A view of the busy food shop area with many bright signs in the Dotonbori area

Osaka Food: A Nakama Noodles Guide to Japan’s Kitchen

Tokyo is famous these days as one of the world’s international food capital, with many foods from all over Japan and the world collecting there. However, only one city has the nickname of ‘Japan’s Kitchen’, and that city is Osaka. People in Osaka are serious about their food, with there even being a phrase called kui-daore, which means ‘to eat yourself broke’. That’s possibly why Osaka food, both original and borrowed, is so good.

If you want to know why Osaka is Japan's kitchen, there are three reasons. The main reason is actually that it acted as a huge logistics and commercial hub, being the main place where ingredients flowed from various areas to Edo (modern day Tokyo). Osaka provided ingredients like rice, soy sauce and sake to the capital, making it an important part of Japan's food scene overall!

However, that flow of ingredients has also translated to plenty of tasty dishes coming from or thriving in Osaka.

Let’s take a deep dive into the Osaka food scene in our guide here! We’ll be introducing some Osaka original foods, foods that are popular in Osaka, and one unique piece of Japanese food culture with roots in Japan’s Kitchen. If you want to learn more about any of the foods below, check out our blogs all about them!

Osaka Originals

Osaka isn’t called Osaka’s Kitchen for nothing. There are plenty of original dishes from Osaka, from traditional Japanese food to tasty Japanese street food. Let’s check out some of our favorites!


Three takoyaki balls sit on a plate with a toothpick sticking out
First up is one of Osaka's most popular street foods. Image via Unsplash

If you ask any Japanese native to think of an Osaka food, takoyaki and okonomiyaki are usually the first answers you’ll hear. Popular on the streets of Osaka, takoyaki is a tasty ball of cooked batter that is shaped around an octopus (tako) tentacle. The batter is made using flour, eggs, and dashi (Japanese soup stock), and some shops add tempura bits for extra crunch.

This dish’s unique ball shape is all in the technique. The batter is placed inside of special half-circle mold with a piece of octopus on top. Chefs use a special needle tool to flip the takoyaki halfway through the cooking process, which allows the uncooked batter to fall and create a perfect ball.

The batter also creates a crispy outside and a hot, moist inside. Add toppings and sauces, and you have a delicious warm treat that we love.

Want to learn more about this street food treat, where it came from, and places to try it? Check out our blog all about takoyaki!


One okonomiyaki sits on a plate over bacon and with mayo and sauce on top
Okonomiyaki is hard to call a street food because you usually have to sit-down to eat it. Image via Unsplash

Okonomiyaki is often called a Japanese pancake because of the batter it uses, but the more accurate nickname is Japanese pizza. The most basic okonomiyaki combines finely chopped cabbage with a pancake-like batter that is grilled and covered in a special okonomiyaki sauce, creating a savory treat. However, most okonomiyaki is anything but basic.

You’ll find plenty of tasty combinations of vegetables and meat both inside and as toppings. Think tasty ingredients like cheese, pork, beef, sausage, yam, kimchi, octopus, Japanese mayo, pickled ginger and more. That’s the great thing about okonomiyaki—you can really get whatever you want in it (within reason). In fact, it’s in the name.

The okonomi part of okonomiyaki means your favorite, so okonomiyaki is a grilled collection of your favorite things. There are plenty of cool shops that you can find all over the country that offer some very cool combinations that live up to the name. That's why you often see it on those 'things to eat in Osaka' lists, as you can find plenty of options to fit your tastes.

You can learn even more about this iconic Osaka dish, including variations and its history on our okonomiyaki blog!

Kitsune Udon

A bowl of kitsune udon with large fried tofu, green onion and seasoning on top
As noodle lovers, this is our second favorite. Image via Instagram (@47_foodie_travel)

This one is a personal favorite of ours because it contains our favorite thing—noodles! Kitsune udon is a lovely dish of fried tofu on top of udon noodles in a light yet flavorful dashi (Japanese soup stock) broth. This dish is well-loved all around the country for its amazing balance of flavors. The broth and noodles have an amazing umami to them while the fried tofu manages to have a perfect sweetness to it. This creates a sweet and savory experience that people love.

Did you know that kitsune means fox? However, when used in food names, it usually means that a piece of fried tofu comes on top. The reason is that, according to folklore, foxes used to love fried tofu. They would even possess people and make them eat fried tofu to the point where the victim would never want it again.

Learn more about this traditional Japanese dish, including its origin and more about kitsune lore in our kitsune udon blog!

Want to try kitsune udon for yourself? You can get it and plenty of other tasty and delicious regional Japanese noodles with Nakama Noodles! Nakama Noodles is your go-to ramen subscription box that includes a selection of Japanese noodles every month for you to enjoy! Get yours today!


Many fried sticks of kushikatsu with various ingredients sits on a rack
Who doesn't love fried things on a stick? Image via Instagram (@momonomamo)

This is another one of Osaka’s most popular dishes and is known all around Japan as an Osaka classic. Kushikatsu, sometimes called kushiage, is a skewer of fried meats and vegetables that you dip into a special Worcestershire-like sauce. Where this dish shines is the variety of ingredients chefs put onto their skewers. 

Many places will have beef, pork, eggplant, lotus root, mushrooms and so much more. Personally, we love the fried cheese and the fried mochi options that many (but not all) shops offer.

What attracts so many people to kushikatsu is the fact that it’s delicious, super affordable, and goes great with almost any beverage. In other words, it’s a great option for enjoying a night out with friends.

Supposedly, kushikatsu got its start in Osaka’s Shinsekai area way back in 1929. The story goes that the female owner of a food bar in the area started to serve the dish one day and blue collar workers fell in love with the dish. This dish has spread all over Japan, so you can get it anywhere these days.

It might be a good idea to brush up on the etiquette, history and variations of this fried food on a stick with our kushikatsu blog before your trip to Japan.


An arrangement of square hakozushi sushi of various colors, fish types, and sauce toppings
Have you ever seen sushi like this? Image via Instagram (@mugi_chocolate72)

Hakozushi is a traditional twist on a traditional Japanese nigiri sushi. For those who need clarification, nigiri sushi is your traditional fish (usually raw) on a slab of rice. Hakozushi, on the other hand, uses boiled or cured fish that is placed on top of rice inside of a special wooden box (hako). This box is then pressed, compressing the contents into a tightly packed version of sushi.

This dish is popular among Japanese tourists, especially as a souvenir, because of its longer shelf life. Because the fish used in hakozushi is cooked, it is easily taken to-go for yourself or as a gift. Hakozushi actually has origins starting in Osaka’s Senba district way back in the 1800s, when a small shop owner decided to create a more beautiful sushi.

Interested in the history and the key to making this sushi variant? Read our blog about hakozushi to learn more!

Beni Shoga Tempura

Two sticks of fried red pickled ginger on a plate
More fried things on a stick? Yes, please! Image via Japan Konamon Association

If you go out for Japanese food often, you’ve probably seen plenty of red pickles either in or your food or offered as an optional topping. This topping is beni shoga, or pickled red ginger. However, Osaka is responsible for a unique tempura version of this dish.

Beni shoga is actually an interesting dish that helps reduce food waste. You see, pickled plums, or umeboshi, are made by placing the Japanese plums in a barrel of salt. The salt actually draws out the juices, and the plums then soak in this salty plum juice, known as umezu (plum vinegar). Umezu is actually reused as a byproduct to create various dishes, including beni shoga.

While umezu gives beni shoga its flavor, red perillia (or akajiso) gives beni shoga its red-pink color. Osaka created a tempura version of this dish where the ginger is kept in larger pieces instead of being cut into small pieces. It is dipped in batter and fried, just like regular tempura. Many people love it as a drinking snack or as part of their tempura bowls.

To learn more about this sustainable and tasty take on ginger and its fried version, check out our blog on beni shoga!

Popular in Osaka

Some of these entries may not be originally Osakan foods, but Osaka loves these foods and are doing them so well. Let’s look into these non-Osaka foods that are thriving in the Osaka food scene.


A close-up of nikuman pork buns in a basket
You can get this snack pretty easily at convenience stores here. Image via Instagram (@kanappe05)

You may recognize pork buns as a Chinese dish–which is true—but Osaka has done it so well that even Chinese tourists line up at Osaka’s pork bun shops. In many places in Japan, these buns are called nikuman, with niku meaning meat and man meaning steamed buns. However, in Kansai, ‘niku’ tends to mean beef and doesn’t fit the pork buns. To specify that the meat is pork, the people of Kansai call it butaman, with buta meaning pig (or pork in this case).

One of the most popular Osaka butaman spots is 551 Horai, a pork bun chain that was first established all the way back in 1945. This shop sees long lines of people throughout the day, with everyone looking for a taste of those fresh pork buns. They’re also popular as souvenirs for those living within Japan. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular with each bun being handmade and full of savory pork.

Want to learn more about these pork buns? Or maybe you want to learn about its variations or what makes it different from Chinese bao? Check out our blog all about Nikuman!

Jiggly Cheesecake

Several jiggly cheesecakes sit on display at Rikuro's Shop
Here's a sweet option, perfect for dessert. Image via Instagram (@rikuro1956)

Cheesecake isn’t even Japanese, but Osaka managed to put a fun twist on cheesecake. Rikuro’s shop sells fresh-baked cheesecake all over Osaka and is famous for having extra jiggly cheesecake. In fact, you can currently only find a Rikuro’s in the Kansai area, so it’s pretty exclusive.

This cheesecake is a favorite for locals and gained popularity thanks to social media. Nowadays, if you want one just out of the oven, you’ll have to wait in line because the cheesecake only comes out every 10 minutes. However, if you want to skip the line, you can get one that, although cooked that day, is not fresh out of the oven.

It’s known to be especially good thanks to its use of high-quality cream cheese from Denmark, Hokkaido milk, butter and eggs. All of these work together to create a fluffy yet sweet treat that's actually more like a sponge cake than what most people think of as cheesecake.

Get more info about Rikuro’s Shop, the Riku Café and all of the other tasty treats on offer there in our blog all about jiggly cheesecake!


Raw slices of fugu puffer fish laid on a blue plate
Would you try a poisonous fish if it was delicious? Image via Instagram (@na_n_puuuuu_)

Here is an option for the more adventurous foodies. Fugu, more commonly known as pufferfish, is actually very poisonous. However, master chefs have found ways to prepare fugu that remove the poison in the fish. While Osaka isn’t the most famous for fugu, it has plenty of shops that serve fugu in a variety of ways.

While the most popular way to eat fugu is raw as sashimi, you can also find plenty of options like in hotpot or as fried fish. There are even a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants where you can enjoy full fugu courses.

Did you know that Japan has been eating fugu since before the 4th century BC? Did you also know that it was banned at one point? Learn more about fugu’s history, how it’s professionally prepared, if it’s safe to eat and how to eat it on our fugu blog!


Hands hold tongs to flip over meat and vegetables on a yakiniku grill
Yakiniku is perfect for meat lovers, but veggie meat is also becoming an option.

Yakiniku generally refers to grilled meat that is served to you cut and uncooked, meaning you have to actually grill it yourself at your table. Many people believe that yakiniku came to Japan from Korea a long time ago. But why is Osaka popular for yakiniku?

Well, if you look up Osaka and Kobe on the map, you’ll see that they are right next to each other, leading to a plentiful supply of Kobe wagyu in Osaka. However, more than just Kobe beef, Osaka also gets wagyu from Matsuzaka, which some people love even more than Kobe.

This means that Osaka has access to plenty of high-quality wagyu, including A5 rank Japanese beef. Add in the fact that it is sourced domestically (AKA without import fees), and you have plenty of yakiniku shops that offer a cheaper way to enjoy A5 wagyu than you could ever get abroad.

To learn more about how Japan gets down with barbecue, check out our blog about yakiniku!


A bowl of creamy ramen with meat, seaweed and onion on top
And here is our favorite entry on the list!

Osaka is interesting because people here love ramen, but it doesn’t have its own regional ramen style or flavor. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tons of delicious options for ramen.

Osaka has plenty of shops with plenty of different styles. On top of that, there is a year-round ramen market called the Ramen Ichiza (which we did a video about). This market offers ramen from all over Japan all in one place for those ramen lovers out there. Osaka was also the host of the Ramen Expo (we also did a video about it). The ramen expo offers a rotating schedule of ramen and gyoza shops from all around Japan for 5 weekends in a row.

Plus, with everyone’s high food standards here, the ramen will always be on point no matter where you go.

Want to learn all about this tasty noodle dish from our Japanese noodle experts? Check out our guide to Japanese ramen for more information!

Osaka Food Culture

While this next entry isn’t food per se, it’s an important piece of Japanese food culture that originates in Osaka.

Kappo Cuisine

A Japanese chef pours something over a dish with a metal ladle
Osaka is a pretty chill place, but they do fine-dining so well too. Image via Instagram (@68eeknz)

Kaiseki, or Kaiseki-ryori, is a multi-course meal popularized in Kyoto and usually offered at high-end restaurants. This style usually carries a hefty price tag, but is praised internationally for several reasons, particularly the way chefs make courses that highlights the season.

However, Osaka is said to be responsible for a Kaiseki alternative called Kappo. You see, part of the upscale feeling of kaiseki is the unveiling of the next course as staff carry food from the kitchen to your table. Kappo, on the other hand, is famous for its more personal feeling, with the chef working right in front of you. This allows you to not only see the process but also to communicate with chef.

In fact, great Kappo chefs are supposed to have the ability to talk with a customer and make subtle changes to the menu that fits their customers’ needs. Plus, these chefs are highly skilled and have an average of 10-20 years of training to learn various styles of cooking and make fully fleshed out courses. Despite the expertise of your chef, Kappo is slightly less formal and slightly less expensive than kaiseki.

To dive deeper into this fine dining experience, check out our blog all about Kappo cuisine!

A hand places okonomiyaki batter on a teppan metal grill
So, ready to eat yourself broke in Osaka? Image via Unsplash

That’s our guide! We may have forgotten a few, so check back for any updates.

Now that you know all of our favorite foods in Osaka, all that’s left to do is to come to Japan and eat all of the tasty Osaka foods! Which ones are you interested in trying? Let us know in the comments!