Introduction to Japanese Food – Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki being grilled

I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is okonomiyaki?

Although being a Japanese comfort food, it’s less likely that you will run across okonomiyaki outside of Japan. While you may come across it on a menu at a North American Japanese restaurant, okonomiyaki can be a strange sight to western eyes.

So let’s shed some light on the mysterious okonomiyaki.

What is Okonimiyaki?

It’s hard to describe what okonomiyaki is, and as you’re eating it, it’s even hard to describe exactly what your eating. Is it a pancake? An omelette? Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked” (cf. yakitori and yakisoba). Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country. Toppings and batters tend to vary according to region.

In it’s most basic form, okonomiyaki looks a bit like a pancake with a whole bunch of toppings layered on top. From squid to fish flakes to mayonnaise, you pile it on and grill it.

In traditional restaurants you’ll grill your okonomiyaki right at your table, but there are some restaurants that will do it for you. If you do get the chance, however, try grilling it yourself. That’s where you’ll have all the fun :)

Different Styles

In Osaka, where this dish is said to have originated, okonomiyaki is prepared much like a pancake. The batter and other ingredients are all mixed together and then fried on both sides. After it is done cooking you can top it with sauce, mayonnaise, bento or seaweed flakes, and/or pickled ginger.

The Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is done a little different with the pancake portion being done separate and the ingredients being placed in the middle. Also, you’ll often find udon or yakisoba noodles included.

How to Make Okonomiyaki

So you’ve decided to be adventurous and grill your own okonomiyaki. Now if you don’t have a Japanese person with you to show you the ropes, you may end up looking a little silly at first. So here’s a few video tutorials on how to be an okonomiyaki master.

Osaka Style

Hiroshima Style

And of course you can’t have a cooking post without a little Cooking with Dog :)

Photo Credits – Splash photo by: jaremfan

One Response to “Introduction to Japanese Food – Okonomiyaki”

  1. Okonomi_Yakity  on August 20th, 2010

    Wow, great okonomiyaki post! If you want to learn more about okonomiyaki – info and recipes – check out – have fun cooking!

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