A Gastro Safari in Japan’s Foodie City – Osaka

Osaka is known as the foodie capital of Japan so do not miss the opportunity to sample its local street foods, most popular ones being Okonomiyaki (frittata) and the famous Takoyaki which literally translates into Octopus (Tako) Fried (Yaki). Takoyaki is basically little round dashi flavoured pancake balls stuffed with pieces of octopus, tempura, green onions and pickled red ginger, they are smothered with mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce (similar to worcester sauce) and sprinkled with fried seaweed & dried bonito flakes. You can expect the texture to be crispy on the outside and gooey in the inside, if you like seafood and have an adventurous tongue then you must try these! Best ones can be found at street vendors, we stumbled upon one under a bridge opposite the Umeda train station for a quick lunch snack. I was comforted when I saw later that evening a long queue of locals in line for a portion Takoyaki – hopefully a sign that is was aunthetic place!

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That said if you are unsure on where to haunt down some good octopus balls I would recommend going to Dottonbori and having a browse around its fluorescent lively streets for some canal side delights. Yes its touristy but if you have limited time and want to get a feeling of Osaka’s love affair with food then Dottonbori will give you a great gastronomic introduction.

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Now for my favourite local find in Osaka. A 7 hour flight. First night in Japan. 11pm. Heizo Chicken. gem.  Forget the questionable exterior, non english speaking staff and limited Japanese menu – my golly this place was so up my alley. Quirky, tasty and above all super friendly. I got a feeling within about 5 mins that we had stumbled upon a local hidden gem that is very popular with mid night cool folks.

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The pictorial menu was kind of helpful –  as in what you saw you got, but what you got was still unclear (in a good way).

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All items ordered were presented in cute disposable banana shaped bamboo ships. I guess this was Japanese Tapas?! Mi gusta! From what I could make out we had; a brie type cheese croquette, japanese keema, a yummy potato salad and a cheese/potato/bacon ball in a creamy tomato salsa. All were delicious and perfect for late munchies!

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The only item we could not eat as we were “dining in” was the Heizo Fried Chicken! Apparently its only for “take-away” – all quite bizarre but I like the odd bit of obscurity! Take-Away diners seemed very chuffed with their big boxes of fried goodness. I reckon its worth coming back for.

The Hunt for Gyoza Morsels

Who doesn’t like sizzling meaty dumplings!? We tried gyoza all over Japan and honestly we didn’t have one bad dumpling, but if I was to rank those dumplings I would in-doubtly give the number one spot to a little corner cafe on the 5th floor of the Umetika dining building.

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The cafe specialised in gyoza with beer – one could say a rather limited menu but I say genius!

We had encore portions and would again and again.

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Digital Lunch

Lunch hosted by an efficient digital member of staff who only spoke in Japanese scripture.

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Again I was very unsure on the ingredients of my order but the digitised diagrams really helped make a decision on what to order. Once I paid the machine and received my token order slip I took a seat at the communal dining table. It had large green furry balls as an interesting centrepiece…..first time for everything….it actually looked quite cool!

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Now what did I order?! I think it was cold soba noodles in a white milky broth with a heaping of some kind of mince meat (maybe pork?) and a sprinkle of sprouts. Light, refreshing and oh so tasty! It came with a pourer of chilli oil which brought out the flavours of the milkly broth. Yum!

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I left Osaka with very flavourful memories. Not enough time to try all its delights but a great insight into its vibrant and fun eating scene. Sweetoothers look out for my dessert safari in Japan coming soon!

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