The Kansai Region Feature

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Osakans are passionate about food. In fact, they coined the word kuidaore—to eat until you drop. They expect restaurants to use the freshest ingredients. For centuries the nearby Seto Inland Sea has allowed easy access to fresh seafood. Osakans continue to have discriminating palates and demand their money's worth.

Osakan cuisine is flavored with a soy sauce lighter in color and milder in flavor than the soy used in Tokyo. One local delicacy is okonomiyaki, something between a pancake and an omelet, filled with cabbage, mountain yams, pork, shrimp, and other ingredients. Osaka-zushi (Osaka-style sushi), made in wooden molds, has a distinctive square shape. Unagi (eel) remains a popular local dish; grilled unagi is eaten in summer for quick energy. Fugu (blowfish), served boiled or raw, is a winter delicacy. Osaka is also the home of kappo-ryori, intimate, counter-only eateries that serve only the freshest seasonal foods in a relaxed atmosphere.

The thick, white noodles known as udon are a Japanese staple, but Osakans are particularly fond of kitsune udon, a local dish (now popular throughout Japan) in which the noodles are served with fried tofu known as abura-age. Another Osaka invention is takoyaki, griddle dumplings with octopus, green onions, and ginger smothered in a delicious sauce. Sold by street vendors in Dotombori, these tasty snacks also appear at every festival and street market in Kansai. And for heavier fare, Osaka is famous for kushi katsu, skewered, deep-fried meat and vegetables. If you don't want to fall over, try to leave the table hara-hachi bunme, meaning 80% full.

Updated: 2014-02-03

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