I have had some time to reflect on my travels to Japan in 2019, and think about the food that I loved the most in that country. When you think of Japan, the food that comes to mind tend to be sushi dishes or ramen.
One of my greatest discoveries though wasn’t just eating the food that everyone was already aware of, but indulging in meals that I’d never heard of before so that I could truly experience something authentic.
Fortunately, Japan has many locations for the finest and most authentic dining experiences, as well as those catered for more tourist locations. And one of these discoveries helped me find what is currently my favorite Japanese food – Okonomiyaki.
What this is is basically described as a savory pancake, and it is in the way that it’s made. The ingredients of this pancake are laid on top of each other before being fried on a flat hot plate-like surface, which must be flipped over until it is well cooked.
Ingredients can vary based on preference (preference is roughly what the word ‘okonomi’ translates as!), but the ones that I frequently enjoyed contained noodles as the base carbohydrate, a mixture of vegetables such as shredded cabbage, chestnut mushrooms and onions, and even a fried egg or two. Adding a meat such as pork is also an option and it really is a fun way of creating a meal.
To finish, you can add 3 types of toppings to finish it off. I didn’t know the names of these until later, but the first you’re given is a brown-ish sauce called okonomi sauce, which to me resembled barbecue sauce. It’s this sweetish sauce that tastes amazing with the other ingredients.
The next is a Japanese mayo, which is similar to normal mayo but it’s a little sweeter. This is usually layered by being applied in a criss- cross pattern across the top of the pancake.
And finally, you can add a fine powdery version of seaweed known as aonori which just tops everything off and brings the flavor together.
I believe this can be eaten in one of two styles, the other of which I haven’t tried yet. But this version, the ‘Hiroshima okonomiyaki’ was so good that my partner and I went back to a few different restaurants to eat this again.
One of the things that I actually found pretty cool about eating this was that you could be taught how to prepare it before your eyes. Some Japanese restaurants have hot-plates on the tables, and not only can you make simple dishes such as this, it can also keep your food warm for you. So I loved that element of getting involved in making your own food and customizing it.
I know for sure that this is my favorite savory pancake, and one of the top things that I’ve tried in Japan. I can see why it is pretty popular despite the fact that I never heard of it until my first visit to Japan. And honestly, I can’t wait until the next time I get to try this absolute delight again!