When you think of Japanese food, what do you think of? Chances are one of the first things that pops into your head is sushi. You might also think of tempura, tofu, udon, or possibly miso soup that comes with every Japanese home cooked meal. And all of those foods are incredibly delicious, but there is one dish that doesn’t seem to get much press abroad.
And that is okonomiyaki, a dish that is pretty popular in the Osaka region, which happens to be my next door neighbor. If you are unfamiliar with the awesomeness of okonomiyaki, it is sometimes described as a ‘Japanese pizza.’ But, I prefer to use the literal translation of ‘(stuff) I like fried.’ because that describes it a lot better.
How to Make Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is made with flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage. They also usually include green onions and tenkasu (little rice crispy looking things). Then, you pretty much add anything you want to cook up to it. Some of the more popular okonomiyaki recipes include a good mix of seafood, but there is also kimchi okonomiyaki and things like mochi (pounded rice cake) and cheese okonomiyaki.
Once you’ve decided all the things you want to
clog your arteries with cook up, you mix it all together and throw it on to the nearest hot surface, preferably some kind of hot plate or griddle, but a sidewalk on a sunny day might work as well.
Then, wait a few moments for it to get all golden brown underneath and attempt to flip it. This is usually an epic moment, where a person’s total worth is judged by their ability to flip okonomiyaki. If you flip it too early, it will fall apart. If you flip it too late, you will get an extra crispy okonomiyaki.
After you have performed a perfect flip of your okonomiyaki, it’s time to let it cook a little bit more. Then, slather the top with okonomiyaki sauce (basically a little sweeter thicker Worcester sauce) and mayonnaise. You can also top it with nori, seaweed flakes, and benito flakes that dance when you put them on top.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Okonomiyaki comes in several different varieties. The two main styles are Osaka and Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. The key difference between these two varieties is that Osaka style means you just mix everything up in a big bowl then throw on to the hot plate or griddle. Like so:
For Hiroshima style, you layer the whole okonomiyaki. You start with the batter and make a small crepe, then layer the cabbage on top and the ingredients. Like so:
There is also a variation of Osaka style called modanyaki, which is where yakisoba noodles are added to the okonomiyaki. This adds a lot of volume to the okonomiyaki and is quite filling.
Monuments to Okonomiyaki
Hiroshima has a special thing for okonomiyaki. They are quite proud of their unique style of making it and have even built an entire ‘food theme park’ full of okonomiyaki restaurants. The park boosts 26 different restaurants, each with their own style of okonomiyaki and ingredients.
Don’t get too excited though, it is only a building in the middle of Hiroshima. This isn’t an actual theme park with rides and ever-smiling costumed characters. I know, a bummer, right? I was very disappointed that I wasn’t able to meet Flippy the Giant Spatula. Oh, well, maybe next time.
Not to be out done by Hiroshima’s monument to okonomiyaki greatness, Osaka added giant spatulas to the railing around Ebisu bridge. If you ever make it to Dotonbori (the dining district in Nanba) be sure to check it out.
Take a Bite
What do you think of okonomiyaki? Have you tried it before? Would you like to try it? Have you seen it outside of Japan? Let me know in the comments.
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Photo by Joey