Osaka (大阪) cuisine is very famous and it sort of inspired other cuisines in Japan with its mouthwatering dishes. The saying that Osakans “eat until they drop,” aka “kuidaore (食い倒れ),” shows that they love food more than anything else. One of the food varieties that they love the most is the grilled or yaki (焼き) dishes. There are plenty of restaurants in Osaka that sell these. The following are three yaki dishes that originated in Osaka and later spread to different regions of Japan.
Okonomiyaki, nicknamed the “Japanese pizza,” basically originated in Osaka. There are two places in Japan that can be called the birthplaces of okonomiyaki, namely Osaka and Hiroshima (広島). It is hard to say which one was the first to make this awesome dish, however, the Osaka-style is very famous around Japan, so let’s call Osaka the winner.
Okonomiyaki looks like a stuffed pancake made with cabbage, eggs, and flour. It mainly contains pig meat and seafood, especially octopus and squid. Each region in Japan has picked this dish from Kansai (関西) and Hiroshima and made their own versions of it.
If you want to try an original Osakan okonomiyaki, you got to visit a teppanyaki (鉄板焼き) restaurant in Osaka City. A teppanyaki restaurant has heated iron surface plates on which you grill the food. Some of the famous restaurants in Osaka to try okonomiyaki are in the Dotonbori (道頓堀), Umeda (梅田), and Namba (難波) districts.
Takoyaki is a famous street food that is made of batter and consists of tako (octopus). However, do not confuse it with Mexican tacos as “takoyaki” refers to “grilled octopus” in Japanese.
Started in 1935 by a small shop owner named Tomekichi (留吉), this snack type dish can now be found anywhere in Japan. These are in the shape of round balls and topped mainly with takoyaki sauce and tenkasu (天かす; tempura crumbs) or bonito fish flakes. To make takoyaki, you need rounded iron molds or a special takoyaki-ki (pan) which you can get at supermarkets selling kitchen needs.
You can easily find takoyaki at any street food corner selling yakitori (焼き鳥; grilled chicken) in Osaka. However, the best places to try these golf ball-shaped snacks with octopus inside them are Kuromon Ichiba Market (黒門市場) and Amerikamura (アメリカ村).
Modanyaki is called as the modern (“modan” in transliteration) version of okonomiyaki which is similar in size but consists of noodles inside. The noodles used mostly are thin egg noodles, and these are added to the batter and cabbage base. What makes it unique is the noodle part, and it is usually served with mayonnaise or okonomiyaki sauce. This modern dish was invented recently as an attempt to attract okonomiyaki lovers who want to try a different taste.
There are different restaurants selling various types of modanyaki such as negiyaki (ねぎ焼き; modanyaki or okonomiyaki with green onions), tonpeiyaki (とん平焼き; with pork and mochi), etc. Yamaimo (山芋) yam or mountain yam can also be used as flour instead of the regular one used for the batter.
You can consider modanyaki and its other versions as different varieties of okonomiyaki, but the original Osaka-style okonomiyaki is unique, and after trying, you might not want to group it with others. Let’s just say that modanyaki is the modern world’s invention based in Osaka.
These are the three yaki dishes hailing from Osaka that you must try without fail when you are in the city. After trying them, they would definitely be a staple food for the rest of your life.