Kiwi food YouTubers Thomas & Sheena Southam are on an eternal quest to find the most delicious local food the world has to offer. This week, they check out the best bites in Osaka.
When a city uses the term kuidaore - eat until you drop - to describe its food culture, you know you're in for a good time. Osaka's identity is intrinsically linked to food. This port city, on Japan's largest island, Honshu, is known as Tenka no Daidokoro, The Nation's Kitchen. Historically, because Osaka produced most of Japan's rice; more recently because of its reputation as one of the country's food capitals. The list of things to eat is impossibly long but here are a few of our favourites to get you started...
1. Okonomiyaki at Mizuno
A mish-mash of flavours and textures, okonomiyaki, perhaps Osaka's most famous dish, is comfort food at its finest. At family run Mizuno this savoury pancake-esque dish is assembled in front of you: cabbage, pork and often seafood is added to a flour, egg and yam batter and then cooked on the grill before being painted with sticky okonomiyaki sauce (think a sweetened Worcestershire sauce), squirted with mayonnaise and sprinkled with seaweed flakes. Immerse yourself even further into the dining experience by grabbing your spatula and carving up your okonomiyaki to eat directly off the grill. To up the okonomiyaki ante, we suggest adding soba noodles to your order. They'll add an irresistible chewy, crisp texture to the dish.
Eat it at Mizuno, 1-4-15 Dotombori, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0071. Open seven days, 11am-10pm.
2. Takoyaki at Takoyaki Wanaka
If you're in need of a snack, chances are you will be drawn to takoyaki. Wheat batter, diced octopus and pickled ginger are cooked in a special griddle pan resulting in balls of gooey, creamy deliciousness. Topped with lashings of mayo, takoyaki sauce, seaweed flakes and bonito flakes - which dance atop the takoyaki as soon as they hit the heat - these little balls of goodness are addictive.
You'll find loads of takoyaki restaurants on Dotonbori St - Osaka's famous street food strip. We eat at Wanaka's for their tender octopus and their liberal handfuls when it comes to the toppings. Just a bit of cultural know-how: it's considered very rude in Japan to eat while walking so if you do stop for a street food snack make sure you enjoy your food standing or sitting in one spot.
Eat it at Takoyaki Wanaka: 1-chōme-6-7 Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku, Osaka, 542-0086, Japan. Open daily 11am-11pm.
3. Suji negi curry at Pyjamarama
Eating your way through 120-year-old Kuromon Market gives you an opportunity to come to grips with the local ingredients: Fresh sashimi, grilled scallops, skewered baby octopus along with takoyaki and okonomiyaki are all waiting to be sampled. But if you only eat one thing at Kuromon Market, make it the suji negi curry at Pyjamarama. Beef tendon and spring onions are stewed for two days before being cooked in a thick, intense curry sauce. It's a revelation.
Don't forget to add tsukemono (pickles), they accentuate the flavour of the curry and cut through its richness: Japanese curry at its best.
Eat it at Pyjamarama in Kuromon Market, 2 Chome-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0073. Market open daily 9am-6pm
4. Ramen at Yashichi
If you only eat one bowl of ramen in Osaka, make it the chicken broth ramen at Yashichi. Choose between a shoyu (soy sauce) or shio (salt) broth and prepare for a transcendent experience. The broth tastes like the most intense roast chicken dinner - extra cartilage and chicken skin is added when cooking the broth and is scooped out at precise intervals creating layers of flavour. Firm, bouncy noodles, diced white onion, spring onion, a slice of tender chashu (braised pork belly) and half a soft boiled egg complete the bowl. The dining room is silent, save for the sound of slurping. Heads are bowed, everyone is focused solely on the bowl in front of them. This is a bowl of ramen so good it'll make you want to join the line for another serve immediately after your first.
Eat it at Yashichi, Toyosaki 3-4-8 Osaka, Kita-ku Osaka-shi. Open Monday to Friday 11am-4pm