Japans has a rich and varied culinary heritage, and Osaka is without a doubt one of the top destinations in the country for anyone who appreciates good food.
The street food scene there is as well developed as anywhere in Japan, and for the first-time visitor, the choice of snacks and tasty morsels on offer can be overwhelming.
To help you out, and to make sure you don’t miss any of the city’s most delectable delicacies, here are our top 25 Osaka street food specialties you need to try while you’re there.
Takoyaki is now popular all over Japan and is available wherever street food is sold, but its home is Osaka, and you can’t visit the city without trying its signature snack at least once. Consisting of balls of batter with an octopus filling that are cooked in a special griddle and turned out in morsels of bite-sized deliciousness. The yakitori balls are then served up in a delicious sauce along with a dollop of mayonnaise, dried fish flakes and more. This is a street snack that everyone who visits Japan will probably have a chance to sample, but in Osaka, it’s a must.
Another Osaka classic not to be missed is okonomiyaki, also popular throughout Japan and sometimes referred to as “Japanese pancake”. In Osaka, where it originates, the local version is usually prepared with cabbage along with prawn, squid or octopus. However, the dish is very flexible – as you may guess from the name, which translates as “grilled as you like it” – so you can choose your toppings from the range that’s available. Another typical local snack that should be high on your list of Osaka street foods to try while you’re there.
Negiyaki is another type of street pancake that’s quite similar to okonomiyaki with the main difference being that it contains spring onion instead of cabbage. It’s hearty and filling, and worth sampling if you need a quick snack.
Japanese food has a reputation as being healthy, but one food that doesn’t live up to this ideal is kushikatsu, a snack that consists of vegetables or meat covered in batter and deep-fried in oil. You can expect to find things like eggplant, lotus and peppers as well as chicken, pork and seafood – but some places can be a bit more creative, offering things like battered strawberries and other such deep-fried delights. This is another Osaka original, making it a street food option to look out during your visit.
5. Kitsune Udon
A dish that’s mainly available in noodle bars but that can also be found on the street, this is a dish that combines Japan’s thick udon noodles with a large slice of deep-fried tofu served in a savory seafood broth. This is a simple yet delicious dish that is easy to find – and since it’s usually quite an affordable option, it’s likely to become one of your go-to dishes if you spend any time in the city.
Although Japanese ramen are famous the world over, they actually originated in China where they’re known as la mian – which means “pulled noodles”, referring to the way they are stretched out by hand. However, they have now become one of the quintessentially Japanese noodle dishes, and while you are in Osaka, you shouldn’t miss the chance to try a bowl. There are many variations, but the main three types of broth are soy-based, miso or pork-based versions. Don’t forget to leave a little in the bottom of your bowl – it’s considered impolite to finish every last drop.
Yakiniku refers to Japanese barbecue, small bite-sized pieces of meat and vegetables that are grilled over charcoal fires before being served up with minimal condiments – usually a little salt and maybe a touch of wasabi will be enough. This is a popular option in Japanese bar-restaurants known as izakaya but you’ll also be able to find a street food version to sample too.
This is another type of Japanese barbecue, but horumon refers to beef or pork offal rather than the more select cuts of meat. Some less adventurous travelers might find this a little more difficult to stomach, but if you’re interested in sampling authentic local food that the locals enjoy, this is another one to add to your list. And if you don’t like it, at least you can say you tried!
Without a doubt, the most famous of Japanese foods is sushi – along with the related sashimi, maki and others – and while you’re in Osaka, it would be almost criminal to leave without sampling the local offerings. Sushi is not strictly a type of street food, but Osaka is home to one of Japan’s liveliest fish markets, and if you head there to soak up the atmosphere, you can also enjoy sampling some of the freshest fish in the city. A big favorite is otoro sushi, fatty tuna belly. It might not be the cheapest option, but it’s among the most prized.
Wildly popular everywhere in Japan, yakitori is the local take on grilled skewers of meat. If you sit down for a beer in an izakaya, this is a classic snack to accompany your drink, and you can also find them being prepared outside in the street. If you’re in Osaka – and especially in the Dotonbori district that’s famous for its food scene – this is something to look out for. Although yakitori isn’t associated with Osaka any more than it is with any other part of Japan, you’ll find plenty of choice there, making it as good a place as any to sample this enduring favorite.
Shumai is the Japanese version of the classic Chinese steamed pork dumpling that originated in Inner Mongolia and is now an integral part of dim sum culture in Hong Kong and neighboring Guangdong province. You’ll be able to find these juicy treats on the streets of Osaka too – and while they might not be a local creation, the people of Osaka enjoy them as much as anyone, so why not join them?
A popular dessert around the world, waffles in Japan are given a distinctly local twist, making them both beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. Covered in an almost bewildering range of toppings that includes whipped cream, colorful syrups, chocolate sauce, pieces of fruit and so much more, if you are looking for something to satisfy your craving for something sweet, waffles will be there for you!
A type of dumpling made from rice flour and served on sticks, dango is a popular snack throughout Japan. There are many different types to look out for, and Osaka is a great place to sample a broad range of what’s on offer. And since there are so many variations, you’re sure to keep coming back for more.
14. Mitarashi dango
One particular type of dango to look out for in Osaka is mitarashi dango, a kind that is served with a special sweet soy glaze. They supposedly originated in Kyoto but are beloved of locals in Osaka too, and the high turnover in places that sell the best ones ensures they are always fresh and full of flavor.
A sweet treat made of batter and filled with azuki bean paste, this is a popular snack around the country during festival time. The name means something like “drum dumplings” and refers to the shape of the mold they are cooked in. A simple snack that will quickly become a favorite with anyone who has even a slightly sweet tooth.
Another popular local snack with Chinese origins, butaman refers to the kind of stuffed steamed buns that are known as baozi in China. These are a great option if you need a quick snack in between meals and are also a reliable and inexpensive option if you want a quick and light breakfast.
Pieces of chicken in breadcrumbs and served on a stick is a popular snack in Osaka where you will often see children walking around munching on them. But that doesn’t mean adults can’t eat them too since they’re delicious at any age!
18. Patit Tai
Bite-sized cakes molded into the shape of cute fish and stuffed with sweet fillings like red bean paste, chocolate or just about anything else. These are smaller than the more common taiyaki that are found all over the country and are always a big hit during festivals.
Take a whole selection of fish balls, fish cakes, boiled eggs, tofu pieces, small sausages and other similar tasty morsels, put them into a bowl, fill with an irresistible savory broth and you have oden. Versions of this type of snack are popular in many countries, but the people of Osaka are particularly fond of the local version, making this another one to track down and sample during your visit.
20. Osaka Gyoza
Many countries have their own version of stuffed dumplings, and in Japan, they’re known as gyoza. They’re usually filled with meat and eaten with a soy dipping sauce, and in Osaka, there are plenty of places that sell the local variety. This is a Japanese classic, and you shouldn’t leave Osaka or Japan without enjoying at least one plateful.
With Osaka Bay lying just to the west of the city, it is unsurprising that seafood is an important element in local cuisine , and among these, crab is a particular favorite. Look out for Kani Doraku restaurant, an unmistakable local landmark due to the huge crab above the entrance. There, you can pick up crab from the front of the establishment or go inside for a sit-down meal.
Fried noodles are eaten all over East Asia, and the Japanese take on this staple of the street food scene is known as yakisoba. Along with the noodles themselves, other ingredients usually include pieces of pork, cabbage, onions and bean sprouts. This mixture is then served with a special yakisoba sauce and given a variety of toppings like dried fish flakes, seaweed and ginger. A reliable option anywhere in Japan, and easy to find in Osaka whenever you need something to fill you up.
Perhaps not technically a kind of street food, but delicious all the same – and some places serving this blur the distinction of what we can call street food, so we thought we’d include it anyway. This is Japan’s version of hot pot – you order the ingredients, usually including thin slices of beef along with vegetables, pieces of tofu and others and then cook them in front of you in a pot of heated broth. Popular in Osaka and elsewhere, this is another local specialty you should make a point of trying.
24. Curry with rice
Japanese curry is milder than curries found elsewhere, and when served by street vendors with a portion of rice, it is one of the county’s favorite fast food meals. You’ll have no trouble finding it in Osaka, and there are plenty of variations on the basic idea. This might not be the fanciest of options, but it’s always a reliable snack when you don’t know what else to go for.
Osakan specialty kappo is such a classic of the local food scene that it needs to be included on our list even if it doesn’t really qualify as street food. Rather, it is a more upmarket concept where high-quality food is prepared in front of you and served to you directly by the chef. A great way to sample some amazing food and a unique cultural experience at the same time, kappo should be high on your culinary to-do list during your stay in the city.
A wonderland for lovers of good food
Japanese cuisine is famous the world over, but the array of delicacies on offer within the country far exceeds anything you can expect to find in Japanese restaurants elsewhere. Osaka is one of Japan’s culinary capitals, and for anyone who appreciates good food, the city is a wonderland that shouldn’t be missed.