In the 1800s Osaka was the center of commerce and logistics, and as a result many local dishes were created that are still popular today. Also, people from Osaka have always been known as gourmands, so even today they're still creating novel local dishes. Here are 4 of these regional meals that you should try.
Battera is a kind of pressed sushi where salted, mackerel pickled in vinegar is placed on top of vinegar rice and layered with shiroita white kombu. It was developed by a sushi restaurant in Osaka around 1893. Originally it was made not using mackerel but konoshiro gizzard shad, a fish in the herring and sardine family. When it was pressed into the mold the tailfin would point upwards, making it look like a little boat. Because of that shape, it was given the name "bateira," which means "little boat" in Portugal, but it has since turned into "battera." Also, since the numbers of konoshiro gizzard shad have fallen, they have gotten much more expensive, so mackerel began being used instead. It spread among the masses as a preserved food, and there are still many sushi restaurants in Osaka that offer battera. Unlike regular sushi, in battera both the mackerel and the kombu are vinegared so that taste is its main characteristic. It doesn't have the usual mackerel smell, so it matches perfectly with the mild but rich vinegar, kombu, and slightly sweet vinegar rice. If you come to Osaka, don't order just the usual nigiri sushi, but also try this battera that has been handed down through the generations.
Doteyaki is a dish made by stewing beef sinew and/or konnyaku (a jelly made from konjac yam) in miso and mirin cooking sake for a long period of time. It's said that the name comes from the way it's cooked: miso is piled into a doughnut-shaped "dote" ("embankment") around the inner edge of the pot with the rest of the ingredients placed in the "doughnut hole" to cook. As the heat rises, the miso melts and it all cooks together. The sweet-spiciness of the concentrated miso and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the beef and konnyaku goes perfectly with liquor. It's often on menus in Osaka's izakaya restaurants, kushi-katsu restaurants, oden restaurants, and other kinds of shops so you can definitely call it one of Osaka's representative local gourmet meals. The harmony of flavors in Osaka's blend of miso, beef, and konnyaku will definitely have you asking for more.
3. Chawanmushi Ramen
In Japanese cooking, there is a dish called "chawanmushi," in which beaten eggs are mixed with dashi broth and other ingredients, and then steamed until cooked to a flan-like texture. Making a large chawanmushi with udon is called Odamakimushi, and it's a dish that can't be left out of important ceremonial family occasions like weddings. It was developed in Osaka's wholesale business district and has been handed down to modern generations as a local gourmet dish. It's said the name "Odamakimushi" comes from "odamaki," the name for a ball of spun yarn or thread. And now, following the change from chawanmushi to Odamakimushi, there is now a popular local dish available called Chawanmushi ramen. This dish was developed at the ramen restaurant Ramen Tanchou. Ramen has become one of the symbols of Japanese food around the world, and this restaurant has combined it with the Odamakimushi to create a new style of dish. When you break the surface of the chawanmushi, you'll see that there's soup and noodles in the bowl as well. The robustly flavored ramen and soup combines well with the delicate flavors of the chawanmushi. This dish combines Osaka's traditional local cuisine with modern Japanese gourmet to create a completely new dish that people who are tired of eating regular ramen should definitely check out. One bowl is 850 JPY (incl. tax).
Chawanmushi Ramen (850 JPY (incl. tax))
3. Chawanmushi Ramen
4. Udon Gyoza
Udon gyoza is a home-cooked dish from Takatsuki in Osaka that turned into a local dish in the second half of the 1980s. It looks like a small okonomiyaki but tastes like gyoza. Gyoza ingredients like meat, egg, and garlic chives are mixed with finely chopped udon noodles in place of gyoza wrappers, and then made into small patties and fried. It's then eaten with gyoza sauce or ponzu. It tastes like gyoza, with a crisp outside and juicy inside. Since they're bite-sized, they became a hot topic all of a sudden as a great snack to eat with liquor, and now the Takatsuki Udon Gyoza no Kai continues to make udon gyoza as a Takatsuki local dish. They distribute a Takatsuki Udon Gyoza Map so you can find restaurants that offer it, so people who love gyoza and people who want to try Osaka home cooking should definitely find a place to stop by.
There are many Osaka local cuisines that have been handed down throughout the years and some of them have even evolved into new regional dishes. It takes a little traveling to discover all the individual types of meals, but you'll definitely be satisfied by what you find! Please try not just the famous dishes but local meals to make your trip even better.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.