Dōtonbori is amazing! Situated along the Dōtonbori Canal, you can find bright lights, delicious street food, tons of people, and a great energy!
We chose an apartment about a 10 minute walk away and had dinner in Dōtonbori 4 of our 5 evenings in Osaka. Osaka is known as the “nation’s kitchen” and there is so much food to discover and taste! Koen and I were even more excited to visit once we learned of the saying “Kyotoites are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, Osakans are ruined by spending on food.” This is our kind of city (and also the 2nd largest in Japan)!
One of the evenings was Halloween and it was insanely crowded! We had so much fun seeing all of the costumes!
Osaka Street Food
Okonomiyaki, Negiyaki, and Modan-yaki
Okonomi, meaning “how you like” and yaki meaning “grill”, okonomiyaki is Osaka’s most famous street food. These savory pancakes are a combination of flour, eggs, cabbage, green onion, and your choice of meat (pork belly, octopus, squid, shrimp, …). Okonomiyaki is served topped with okonomiyaki sauce, seaweed and bonito flakes, Japanese mayonnaise, and pickled ginger. The metal spatula used to prepare the okonomiyaki is the same one you use to cut the “Japanese pizza” so you can eat the smaller pieces with your chopsticks.
There are other variations of okonomiyaki, negiyaki and modan-yaki. Negiyaki (negi = scallions) is a thinner version with a lot of green onions in the batter. If you’re really hungry, order the modan-yaki. This version includes a big pile of noodles.
We visited Houzenji Sanpei for our okonomiyaki and actually wound up order negiyaki and modan-yaki! It’s located on a side street of the Dōtonbori and definitely worth a visit!
Kani Doraku Crab
Kani Doraku is one of the landmarks of the Dōtonbori. You can’t miss the six and half meters long mechanical crab! What is Kani Doraku? Kani = Crab, Doraku = Debauchery, so if you want to indulge in all things crab, this restaurant is a must! We decided to try the charcoal grilled crab and it was delicious!
Takoyaki are fried octopus balls. They have a crisp exterior surrounding a gooey center of octopus, pickled ginger and scallions and topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaies, and seaweed and bonito flakes. Not my favorite, but worth trying!
Kushikatsu, not to be confused with tempura, is breaded and deep-fried skewered meat and vegetables. At your table, you’ll find a thin dipping sauce for your kushikatsu – but don’t double dip! The sauce is shared amongst everyone, so only single dipping allowed! Your kushikatsu comes with piece of cabbage, so you can use a piece as a spoon if you want more sauce.
Gyoza are Japanese dumplings fried on one side and steamed. Compared to Chinese dumplings, the dough is much thinner, there’s a more prominent garlic flavor, and a light seasoning of salt and soy sauce. Gyoza are popular throughout Japan – not only in Osaka.
Tonkotsu ramen, like gyoza, are popular throughout all of Japan, but Osaka is where I tasted my first tonkotsu and I have never stopped dreaming of it since (normally we try never to eat the same thing twice on vacation, but we visited another Ichiran when we were back in Tokyo)! Ichiran is a chain you can find throughout Japan (and also in NYC) and worth the wait – because the lines are sooooo long.
Ichiran specializes in tonkotsu ramen, a rich and creamy broth made from pork bones, which are boiled for hours, breaking down the collagen, marrow and fat, unleashing a creamy, white liquid. If you only try one ramen in Japan, this is the one!