I think this may be a yearly tradition for us because we just really fell in love with Osaka since our trip last Spring. Known as the “Japan's Big Kitchen”, food critics and writers have described OSAKA as the Food Capital of not just of Japan, but of the entire world. Attracting millions of tourists annually with beloved regional dishes like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and udon, the Osakan love for food is so legendary that it’s given rise to the saying:“Kyotoites are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, Osakans are ruined by spending on food.” It's most definitely my kind of place!
Here are my top 10 Cheap Eats this year;
1. Green Tea Ice Cream from Bar D Te'
OMG actually make that OMFG!!! Excuse the language but this was really so damn AWESOME that's why it tops my list this year! I never knew green tea ice cream can taste THAT good. The green tea flavor really stands out; it's concentrated and strong (grassy and slightly bitter) and not the usual watered down and milky ones that are widely available in every convenient store in Japan. Don't get me wrong, I love Family Mart's green tea ice cream because it's so reasonable and you can't go wrong with "twirl all you want" for Php 25.00-Php 30.00 (In Osaka, the usual price of their soft serve is about 300 yen or roughly $3) but THIS just put green tea ice cream into a whole new level. The texture is sticky and creamy and they serve it with a long thin black teaspoon which you use to dig in the ice cream. So where is this place? It's a stall inside the Takashimaya Food Court (B1 level) in Namba Station called Bar D Te'.
Enjoying my little piece of heaven sandwiched between the Lolas and Lolos of Osaka. Hahaha :)
Look for this stall :)
2. Kuromon Sanpei's Sushi Sets
This is our favorite place inside the Kuromon Ichiba Market. It's essentially a small marketplace that offers a variety of fresh fish and sushi. They sell pre-packaged sushi/sashimi sets you want it are on the go or you can eat it right there. They have tables where you can enjoy the meal, use their free wifi and get complimentary hot rice tea to wash down your meal.
My top picks are : Toro Sashimi/Sushi, Scallops (they are ginormous!) sashimi and Buri/Hamachi Sushi.
Buri/ Hamachi Sashimi
Scallops and Toro
3. Unadon Lunch Set at Takagi Suisan
This small stall can also be found inside Kuromon Ichiba market and it serves just EEL. They also make their own homemade special eel sauce made from the finest soy sauce from a long-established soy sauce store since the Edo period. Their eel is meaty, juicy and soft and is covered in a richly simmered sweet sauce.
For 850 Yen (about $8.50) , you'll get a unagi rice topping, miso soup with clams and pickled radish. Their Unagi (eel) is so delicately cooked plus the teriyaki sauce is so rich in flavor (i like that I sense the hint of sake and mirin).
4. Kushikatsu Kushikatsu is one of the things Osaka is known for. It's deep fried meat or veggie skewers served with a communal tonkatsu (a watered down version of it) dipping sauce!
Look for this Kushikatsu Man. You'll see him all around Dotonburi and Shinsaibashi.
Complimentary Cabbage Appetizers
Our favorites : Classic Kushikatsu (Beef), Asparagus, Okra, Shitake, Octopus, Cheese and Kushi Rice (Fried Curry Rice Ball). Best to order their draft beer to water down all the oil (eek!).
Remember the 4 Cardinal Kushikatsu Rules
1. NO DOUBLE DIPPING. This is the most important rule of all. The sauce is communal so this is very VERY important.
2. Dip Kushi (whatever item it is) once and move it to your place.
3. Eat cabbage (appetizer) with your hands.
4. Do not soak chopsticks into the sauce.
*You'll be given this note/card when you dine in to remind you of their house rules.
5. Takoyaki (Plain and Salted) from Amerika-Mura
This is the Takoyaki for Purist. It's not the usual Takoyaki you're familiar which is smothered with a sweet and tangy dark sauce but instead the octopus balls are simply seasoned with salt, spring onions and a generous topping of bonito flakes and Japanese mayonnaise. I understand why it's said to be the bestseller among the locals because you can really enjoy the taste of the octopus balls instead of masking them with the sauce.
Takoyaki with Rocksalt
8 pcs. for 350 Yen
How adorable is this? The takoyaki lady wearing a takoyaki hat! :)
6. Grilled Eel Liver
Definitely not for the faint of heart but since I love Unagi this was not hard to like (and digest). It's liver in a BBQ stick that's grilled and covered in sweet teriyaki sauce.
7. Mitarashi Dango
It's a type of dango (sweet dumplings) skewered onto bamboo sticks. Mitarashi means covered in syrup made from shoyu (soy sauce), sugar and starch. These small sticky rice balls are grilled adn covered in a nice sweet dark (teriyaki-like) glaze. They sell them all over the streets of Osaka and Nara.
8. Fresh Handmade Mochi from Nakatanidou
BEST. MOCHI. EVER.
I chanced upon this Mochi stall in Nara (the market strip just beside the main station) and got to try the BEST Mochi ever! Nakatanidou makes the mochi on site by having two men pound the dough with huge wooden mallots. The men usually wait until there is a crowd before the start the pounding and then they sell the mochi after it’s made. The pounding process helps soften the dough before it is filled with red bean. 1 pc for 130 yen.The rice flour dough is tinted green with yomogi (mugwort) and dusted with kinako (soy bean powder). Don't miss this when you visit Nara!
9. Curry Takeout from Coco Curry House
After our Nara day trip on our 4th day there, we came home to our apartment really exhausted. We didn't want to walk to Dotonbori for dinner so we just decided to go for something quick and easy. We found Coco Curry House just around the corner and ordered take-out. Coco Curry House has been around since the 1970's when it first opened it's flagship restaurant in Nagoya. It has proven it's concept already and has stores/franchises all over the world. Their menu is simple...everything CURRY. You can choose a protein (mostly fried and their most popular is the tonkatsu - fried breaded pork with curry). I was in the mood for vegetables so I had the Spinach Curry Rice for 600 Yen / $6.00 . Maybe I was just so tired and hungry but I really enjoyed my plate and wiped it out clean.
10. Family Mart Sushi and Soba My hubby and I are suckers for cheap eats and so when we arrived in Kansai really late on our first night, we headed to Family Mart to get dinner since it was the only one open. For the quality and the price, you can never go wrong.
Assorted Sushi and Cold Soba, yes please!
So there you have it folks : My top picks during our Osaka trip this year. Let me know if you have questions and comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be happy to answer them :)
It's just been a few days since I got back but I already miss the place, the weather and the FOOD!