Japan isn’t quite as renowned for its street food culture as countries such as Thailand or Vietnam, but it’s been steadily growing in popularity. You can find kiosks selling warm food and snacks in towns and cities nationwide. Kansai has its own unique twist on street food staples, with Osaka, in particular, producing some well-known dishes. Here are some great choices if you’re peckish and looking for food on the go.
A famous street dish synonymous with Osaka, takoyaki are bite-size grilled balls made from octopus meat and a batter of dashi stock, egg, flour, and soy sauce. They typically also include a touch of ginger and spring onion, with fish flakes and a choice of sauces on top. If you’re not keen on octopus, many outlets have alternative flavors, such as cheese or bacon. Aside from the taste, the great thing about takoyaki is that they are super-convenient as a street snack and easy to consume and share.
Another Osaka-based favorite, this is essentially a Japan-style omelet or pancake. It uses a similar batter to takoyaki but with the added ingredient of shredded cabbage. Okonomiyaki translates as ‘grill as you like it,’ and you can choose from various fillings, including meat, vegetables, seafood, and even cheese. The dish usually comes topped with a sweet sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, fish flakes, and sometimes dried seaweed. There are a few different regional versions of okonomiyaki, such as negiyaki (made with green onions instead of cabbage) and Wakayama’s gobo-sechiyaki.
Sushi is one of the most popular forms of Japanese cuisine. You can find sushi restaurants in Japan and all over the world. However, it is also sold at many street food vendors due to its bite-size convenience and the fact that it can be pre-prepared and easily sold from street stalls. Sushi is vinegared rice mixed with various other ingredients, formed into particular shapes, and usually served with a sauce such as soy. Popular street varieties include hako-zushi (box sushi), which is flavored seafood such as shrimp or mackerel cut into squares, and futomaki – circular rolls containing vegetables such as carrot, mushroom, and cucumber.
Kushiage, also known as kushikatsu, are deep-fried ingredients covered in breadcrumbs and served to patrons on skewers. As such, they are probably the quintessential street snack in appearance and are very popular as a late-night bite. Ingredients can include pork, chicken, beef, fish, or a variety of vegetables. Kushiage is typically served with a thick, dark, fruity sauce and some raw cabbage on the side. Another dish originated in Osaka but is now popular across the Kansai region.
Tako tamago literally translates as ‘octopus egg.’ However, this isn’t an egg laid by an octopus. Rather, it’s a whole quail egg inserted into a baby octopus. Furthermore, the octopus is coated in a sweet red glaze, and the finished product is placed on a bamboo skewer. It gives the dish quite a striking look. Tako tamago was invented by a chef in Kyoto, but the dish has been exported, and you can find it at street stalls inside and outside of Kansai.