Rough-and-tumble Osaka is as famous for its delicious food as it is for yakuza. It is no surprise then that one of its longest running markets is also one of its best. Started in 2009 as part of the Marche Japon movement, the Odona Market remains a mainstay of fresh, local and seasonal food. The array of items on offer from regional farmers and fishermen lends truth to the port city’s reputation as Japan’s kitchen.
The Odona Marche is particularly unique in that it runs mid-week and late in the afternoon. Vendors, a number of whom also sell at one of the handful of weekend markets around the city, set up in front of the posh Odona Department Store, just over the bridge from busy Yodoyabashi Station, every Wednesday afternoon, rain or shine.
Faithful customers and visitors will find an excellent assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables along with local rice and grains, eggs, tsukemono, baked goods, tea and even bubbling Styrofoam crates of fresh seafood.
Numa Farm, whose nearby orchards boast a wide variety of yuzu, including the shishiyuzu (a softball-sized fruit whose thick skin is good for candied peel or making plenty of yuzu zest), appears at Odona and one other market. While they offer fresh fruit in the winter months along with marmalade and juice, they also craft a refreshing and cleansing spray from the yuzu seeds and rubbing alcohol.
Koroku and Nakama Farms, located in Izumi and Nara respectively, specialize in traditional heirloom vegetables. Two varieties of renkon (lotus root) and a wonderful selection of cultivated sansai (mountain vegetables) are offered.
A long purple-and-white kabu (turnip) makes a festive addition to the stand as well as the table. Sensuji, a hardier looking version of mizuna that resembles kale in taste and texture, and yamatomanna, an older and mixed version of nanohana (rape) can be found in spring, while summer brings a bounty of eggplant. Recipes are also available upon request. Narakiyorisa Farms from Minami Awajishi do a brisk enough trade that three staff members working the table barely have time to catch their breath. They supplement their weekly stock of fresh vegetables with homemade mochi in season and a dried soup mix. Made with onions and herbs grown on their farm, it promises a warm bowl of goodness any time of the year.
Yamato-Shokuhin offers sakezuke, a Nara specialty and a unique regional taste. Pieces of eggplant, cucumber, ginger or daikon are plunged into a bed of sake lees (the dregs of the sake-making process) for a year or more. As the vegetables ferment, they take on a strong flavor that makes them a perfect companion for a steaming bowl of rice. The fun of food exploration at this market simply never ends.
Osaka Odona Marche
Nearest Station: Yodoyabashi
Open: 2 to 7 p.m. Every Wed