Osaka is one of the main Japanese cities. It is nicknamed the "Kitchen of the Nation" and food products as well as seafood is promoted as "Osaka-mon" (made in Osaka). We spoke with Onomoto Naruhito from the Osaka Environment, Agriculture, Forestry and Marine Products Division, who is in charge of promoting the Osaka brand.
Tell us about the "Osaka-mon" project
Osaka is nicknamed "the Kitchen of the Nation". A lot of tasty food from all over Japan is gathered here, so people from Osaka are well-known connoisseurs of food. That’s why Osaka’s food has developed its own unique style and taste.
In 2006, Osaka’s agricultural products, forest products, and marine products were nicknamed "Osaka-mon" (made in Osaka) and that word was turned into a brand. We want people from Osaka to know about Osaka’s products and to consume agricultural and marine products from the Osaka area in order to protect local industry and nature. At this point the "Osaka-mon" brand is recognized by 60% of people. We want to increase brand awareness among foreigners as well.
What part of "Osaka-mon" brand would you especially recommend?
First of all I would recommend "Senshu Water" (eggplant water). Senshu eggplants from which the water is produced are famous throughout the country because they contain more water particles than other eggplants. They are known even in Tokyo. In the olden days when farmers who worked in the fields became thirsty, they would just squeeze the eggplant to get water because there was so much inside. The eggplant can be consumed raw and it is very sweet as well. Some people say it tastes like an apple. It is said that this eggplant cannot grow properly unless it is grown in the Senshu region of Osaka. Therefore this product is really representative of the "Osaka-mon" brand. These eggplants can be picked throughout the year but the peak season is in summer.
In February I would recommend "young burdock". Unlike normal burdock, you can even eat the leaves and trunk. It is used in Japanese cuisine as well as by Italian chefs. Apart from that I would also recommend the fresh and juicy "Senshu Onion" that can even be eaten raw or the big and sweet "Yao Soybeans", which in the past were responsible for bringing together the lives of many people during times of famine… In the olden days they were sold at the same price as silver, thus they were given the nickname "Ginyose" (lit. equal to silver). You should definitely give these a try!
Among Osaka’s marine products I would recommend "Izumi-dako" (octopus). It is soft and very tasty. Osaka Bay has always been full of plankton on which the fish feed, therefore this makes it a good place for fishing. Apart from this, Spanish mackerel and flounder are also "Osaka-mon" and they are often used in French restaurants.
I also recommend fruit such as the peaches that are grown in an area of Kishiwada called "Kanechika" that have been dubbed as the "sweetest peaches in the world" by the Guinness Book of World Records. Osaka grapes include such varieties as the Delaware, Kyoho, and Pione. At wineries in Osaka wine and grappa are being made from the Delaware variety of grapes and, these products have even received the "Monde Selection" award.
I would also like to mention the Osaka fig. It can be dried, used as a condiment or dressing, or can even be topped with raw ham and eaten as is. Recently it seems like the number of ways to enjoy eating this fig have been increasing.
I see. Where can you purchase "Osaka-mon"?
"Osaka-mon" products have a seal on them. They are seasonal products and you can find them at most department stores in the Kansai area such as Hanshin Department Store and Hankyu. In addition to this there are also stores that have an area dedicated to Osaka vegetables and they can even be found in Tokyo.. In Osaka the number of "Osaka-mon" events and marches have also increased. If you come to an event be sure to take part in it.
Stores that have "Osaka-mon" products
Stores where you can taste "Osaka-mon" products
Changing the topic, what is Osaka food culture like?
Osaka food culture is centered on "dashi culture". "Dashi" is a soup made from kelp, and if combined with bonito (skipjack tuna) the deliciousness will increase even more. Long ago, good quality kelp was brought to Osaka directly from Hokkaido. This stimulated the consumption of kelp in the region and from that point many kinds of kelp were developed such as salted kelp and shredded kelp. Even nowadays, the majority of people who are producing kelp in Japan are employed in this region.
For these reasons, the "dashi culture" in Osaka was born. Referring to famous types of food that are made by using dashi, udon noodles are quite famous but the noodles used in Osaka are a bit softer than regular noodles. Besides that, Osaka okonomiyaki and tako-yaki are very tasty because dashi broth is added into them.
Osaka sushi, called "oshizushi", is made from rice that has been cooked in dashi broth. The dashi broth itself is made by using Osaka’s sweet water. Please come to Osaka and be sure to try the dashi broth. This is also "Osaka-mon" and is consumed by people from Osaka on a daily basis.