Heading to Osaka? Whip out your elastic pants and fill that wallet with cash because you’re about to take on the food capital of Japan, famous for being a hub for Japanese cuisine from all corners of the country. Oodles of street food can be found within the more bustling districts, where tourists and busy businesspeople with a full schedule are looking for a quick and tasty fix. Here’s a quick list of the top street foods you absolutely have to indulge in on a trip to the big O!
Okonomiyaki was born and perfected in the streets of Osaka, so needless to say, a trip to this foodie city just wouldn’t be complete without gorging on this filling dish. Imagine a thick pancake made with a hearty mixture of egg, finely diced veggies and your choice of meaty topping, ranging from bacon to seafood delights. Or just say “niku nashi de onegaishimasu” for a vegetarian-friendly meal. Foods with “yaki” in the name means “grilled,” and okonomiyaki is grilled to perfection on an iron griddle before its smothered in a sweet ‘n savoury sauce or four. Have it on the go as a true-to-form street food, but if you have some time for a sit, the best places will serve it up on your own personal griddle right at your table.
You’ll be hard pressed to go anywhere in Osaka without seeing a street stall with these grilled spheres of seafood goodness being flipped on the grill at lightning speeds. The best ones are served up crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside with pieces of chewy chopped octopus. Most are topped with mayonnaise, a savoury sauce and bonito flakes, while some modern takes on this dish even feature a whole baby octopus poking out the side of the takoyaki that’ll have you doing a double take. Be careful when you bite in, as the insides can get pretty hot! We recommend cutting open a hole in each ball to let the heat escape before munching away to your heart’s delight.
Nothing quite says Asian street food like stir fried noodles, and Japan does not disappoint. Don’t be tricked by “soba” in the name, these are your run of the mill wheat noodles, much like China’s chow mein that this dish was inspired by. They’re usually tossed with cabbage and veggies along with your choice of meat before getting thrown onto a sizzling iron griddle. Finished off with oyster sauce, it transforms into the most commonly consumed inexpensive meals-for-one. Yum!
Serving up succulent grilled chicken fresh off a fire is something that can make mouths water all over the globe. Pop it onto a stick and you’ve got yakitori, where “yaki” means grilled and “tori” means chicken. Whether you like it glazed, seasoned or just bare, this is one street food that’s a home run just about any time of the day.
Keep an eye out for these tiny glutinous rice balls on a stick toasting over a real fire grill. They get cooked up tender, then coated with a generous helping of a sugar and soy sauce glaze. The warm, chewy texture paired with the unique sweet ‘n salty flavour will be a dessert you won’t forget. Recently, the convenience store chain “Mini-Stop” has been serving up a soft serve ice cream sundae topped with delectable mitarashi dumplings that brings the dessert to a whole new level.
Taiyaki / Monaka
Don’t get fooled by the fish shape of these pastries, there’s not a single thing fishy about these fresh baked classic desserts! Crack a taiyaki open for a filling of either warm adzuki bean paste, custard or sweet potato filling, all of them sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. A variation of this treat is “monaka,” which serves up your choice of filling sandwiched between two crispy mocha wafers and a hearty scoop of ice cream – the perfect marriage of hot & cold!
Honourable Mention – Oden
This is the true grandfather of Japanese street food. But unlike its cousin “odeng” that is so popular in Korea, oden is gradually disappearing from the modern Japanese street food scene. If you’re lucky enough to find it, be sure to help yourself to a sampling of a tender fish cake, radish, eggs and edible roots that have been slow-cooked and stewed in a flavourful broth all day. The perfect warming snack for a chilly day.
Written by Barun and published by CityUnscripted, a site that brings adventurous tourists together with locals to for a tour experience of hidden gems and local secrets that only a local resident would know about. If you’re coming to Japan, check out Barun’s CityUnscripted profile and join him for a walk around Osaka, Japan’s foodie haven!
What’s the best street food in your city? Comment below!