The Flavors of Osaka

These elements and unique Japanese ingredients are integral to the culinary scene in Osaka

Dashi cooking stockOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

Dashi cooking stock

The word umami, which has entered the global lexicon, may arguably be tracked back to dashi (cooking stock). An essential component of Japan’s food culture, dashi—a uniquely Japanese ingredient—first made its appearance in Osaka. Golden yellow in color, and continuing to serve as an indispensable element of Osaka’s food culture today, dashi in its most fundamental form is a mixture of kombu (dried kelp) and skipjack flakes. It may also be blended together with other ingredients such as dried sardines, dried shiitake mushrooms, or dried jakoebi miniature shrimp in order to create a flavor base for numerous types of dishes.

Dashi cooking stockOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

Dashi is also integral to flour-based dishes (known collectively as kona-mon) that are famous standards of Osaka cuisine, including udon (wheat flour noodles), takoyaki octopus dumplings, and okonomiyaki savory pancakes. Additionally, dashi is routinely used inside the home when cooking simple everyday dishes.

Kombu and skipjack flakesOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

Kombu and skipjack flakes

The basic element of Osaka-style flavor is a blend of kombu (dried kelp) and skipjack flakes.

konbuOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

Kombu, which is produced in Hokkaido, was transported to Osaka over the Japan Sea via the kitamaebune shipping route, which was begun during the Edo era. Goods ferried to Osaka included seafood such as kombu and herring, while return ships were loaded with items including rice, salt, saké and used clothing. In addition to reaping handsome profits, merchants were also able to cultivate a two-way cultural trade between the two regions. The emergence of dashi—a quintessential element of Japanese cuisine—from Hokkaido kombu may be described as a superb product of this history.

konbuOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

Osaka has the highest kombu consumption in all of Japan. The popularity of this northern item in Osaka—to the extent that it even became known there as a local specialty product—owes to the processing technology that exists in the region. Knife technology in Sakai facilitated the processing of tororo kombu (grated kelp) and oboro kombu (dried kelp in thin, wide strips); while the technology for shoyu in Wakayama prefecture resulted in the creation of salted kombu. In addition to dashi, numerous additional products continue to be processed from kombu today.

tecchiri(fugu)Osaka Gastronomy and Culture

Ponzu (tetchiri)

Ponzu, a refreshing sauce of vinegared citrus that pairs well with Japanese cuisine, is a seasoning much loved by Osakans. No wonder, perhaps, that it too contains a kombu-and-skipjack-flake stock. The word combined a now defunct Dutch word for a type of cocktail of distilled liquor, citrus juice, and sugar with the Japanese word for vinegar. Supermarket shelves in Osaka are often lined with 20 different types of ponzu, which is a popular accompaniment that is used creatively to accent numerous dishes such as pork, chicken, seafood, salads, and more.

Ponzu (tetchiri)Osaka Gastronomy and Culture

Able to be adapted to many different types of foods, ponzu is a must-have item for tecchiri, the pufferfish hot pot enjoyed in Osaka during winter. Pufferfish is plentiful in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture, but some 60% of the total catch is consumed in Osaka. With its gentle sweetness and distinct crunchy texture, Osakans simply cannot get enough of pufferfish combined with the taste of ponzu. The fish pairs particularly well with the vivid, crisp acidity of the sudachi citrus fruit produced in Tokushima prefecture. Fugu specialty restaurants have their own loyal followings of clientele who are drawn toward the different unique tastes of the house-made ponzu and chirizu (a sauce of citrusy shoyu).

Udon & UdonsukiOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

 Udon & Udonsuki

In Osaka, udon noodles are famed for the way that their softness harmonizes gently with the kombu and skipjack-accented broth. One age-old favorite is salty-sweet kitsune udon, where the noodles are topped with fried tofu boiled to plump perfection. The simplicity of the dish is deceptive, however, as it is impossible to cut corners with its preparation. And despite its cheap price, the low wages earned by common people of the day led to fierce competition among restaurants that served it.

udonOsaka Gastronomy and Culture

Another recent addition to the local culinary scene is Osaka Sanuki, a portmanteau of the firmly-textured Sanuki udon from Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku island together with dashi from Osaka. The chewy, nearly pudding-like smoothness and slightly zesty kick of the Sanuki udon stand in contrast to the udon noodles from Osaka, which tend to take a backstage role to the broth, and are generally evaluated in terms of how well the flavor pairs with the dashi. The ingenious fusion of Sanuki udon with Osaka dashi, however, has resulted in numerous restaurants riding this trend to great acclaim by offering Osaka Sanuki on their menus.

Credits: Story

 Osaka Gastronomy and Culture
-Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau-

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