Most people associate Japan with sushi. As did we. But if there was one thing we were dying to try in Japan, it was the Okonomiyaki. We absolutely love this stuff thanks to Otafuku in NYC.
We had to work for our first coveted taste of okonomiyaki at Sakuratei, a DIY spot where many local artists work. Bowls of the batter were dished out to us and the detailed illustrations saved us.
Between reading the instructions and copying the locals, we were able to make some fine looking okonomiyaki, but there was one bowl that we ordered that didn’t look like the others and remained untouched until the very end. Utterly baffled and humbled, we sign languaged for help and our waitress came to our rescue for it wasn’t okonomiyaki batter, but instead, a monjayaki.
The one major drawback was the potent reminder of our meal left in our limited apparel. Perhaps this is the reason we did not have it for another week and a half. Thank goodness there was a laundromat a couple blocks from our hotel!
We were able to dabble in the art of cooking okonomiyaki, but got the full lesson on how to make it from start to finish from our friends, Tyler and Noriko.
From watching them, the process seemed to go as follows:
1. Chop up some cabbage (with a knife from the 100Yen store)
2. Laugh & drink some sake.
3. Stir powdered okonomiyaki mix with water and eggs.
4. Laugh & drink some sake.
5. Add cabbage to the batter. (no pictures, sorry!)
6. Pour batter into pan in shape of a pancake.
7. Put strips of pork belly (GENIUS!!!) onto pancake.
8. Drink more sake (no pictures again – too busy with the sake consumption!)
9. Flip pancake.
10. Celebrate successful flip with more sake.
11. Take okonomiyaki out of pan and add mayo and brown sauce.
12. Eat and enjoy while laughing and (all together now) drinking sake!
Okay. It was a bit more complicated than this, but so yummy! They inspired us to try and whip up some when we get back home. We just need to find some good sake (oh yea, and okonomiyaki powder).
Our last taste of okonomiyaki was at a place Tyler recommended a few blocks from our hotel in Kobe. This was the coziest of all the places we’ve been to with a dozen or so stools surrounding the grill where all the magic happens.
The chefs concocted various versions of okonomiyaki and rapid speed to meet the demand of what sounded like a raucous happy hour in the second floor of the restaurant. We pointed to two pictures on the menu – one traditional looking with lots of scallions and another with seafood and waited patiently while the chefs chopped and flipped our okonomiyakis to perfection. Crispy on the outside, gooey vegetables on the inside and no shortage of scallions – this was the most gourmet (but not necessarily the best) of the three. Also notice that this okonomiyaki was made in Hiroshima style where the ingredients are layered instead of mixed together.
Looking back on it – we can’t believe we only had okonomiyaki three times during our three weeks in Japan. It’s one of those dishes that ignites our saliva glands and pulls at our heart strings. Luckily, we’ll always have Otafuku.