G20 Osaka Summit

Summit Details

Osaka’s Casual Cuisine

Osaka is renowned as the “cuisine capital.” Since prospering as the “Nation’s Kitchen” in the Edo era, Osaka has remained at the forefront of Japan’s culinary culture. Dashi, the soup stock indispensable to washoku, or Japanese cuisine, was originally developed in the Kansai region centering around Osaka and Kyoto. In fact, Osakans often describe a delicious dish by declaring that “the dashi is just right,” indicating how deeply-rooted dashi is in culinary traditions. Konamon, or wheat batter-based Osaka comfort foods, also rely heavily on dashi. Udon and takoyaki are two typical konamon favorites in Osaka.

Summit Venue 01 Perfect dashi broth—the heart and soul of “Naniwa udon”

Udon is the perfect combination of a delicious dashi (made from kelp and tiny fish) and soft, chewy noodles which slide easily down. Each region in Japan has its own variation on udon, but Osaka’s quintessential version achieves an exquisite balance of dashi, noodles, and toppings. Among the trio of components, though, it is dashi which enjoys center stage.

The Kanto region relies on katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings) to create dashi. In Kansai, however, the key combination is konbu (dried kelp) plus niboshi (small dried fish such as mackerel and sardine). The finishing touch to a fragrant Kansai dashi is achieved by adding usukuchi (light) soy sauce. A variety of toppings may be chosen to accentuate the dashi to perfection. Perhaps the most popular is kitsune udon, said to be Osaka’s very own creation. The noodles are topped by a thin block of deep-fried age tofu which has been simmered in a sweet and salty sauce.

Osaka has long prospered through trade and distribution, and its delicious udon food culture enjoys a similar history tracing back over 400 years. Today, the region preserves this treasured cuisine, even as artisans express fresh interpretations through creative originality.

Summit Venue 02 Takoyaki: a quintessential Osaka specialty

Konamon, or wheat flour-based dishes, are near and dear to the hearts of Japanese. This casual konamon cuisine is a fixed feature in the Osaka food scene. Takoyaki is perhaps the most informal of all konamon dishes. The acclaimed taste treat originated in Osaka and is made by adding cubed octopus and condiments such as ginger and green onion to a batter which is shaped into balls and then grilled. The batter is what creates the flavor, and here too, Osakans rely on dashi for their culinary magic. In fact, takoyaki made from a perfectly-flavored batter require no sauce, as they create a taste sensation in the mouth all on their own.

Takoyaki are said to have emerged from Osaka’s Nishinari Ward in 1933. Yet their roots can be traced to Akashiyaki (locally known as “tamago-yaki”), conceived in Hyogo Prefecture’s Akashi City just west of Kobe. When a sauce well suited to takoyaki became widely available in the postwar years, that dish gained popularity with Osakans and takoyaki stands increased in the city.

Today, takoyaki has various manifestations. There are large-scale nationwide chains, individual stands handed down through generations, and temporary stalls set up during festivals. Popular stands seem to have a perpetual line of customers, including many sightseers as well as true fans of the distinctive Osaka flavor who stop by whenever they are in town. They say that every household in Osaka and the greater Kansai region has a takoyaki pan, a testament to how indispensable this gourmet specialty and comfort food is in Osaka and across Japan.

In December 2013, UNESCO designated washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) as an intangible cultural heritage. The savory umami flavor, which was discovered in Japan, has gained worldwide recognition, as has Japanese dashi, which includes an extracted umami component. Osaka is the birthplace of the now-standard method of making “awase-dashi” from kelp and bonito. The “dashi tradition” is well-rooted in Japanese culture and continues to sustain Osaka cuisine.