Under the spell of Osaka and Okonomiyaki

Osaka Style Okonimayaki Recipe

It’s most iconic structure may be a 16th-century shogunate castle that sets Raffles samurai senses tingling, but Osaka is probably better known for its high tech architecture, street eats and many, many stars… Michelin stars, that is.

Japan’s undisputed gastronomic capital, it is said that the people of Osaka spend more money on food than on anything else. In fact, the city is often referred to as Kuidaore which, roughly translated, means to “to ruin oneself with food.

Sounds like we’ll be right at home!

Ironically, given its extraordinary culinary culture, it is not cuisine but magic that has brought the Eats Worlds to Osaka. We’re here to unleash our wee muggles on Hogwarts. Well, at least the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. But given that this is us, we have allowed time to see what other excitement can be conjured in Osaka in 24 hours, plus a whole extra day for alchemy of the culinary kind.

But before the eating can commence we need to check in to our hotel. The Intercontinental Osaka is the place to stay for hungry visiting Muggles, conveniently located just a couple of minutes walk from the cavernous JR Osaka Station in the new Grand Front Osaka food and entertainment complex and everything we want to see do and reach is an easy train ride away.

Related: How to get the best from  your JR Rail pass here.

The cavernous JR Osaka Station

Osaka’s newest five-star hotel, the lobby is a sassy space of wood and stone dotted with funky modern art that somehow conjures the feeling of both modern and ancient Japan.

Intercontinental Osaka lobby

As we exit the elevators a quirky rainbow striped Japanese god points us in the direction of the lobby’s cosy Lounge 3-60 where a chocolate buffet beckons decorously. Do we eat or do we get our room key?

Artworks in the lobby of Intercontinental Osaka

I mean, we haven’t even made it to our room and we’re already smitten with this hotel.

my little baggages at Intercontinental Osaka

Our luxe two-bedroom serviced residence with enchanting views over Osaka only deepens our infatuation. It’s the perfect size for our little family with a lush living area, two bathrooms and full kitchen complete with its own washing machine… something that proves enormously handy given the state of our travel-stained offspring.

Comfy living space at the luxe Intercontinental Osaka

Special touches like kid-sized slippers and traditional Yukata robes means our mini-me’s can lounge with us in Japanese style while inhaling the platter of sweet treats that have been left to greet us.

Hotel treats at Intercontinental Osaka

We do a lap of the hotel and the kids are soon under the spell of the massive indoor pool and traditional Japanese baths, while I’m rather taken with the sprawling spa area. Or at least I would be if I were allowed to take advantage of it!

Sadly for my weary muscles, they shall remain unmassaged as the kids are on a vital pre-dinner mission to ride the retina-searing wave of fluorescent yellow to Osaka’s Pokemon Center that they spotted while hopping off the train.

Pokemon Center Osaka

Surrounded by Pikachu and his freaky friends, the kids stock up on dangly green dragons and cuddly whatever-the-hell-they-ares while I don my sunnies to avoid permanent ocular damage.

trying the wares at Pokemon Centre Osaka

At this point Sugarpuff decides to invest in what are quite possibly the most hideous socks I’ve ever encountered. Then demands to pair their bright yellow ugliness with her dodgy old red sandals. Right. Now.

socks and sandals - my worst nightmare

I may die.

We’re saved from Planet Pokemon by rumbling bellies. While we’re tempted by the InterContinental’s Michelin-starred Pierre – an elegant space where French cooking techniques are fused with Japanese ingredients to spectacular effect – Sugarpuff’s repugnant sock and sandal combo seem to suggest that, on this occasion, Michelin-starred dining is not for us.

Instead we head to the famous foodie district of Dontunburi where we immediately get lost, something we now have down to a fine art. We stare gormlessly at a map until, as if by magic, two lovely direction elves (obviously on leave from Hogwarts) materialise out of thin air. Instead of merely pointing us in the right direction, the gorgeous girls lead us several blocks out of their way and deposit us in the centre of Dontonburi Street before disappearing in a puff of smoke! Ok there was no smoke and they just walked off into the crowd. And while this doesn’t have the same dramatic effect, it does serve to illustrate that Japanese people are incredibly freaking nice.

Dotunburi Street

While it’s no Diagon Alley, there’s wizardry of a different kind in Dotunburi Street! We dodge the tentacled embrace of a giant pink octopus, gaze with suspicion on a giant glowing fugu fish and swoon at the site of an enormous flashing gyoza. We come to a stop in the shadows of the mechanised legs of a gaudy 6-metre wide crab and take in the literally hundreds of eateries that line the neon-lit street.

Dotunburi Street Osaka

With so many Osakan specialties to choose from and so many winking and blinking oddities beckoning for our custom we don’t know where to go, so decide that a food crawl is the only way forward.

We begin in the belly of the beast… at least at the Takoyaki restaurant that sits under the dangling extremities of the cerise cephalopod.

Takoyaki store in Dotunburi Street Osaka

The dangerously addictive balls of flour, eggs and dashi are studded with octopus pieces. Crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside the takoyaki are topped with sauces and dancing bonito flakes. And they are supernaturally good!

Takoyaki in Osaka

A dozen golden balls later (ok, three dozen) we move on to kushikatsu, which is essentially stuff on a stick. Delicious wands of deep-fried stuff covered in crispy panko crumb, which bewitch our tastebuds.

kushikatsu in Dotunburi Street, Osaka

At Sugarpuff’s insistence there’s a quick pit stop for a six-pack of gyoza before it is time for us to take on the city’s most famous dish, okonomiyaki, a thick savoury pancake. The ultimate in Osakan soul food, okonomiyaki means “what you like, cooked” with the mainstay of the thick beasties a pile of shredded cabbage flavoured with the meat and/or seafood of your choice.

We go for the traditional pork belly and shrimp topped with bonito flakes, sweet and tangy otofuku sauce and kewpie mayonnaise. They are so magically delicious that Hogwarts is going to need to conjure up something special indeed to compete with the awesome alchemy of Osaka’s Streets Food.

So bewitching are the savoury pancakes that I ask the sorcerer in the kitchen to share his secret. To my surprise he reveals all. There are a few elements of his magical okonomiyaki potion that got lost in translation so I’ve taken a little liberty here and there but these babies have been on high rotation at Casa Eats World since… and they’re almost as good as the originals.


Osaka style Okonomiyaki 

Osaka Style Okonomiyaki recipe

1 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup yam flour (we use potato flour in its place)
1 cup dashi
500g cabbage, shredded (white part removed)
½ cup finely sliced spring onion
3 eggs
12 king prawns peeled and chopped
200 grams thinly sliced pork belly
Sesame oil

Otofuku (or okonomiyaki) sauce
Kewpie Mayonnaise
Powdered nori seaweed
Bonito Flakes

1. In a large bowl mix flour, water and dashi stock.
2. Add cabbage, spring onions and prawns and mix well.
3. Add the egg and combine all ingredients.
4. Heat a non stick frypan to a medium-low heat
5. Coat the surface with a little sesame oil.
6. Spoon the cabbage batter mix into the frypan, to make a circle about 15 cm across and 2 cm thick.
7. Place sliced pork belly slices across the top.
8. Cook over med-low heat for about 5 minutes.
9. Flip pancake and cook another 3-4 minutes.
10. Flip again so pork belly is facing up and cook for a further minute.
11. Serve pork side up topped with Otofuku, mayonnaise, powdered seaweed and bonito flakes.

Note: You can buy Okonomyiki flour at Asian Grocery stores which could replace the batter in our recipe.

31 Comments on Under the spell of Osaka and Okonomiyaki

  1. Debs
    July 26, 2015 at 3:01 pm (9 years ago)

    Yum! I was just looking up recipes of these to try for dinner next week. Thanks for sharing. Pinned 🙂

      July 31, 2015 at 10:18 am (9 years ago)

      Thanks Debs. They’re so good! Hope you enjoy them 🙂

  2. bakeplaysmile
    July 26, 2015 at 5:03 pm (9 years ago)

    Wow this looks seriously incredible!!! What an amazing trip! Okonomiyaki is one of my weaknesses and yet I’ve never made it myself. You’ve definitely inspired me!! Thanks for linking up with our Fabulous Foodie Fridays party! xx

      July 31, 2015 at 10:18 am (9 years ago)

      This recipe works every time for us! Enjoy 🙂

  3. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    July 27, 2015 at 7:29 pm (9 years ago)

    I’d be freaked about my boys running off. But in saying that maybe a nice drink in the gorgeous lobby beforehand might take the edge off. Oh the places you will go my lovely!!!

      July 31, 2015 at 10:19 am (9 years ago)

      A couple of stiff drinks in a lobby bar certainly helps! 😉

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 27, 2015 at 10:00 pm (9 years ago)

    Hehe so much to love in this post especially as Japan is one of my favourite places to visit. I never made it to Osaka (never had much leave when I worked there) but it’s definitely on my list. I’ll heed the warning about the socks and sandals 😉

      July 31, 2015 at 10:25 am (9 years ago)

      Be sure you do Lorraine. It’s a crime against humanity 😉

  5. Shan@FortyUp
    July 28, 2015 at 1:12 pm (9 years ago)

    Fantastic! Can’t wait to try this recipe. We visited Osaka earlier this year & I have to admit we ALL loved Universal Studios & Harry Potter World was well worth the waiting! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

      July 31, 2015 at 10:25 am (9 years ago)

      We loved it. Post to follow soon 🙂

  6. Bumble Bee Mum
    July 29, 2015 at 10:13 am (9 years ago)

    Ah.. I miss Osaka and her Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki! But the best takoyaki I had was home-made ones at a Japanese hostel. I haven’t been to USJ yet but everyone can’t stop raving about the Harry Potter ride… I really need to go there one day!

      July 31, 2015 at 10:27 am (9 years ago)

      Harry Potter at Universal is amazing! And I agree the best takoyaki and okonomiyaki was found in the most hidden and out of the way places… cooked by families! 🙂

  7. Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    July 29, 2015 at 10:34 am (9 years ago)

    I can’t believe all the different types of food. There appears to be way more diversity in Japan than I had thought.

      July 31, 2015 at 10:24 am (9 years ago)

      There is such a huge variety of different food in Japan. I could eat myself silly there any day of the week.

  8. Ruth
    July 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm (9 years ago)

    I love okonomiyaki! My husband was running errands the other days around the Japanese populated side of town and he bought me a big piece of okonomiyaki. It was so good. I am going to try your recipe. Doesn’t look that complicated.

      July 31, 2015 at 10:20 am (9 years ago)

      It’s really easy and if you have an Asian food store handy you can replace the flour/dashi mix with Okonomayaki flour which makes it even more simple! 🙂

  9. Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad
    July 29, 2015 at 7:07 pm (9 years ago)

    A chocolate buffet?! Amazing. That looks like a fantastic hotel to stay in en famille. The kushikatsu and okonomiyaki look amazing! I may need to give that recipe a go. Thanks for sharing!

      July 31, 2015 at 10:21 am (9 years ago)

      The InterContinental Osaka is a dream for families… as is anywhere with a chocolate buffet 😉

  10. eastwestlovestory
    July 30, 2015 at 12:27 am (9 years ago)

    This looks like a fun evening out and your hotel looks fab. Thanks for sharing the recipe and have a great time with Harry Potter!

      July 31, 2015 at 10:22 am (9 years ago)

      We had a ball. Will share all the fun of Harry Potter very soon! 🙂

  11. Fairlie
    July 31, 2015 at 11:37 am (9 years ago)

    They look *delicious*. We didn’t make it as far as Osaka on our trip to Japan (despite pleading for a daytrip to Universal…) but it looks great. Next time.

      August 1, 2015 at 9:59 pm (9 years ago)

      There will definitely going be a next time for us!

  12. Maxabella
    July 31, 2015 at 2:22 pm (9 years ago)

    I am making this next week. It is too tempting to resist! We are suckers for Katsudon so I know the fam is gonna love this one. Thanks mate! x

      July 31, 2015 at 2:29 pm (9 years ago)

      MY kids have developed an addiction to them that’s bordering on requiring intervention. They don’t even realise how packed full of veggies they are! 🙂

  13. Malinda (@MBPaperPackages)
    August 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm (9 years ago)

    How fabulous that he actually shared his recipe, these look delicious. I must find that eat street if I ever end up in Osaka. More when than if.
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust

      August 5, 2015 at 10:07 am (9 years ago)

      You must, It is the best. But go hungry 😉

  14. MrsDplus3
    August 5, 2015 at 10:02 am (9 years ago)

    Wow, what an incredible experience for your kids. I remember taking mine to Hong Kong and it was so busy that I was so terrified of losing them, I forgot to look around properly. Very cool socks BTW Sugarpuff x

      August 5, 2015 at 10:09 am (9 years ago)

      Crowds are scary with kids but we keep them very close and have a set of rules that everyone follows just to make sure we all stay together. But exploring is certainly not as relaxing as it used to be…

  15. Kirralee @ Escape With Kids
    August 26, 2015 at 4:17 pm (9 years ago)

    The food looks amazing, but I’m loving the look of the Intercontinental. Very luxy!

  16. Louis
    March 18, 2016 at 3:39 pm (8 years ago)

    Absolutely beautiful. Do you guys have any craving for home cooked meals? Home cooked takeaways like from Hotchamp.com?

  17. Bernie
    June 19, 2016 at 4:52 pm (8 years ago)

    I miss the okonomiyaki. Tried replicating it but somehow it wasn’t the mark. Thanks for bringing my memories of Osaka back to life again. 🙂


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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