oil and salt for a punchy dressing.
1-9-15, Sennichimae, Chuo Ward, Osaka
2. Mitarashi-Dango at Kiyasu Sohonpo
Mitarashi-dango can be found on street corners across the city, and for good reason. These skewers of freshly grilled sticky rice dumplings are liberally brushed with a sticky-sweet soy glaze – a rich, caramelised charred note which perfectly balances the sweetness. One of the most popular renditions can be found at Kiyasu Sohonpo: this wagashi (traditional sweet shop) also has a small takeaway stall outside the eatery.
Various locations including 1-4-2 Jusohonmachi, Yodogawa Ward, Osaka
3. Okonomiyaki at Mizuno
Okonomiyaki has made its way from the streets of Osaka to teppanyaki restaurants the world over. It’s a savoury crepe, typically made with flour, yam, egg and shredded cabbage – but fillings can be widely varied. In the birthplace of the Okonomiyaki, this dish can be had in the street – but in-the-know Osakans flock indoors to Mizuno at Dotonbori. The 60-year-old family-run business stands out from the crowd not just for its classic flavour combos, but also because it’s one of the few places in town to serve multiple vegetarian options of this Japanese street food classic.
1-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka
4. Kushikatsu at Matsuba Sohonten
Kushikatsu are no-nonsense skewers of meat or vegetables, dipped in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Light and crisp, they’re the perfect accompaniment to a beer or two. While travellers flock to Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma – hailed as the inventor of Osaka-style Kushikatsu – for a more down-to-earth experience visit Matsuba Sohonten on the Shin-Umeda Shokudogai restaurant street, just by Umeda train station. In this standing-only kushikatsu joint, you’ll rub shoulders with after-hours salarymen in search of a great bite. The menu is Japanese-only, but the shop stacks freshly made kushikatsu up in front of you so you can take what you want.
Among street food dishes in Osaka, the most Instagrammable choice may well be the ‘Long Softcream’. Creamy soft-serve ice cream is piled some 40cm high in a single cone for a dessert that requires a steady hand to slurp down, lest it end up on the floor. Head to the eponymous shop in the Amerikamura (‘American village’) district to order your own lofty creation.
2-11-9, Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo Ward,Osaka
6. Torikara at Kin No Torikara
Karaage – deep-fried chicken bites – are a staple Japanese comfort food, and the Torikara stick is the street food version of this classic. Tuck in to bite-sized skewers of juicy chicken breast at Kin no Torikara near Dotonbori. The batter is clean and crisp, so it’s best accompanied by your condiment of choice. There are 10 sauces on offer, such as mayonnaise, ponzu or black pepper – and then there’s the curiously named ‘weird-tasting sauce’ for those in search of a little adventure.
1-5-12 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka
7. Tako Tamago at Kuromon Ichiba Market
Dotonbori isn’t the only foodie’s haven in the city. People flock to Chuo Ward’s Kuromon Ichiba Market to shop for the freshest produce in town. The wholesale market is frequented by many of the city’s restaurateurs, and while much of the day’s catch is available to take home raw, there are stations scattered throughout the market that sell freshly grilled snacks. One of the most eye-catching street food dishes in Osaka is the deep red Tako Tamago – a grilled whole baby octopus, stuffed with a quail’s egg – but grilled scallops, freshly boiled crab and freshly shucked oysters are equally popular bites to be found across the market.
2-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka
8. Horumonyaki at Sora Tsuruhashi Honten
The adventurous of palate can’t leave Osaka without sampling horumonyaki – grilled beef and pork offal. Unfussy eaters can have their pick of everything from heart and lung to oesophagus and pancreas. While horumonyaki is typically a street food snack, Osakans flock also to Sora Tsuruhashi Honten, which offers more than 30 types of horumonyaki to choose from. Just a short walk from the Tsuruhashi train station, it’s worth booking ahead for a table here, as the queue can snake around the block during lunch hours.
1-10 Shimoajiharacho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka
9. Taiko-Manju at Goza Soro
These small, circular cakes are known by many names – including imagawayaki or obanyaki – but the most evocative name is Taiko-manju. Taiko means drum, and these round, sweet creations evoke exactly that. The crisp, tender cakes are most commonly filled with red bean paste filling, although common alternatives include custard, molten chocolate or strawberry centres. While they’re typically served at food stalls in front of temple shrines during festivals, you’ll find great versions year-round at bakery Goza Soro.
Various locations including 3-1-1, Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka