Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is a popular dish and street food in Japan (日本). It is most commonly found in western Japan, especially in the cities Hiroshima (広島) and Osaka (大阪). I have mentioned Okonomiyaki in a few Osaka posts already, mainly Dotonbori as one of the hotspots for eating some tasty Okonomiyaki.
Translated into English the word means “as you like” (okonomi) and “grilled/fried” (yaki), which is very fitting as you can choose most of the ingredients yourself. It is often referred to as the “Japanese pancake” which is why I mention it in the title as well. The dish is quite different though, as it’s not sweet or fluffy at all.
Okonomiyaki’s main ingredients are batter and cabbage which come in pretty much every version of it. On top of that, you can freely choose what else to add onto yours: Meat, fish, shrimp, cheese, octopus, vegetables, etc. In that regard, it is actually more similar to a pizza rather than a pancake.
Two different styles
As mentioned above the dish is most popular in Hiroshima and Osaka. Two different types of cooking styles have developed in these cities: Kansai-Style (for Osaka) and Hiroshima-Style.
The only big difference between the two is what gets done with the ingredients beforehand. In Kansai-Style, everything gets mixed together in a bowl and then pan-fried. Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki prepares the batter and the rest of the ingredients separately. The final product looks similar but can taste differently because of this.
The art of eating Okonomiyaki
When going out to eat some Okonomiyaki there are two types of restaurants to choose from: In the first one, the chefs prepare the dish for you and you can start eating right away. This type is more common for the Hiroshima-Style, as cooking the ingredients separately is more complicated. The second type involves you in the cooking process.
Staff will bring your ordered ingredients to your table, which has a big iron griddle in the middle of it. After that, you’re left to prepare the Okonomiyaki on your own. Don’t be discouraged by that though, it’s not as hard as you might think.
Let me give you a quick tutorial on how to cook Okonomiyaki:
The whole process is similar to preparing French crêpe if you’ve ever done that. As mentioned above, in Kansai-Style Okonomiyaki, the ingredients are mixed together before putting them on the griddle. This is the first step.
After that, you pour said ingredients onto the griddle and flatten them out in a round shape. Leave them like that for a couple of minutes until the batter has been grilled at the bottom. Once you feel it is cooked enough, pick it up with the spatulas provided and flip it around.
This is easily the most difficult part as the whole thing can easily break apart if it’s not grilled enough. Once you successfully flipped it, you do the waiting game again.
After a while you can start adding the toppings onto the Okonomiyaki. Start off with the brown/red Okonomiyaki sauce and apply it with the brush provided. Then, add some mayonnaise on top of the sauce. Lastly, you can add some shavings of smoked bonito (katsuobushi) as well as dried seaweed (aonori).
And then you’re done! Enjoy your delicious Japanese pizza.
Okonomiyaki hotspots and pricing
Hiroshima and Osaka are the two cities where you will find by far the biggest amount of Okonomiyaki restaurants. If it’s possible for you, I highly recommend trying both styles in the respective cities. For Osaka, Dotonbori is the place to go. There are of course other areas as well. For Hiroshima, you literally just have to walk into the city center (or around the peace memorial park) and you’ll find plenty. I have had delicious and very cheap Okonomiyaki in Gunma (群馬県) as well (north-west of Tokyo (東京)), so you can find it all over Japan.
Another awesome thing is that Okonomiyaki is ridiculously affordable. Most places charge under 1,000 Yen (8,06€/$9.09; exchange rate as of May 2019), even with plenty of ingredients! The most basic version can be as cheap as 500/600 Yen (4,03€/$4.55 | 4,84€/$5.45)! The price obviously increases with the amount and type of toppings/ingredients but not by a lot. Perfect for budget travelers!
Okonomiyaki is an affordable yet delicious dish for every taste. I don’t quite know if vegan Okonomiyaki is possible but vegetarian is definitely available at some places. Other than that, it’s perfect for anyone that likes meat, seafood or cheese embedded in batter and cabbage. The sauce really brings it all together.
Osaka and Hiroshima are already popular cities to visit as it is so having a delicious and unique dish draws tourists to it even more.
Enjoy it either fully prepared or self-cooked at your table, you’ll love it either way. It’s honestly one of the dishes I miss the most from Japan.
That’s it for Okonomiyaki, I hope you enjoyed it!
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In my next post I will continue to explore the Japanese cuisine and write about Takoyaki (たこ焼き)!
See you there!