Day 3: Okonomiyaki
When a plate of okonomiyaki arrives, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a big pancake. It doesn’t look like one of those boring thin ones, though. It looks like the fat ones you make when the pan is too small for all the mixture you’re trying to pour in.
But although okonomiyaki is fried in a pan on both sides in much the same way as a pancake, it’s nothing of the sort. It’s a delicious savoury dish with a rather random mix of ingredients. In fact, the name itself basically means ‘what you want grilled’, which nicely sums up the idea behind it.
The basic ingredients for making okonomiyaki are flour, eggs, sweet potato, cabbage and water. That creates the foundation and then whatever food is floating around gets thrown in as well. It’s common to include onion, meat, octopus, prawns or kimchi.
It often comes with a topping as well. In the case of the one I had, it was covered with a light cheese, a Worcestershire-style sauce and some dried fish flakes.
As always with Japanese food, there are some variants. It’s a very common dish around the Hiroshima region but there they make the pancake in layers, rather than mixing it all together.
It’s not surprising there are many ways to make okonomiyaki, seeing as its modern origin was after a huge earthquake in 1923 when people were short of food – and places to cook!
I ate my dish at a cute little bar in the city of Takasaki. Most of the patrons were there to drink and the food was merely secondary. It was also mainly sharing food and that’s one of the great things about okonomiyaki – it’s easy to put in the middle of the table and let everyone grab a bit with their chopsticks.
This okonomiyaki was enough for a whole meal and cost 500 yen (US$5.40). It also went really well with a couple of beers!
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