- What is okonomiyaki?
- Types of okonomiyaki
- How to make okonomiyaki sauce
- How to make okonomiyaki
- How to make vegan okonomiyaki
- How to eat okonomiyaki
- What does okonomiyaki taste like?
- How many calories in okonomiyaki?
- Is okonomiyaki healthy?
- Okonomiyaki restaurants
- What is the origin of okonomiyaki?
- Why is okonomiyaki popular?
- Trivia about okonomiyaki
What is okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese dish consisting usually on a base of pan-fried batter, cabbage and any other ingredient you like to add. Actually the word okonomiyaki can be translated as “things you like” (okonomi) and “cook or fried” (yaki). Okonomiyaki restaurants use large iron grills called teppan in Japanese to prepare this food.
Osaka style okonomiyaki is maybe the most popular around Japan, this version of the dish uses also thin slices of pork belly and it is topped with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, powdered nori seaweed and bonito flakes.
Types of okonomiyaki
The same nature of okonomiyaki contributes to the existence of many different local variants depending on the ingredients, sauces and toppings used during its preparation.
On this regards, there are two types of okonomiyaki widely famous all over the country which are the local versions from Kansai and Hiroshima. Moreover there is also a popular dish created as a reinvention of okonomiyaki called monjayaki. On this section we will describe each one of them in more detail.
This the Osaka version of okonomiyaki and the most predominant in bars and restaurants across Japan. Apart from the batter and cabbage, this okonomiyaki includes grated nagaimo (long japanese potato) and meat (usually thin sliced pork belly). Shrimp, octopus, vegetables among others may be also added. Finally the dish is topped with aonori (powdered nori seaweed), bonito flakes, okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise.
This is the most traditional version of okonomiyaki and it is so extended that many people from kansai area will not consider any other style of okonomiyaki “real okonomiyaki”. Even though, there are other popular versions of okonomiyaki coming from kansai area like modanyaki and negiyaki.
The name mondayaki comes from the Japanized pronunciation of the word “Modern” and the word “yaki” or cooked. This okonomiyaki follows the same recipe as kansai okonomiyaki but it also includes yakisoba noodles with are a relatively modern food in Japan.
Negi is the Japanese name for scallions or long green onions. Negiyaki is a thinner version of kansai okonomiyaki that includes a large proportion of negi which has a very specific taste that Japanese people really like.
Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is actually based on the same ingredients as kansai style okonomiyaki. The main difference is the way of arranging the ingredients and the amounts used. On hiroshima recipe, ingredients are not mixed but layered. The traditional arrangement starts with batter, continues with cabbage and finish with meat and other ingredients like shrimp, octopus, etc. This pancake is usually topped with yakisoba, fried egg and okonomiyaki sauce. Usually, hiroshimayaki includes 2 or 3 times more cabbage than other okonomiyaki and the ordering of each layer depends on the chef style.
Another version of okonomiyaki with certain importance in Hiroshima area is the version from Shobara city also known as Shobarayaki.
This okonomiyaki comes from Shobara, a small town located in the north of Hiroshima prefecture. This version of the dish includes lots of sweet cabbage and uses rice as main ingredients. This uncommon version of okonomiyaki is commonly flavoured with ponzu sauce which combines perfectly with the taste of its ingredients.
Monjayaki uses the same ingredients as okonomiyaki but batter is diluted with extra dashi and water to create a final texture that reminds to melting cheese. This version of okonomiyaki is already considered a completely different dish in many areas of Japan.
How to make okonomiyaki sauce
Okonomiyaki sauce is a mix of ketchup, worcestershire, honey and soy sauce. Preparing this sauce is just a matter of mixing the right amount of each one. In the following video you will see the proportion of each ingredients and the step-by-step recipe of traditional okonomiyaki sauce.
How to make okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is a easy recipe that requires a simple batter preparation. Butter is mixed with fresh cutted ingredients and fried using a pan or an iron plate. In the following video you can see step-by-step okonomiyaki recipe following the most traditional style of okonomiyaki from Kansai
How to make vegan okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki can be made with many different types of ingredients, making a vegan okonomiyaki is as easy as knowing how to combine your vegan ingredients in a tasty way. In the following video you ca see an easy step-by-step recipe for vegan okonomiyaki.
How to eat okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is one of the japanese dishes that is not traditionally eaten with specific side dishes nor requires any specific ritual to be eaten.
A single okonomiyaki is quite big and it might contain a mix of ingredients difficult to cut (like bacon, cabbage, noodles, …). In Japan, the use of knife and fork is not at all common, and the only use of chopsticks to deal with the whole okonomiyaki might be quite challenging, even for Japanese. For that reason, on restaurants, okonomiyaki is usually serve together with a spatula.
In Japan, when you go with friends to a okonomiyaki restaurant, you order some of the okonomiyaki offered by the local and use the spatula to divide in pieces. using the same spatula okonomiyaki is shared among everyone and chopsticks are used to deal with each inividual portion.
What does okonomiyaki taste like?
Okonomiyaki has no ordinary taste. The main appearance of okonomiyaki will make you think that is some kind of dessert. However, people trying okonomiyaki for the first time usually know that it contains vegetables and meat. So, let say that the brain of a newbie its quite confused before the first bite.
The first feeling when eating a piece of okonomiyaki is produced by the sauce. Sauce has a strong taste, and a bit sweet because of ketchup, honey and worcestershire sauce. This might puss your brain towards the dessert hypothesis. However, after you start chewing, you will feel the bacon, the cabbage,… everything fixed with the batter that will punch you back from your sweet world.
Is common that foreigners trying okonomiyaki for the first time, have mixed feeling about it. But after the initial shock, everyone love it. It is never easy to talk about tastes so we encourage you to travel to Japan and try okonomiyaki for yourself.
How many calories in okonomiyaki?
The amount of calories contained in okonomiyaki will change widely depending on the ingredients used. However, we can provide the nutritional values for a standard Kansai okonomiyaki which is the most popular type in Japan.
A okonomiyaki pancake meant for a single person contains around 520 calories (fat: 15 g ; carbohydrates: 30 g ; protein: 17 g)
Is okonomiyaki healthy?
Okonomiyaki, as any other food prepared on teppan (or japanese hot iron place) is made from fresh ingredients. In addition it combines meats, seafood, vegetables and flour on the same dish. An okonomiyaki prepared with the right combination of ingredients will contain a balanced proportion of fat, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins.
Moreover, the amount of oil used on foods prepared with teppan is quite small and the cooking time is also short. For all these reasons. okonomiyaki is a very healthy alternative for dishes like pizza or lasagna.
They serve small but delicious okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki served in this restaurant has incredibly cheap price compared to the overall quality of the food. In addition they provide a wonderful service and are able to communicate in english.
Many people consider this the best okonomiyaki restaurant in Japan. If you want to take a seat you will probably need to wait for long in a queue. Okonomiyaki are prepared by a personal chef in front of your table. We really recommend their special yamaimo (long japanese potato) okonomiyaki which has been part of the menu since this restaurant first opened.
This restaurant prepares delicious Hiroshima style okonomiyaki . Their prices are moderates but the food has extraordinary quality and they provide many vegetarian option. If you want to try this great okonomiyaki and you don’t care about queueing for a while, you cannot miss this restaurant.
What is the origin of okonomiyaki?
Although it is not clear, some researchers say that the precursor of okonomiyaki was a thin crepe dating from the the 16th century. This baked crepe was called funoyaki which name refers to the wheat gluten.
According records, this recipe was changing together with his name while it was exported to different areas of Japan. In Meiji era it was called mojiyaki and many types already existed depending on the ingredients used.
A simple version of okonomiyaki appeared for the first time after World War II. After the war several black markets popped out in Japan to provide cheap food when the country was short on rice supply. The use of teppan (hot iron plates) got popularized in these markets because they allowed to prepare quicky big rations of food on the street stalls. On this scenario, wheat pancake was inexpensive and nutritious enough to maintain the population.
Nowadays okonomiyaki is extended all over Japan and there are many local versions of this dish.
Why is okonomiyaki popular?
Okonomiyaki is quite popular in Japan, specially in Osaka where is almost considered national dish together with takoyaki. As we have have seen in previous sections, okonomiyaki is a healthy and inexpensive dish that taste great. However the main reason of its popularity are different ones:
Enjoyable during social meetings: Okonomiyaki is a good option for friend and family meetings, it is easy and entertaining to cook both for adults and kids. Using just fresh ingredients from the supermarket and a special gas stove with an iron pan you can be preparing a okonomiyaki at the same one you are eating the previous one.
Add whatever you like: Just prepare a simple base of batter and cabbage and keep a bunch of extra ingredients in the table with you and your friends. Every new okonomiyaki you guys made will change according the ingredients you decide to use.
All you can eat: You can prepare as much butter and cabbage base as you want prior to your meal. While eating, you can keep preparing okonomiyaki until everyone is full.
As you can see, apart from its taste, okonomiyaki is a food with a potential social role that encourages social interaction making your meals with friends unforgettable.
Trivia about okonomiyaki
Wood Egg Okonomiyaki Museum
The city of Hiroshima is so proud about their traditional okonomiyaki that they opened a museum to show visitors all the history behind this delicious dish and spread okonomiyaki all over the world.
In this museum apart of learning everything about okonomiyaki you will be able to cook one by yourself and guided by professional okonomiyaki artisans.
Okonomiyaki is not alive!
Many people, when they try go for the first time to a okonomiyaki restaurant, they will be probably surprised. In the surface of the pancake something is moving! There are some weird kind of pink-brownish slices of something balancing around. Their movement remembers to seaweeds that are under the water pushed back and forth by the internal currents of the sea.
Don’t worry, your okonomiyaki is not alive, what you are seen are bonito flakes or katsuobushi in Japanese. This thin slices of dry bonito or tuna are affected by the heat coming from the okonomiyaki moving like they wanted to escape from your meal. This effect is also common on other warm food using bonitos flakes like takoyaki.