Japanese Perfection

Posted on Thursday, March 23rd by Hans Parker.

Cooking Japanese

Okonomiyaki (????? o-konomi-yaki) is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” or “what you like”, and yaki meaning “grill” (cf. yakitori and yakisoba). Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country. Toppings and batters tend to vary according to region. Tokyo okonomiyaki is usually smaller than a Hiroshima or Kansai okonomiyaki.

Kansai area

Kansai- or Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the predominant version of the dish, found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, grated nagaimo (a type of yam), water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, meat (generally thin pork belly, often mistaken for bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, konjac, mochi or cheese. Okonomiyaki is sometimes compared to an omelet or a pancake and may be referred to as a “Japanese pizza” or “Osaka soul food”.[1]

Some okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself establishments, where the server produces a bowl of raw ingredients that the customer mixes and grills at tables fitted with teppan, or special hotplates. They may also have a diner-style counter where the cook prepares the dish in front of the customers.

In Osaka (the largest city in the Kansai region), where this dish is said to have originated, okonomiyaki is prepared much like a pancake. The batter and other ingredients are pan-fried on both sides on either a teppan or a pan using metal spatulas that are later used to slice the dish when it has finished cooking. Cooked okonomiyaki is topped with ingredients that include otafuku/okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter), Aomori (seaweed flakes), katsuobushi (bonito flakes), Japanese mayonnaise, and pickled ginger (beni saga).

When served with a layer of fried noodles (either yakisoba or udon), the resulting dish is called modan-yaki (?????), the name of which may be derived from the English word “modern” or as a contraction of mori dakusan (??????), meaning “a lot” or “piled high” signifying the volume of food from having both noodles and okonomiyaki.

Negiyaki (?????) is a thinner variation of okonomiyaki made with a great deal of scallions, comparable to Korean pajeon and Chinese green onion pancakes.

Hiroshima area

In Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. The layers are typically batter, cabbage, pork, and optional items such as squid, octopus, and cheese. Noodles (yakisoba, udon) are also used as a topping with fried egg and a generous amount of okonomiyaki sauce.

The amount of cabbage used is usually three to four times the amount used in the Osaka style. It starts out piled very high and is pushed down as the cabbage cooks. The order of the layers may vary slightly depending on the chef’s style and preference, and ingredients vary depending on the preference of the customer. This style is also called Hiroshima-yaki or Hiroshima-okonomi.

Okonomi-mura, in Naka-ku in Hiroshima, was the top food theme park destination for families in Japan according to an April 2004 poll.