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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

DIY Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is sort of like a Japanese pancake. The place in Kyoto where we tried this one described it as a Japanese pizza. I think that's going too far, but pancake is not such a bad comparison. It's a sort of thick vegetable, pancake cross, doused in thick sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes. Just imagine a hot doorstopper battercake chock full of tasty fillings. Lucas made one a few months ago, but didn't include the recipe. Pretty photo though. :-)

Apparently Osaka is *the* place for Okonomiyaki, but Lucas knew of 2 places in Kyoto that made excellent versions. The place we ended up, on a bitterly cold, windy winter's afternoon had BBQ plates built into everyone's table. As you can imagine, we spent the first 10 minutes warming our chilled fingers over the burning hot plate. I think that's the best way to get chilblains, although to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what chilblains are. They were always something that appeared in the Enid Blyton books I read.

Okonomiyaki basically means "as you like it" "whatever you like", or words to that effect. It's a collection of ingredients bound with some egg and flour and fried on a hot plate. Today it would be very difficult to find an okonomiyaki that wasn't filled mainly with cabbage to provide the bulk. That's ok; I like cabbage, but man, I was creating some smells on the train trip home! It's often sold on the streets in Osaka as a hot snack food, ready to go with no choice of fillings, but our restaurant allowed us to choose what we wanted in it.

The basic ingredients are cabbage, flour and eggs, and the rest depends on your okonomi, i.e. "your taste." We chose 2 versions; one with pork and beef and one with prawns and an extra egg cracked on top, along with a side order of yakisoba (fried buckwheat noodles).
It was a cold day and we were having a late lunch, so I was famished. Therefore I was a little concerned at the size of the two okonomiyaki. We had already demolished our steaming yakisoba (below) in about 10 seconds and we hungrily eyeing off the pancakes.

Yaskisoba - a tasty snack for cold, hungry people

The only problem with going out for okonomiyake, as opposed to grabbing one from a street vendor is the fact that they take so damn long to cook. You should have seen our eyes boring into the things willing them to hurry up. They're very thick, so it takes a good 10 minutes before your personal okonomiyaki flipper comes over to check it they're right to turn over. Even after they've flipped them and let them cook another 10 minutes, the still need another flipping and then the application of the mayonnaise, thick sweet/salty sauce and bonito (fish) flakes. I tell you, when we were finally allowed to dig in, we were like cavemen.
Although the two we ordered weren't too big, and still had me worried they wouldn't be enough (I reckoned at that stage I could have eaten 2 on my own) they are deceptively filling. 2 of them plus a serving of yakisoba was definitely enough for 3 hungry people.
Apparently there's a place in Melbourne that does lunchtime okonomiyakis, so I'm looking forward to a report from my other travelling companion who works in the CBD and has developed quite a yearning for these tasty things.

Okonomiyaki topped with sauces, a few seconds before we attacked it. I think I had to forcibly fight off everyone's chopsticks to get this shot!


  • I love okonomiyaki but didn't know you could get all these different fillings. Where is the place in the city?

    By Blogger cin, at 1/18/2006 06:40:00 pm  

  • Yum. I have home made okonomiyaki in a Japanese home, it was fantastic and HUGE. I tried to do the same thing at home from a packet mix - it was pretty good, I reckon the brown sauce on the top is the key.

    Loving the stories and looking forward to more.

    By Anonymous Sue, at 1/18/2006 07:41:00 pm  

  • Wow, that looks SO GOOD. I'm going to have to see if I can find someplace that has those in Toronto...

    By Anonymous Laura, at 1/19/2006 06:40:00 am  

  • These look fantastic, would love to try some too. Have been enjoying all of your stories on Japan & am very envious, would love to visit myself some day, for now I will have tto settle for Melb restaurants & my own attempt at Japanese cooking.

    PS check out my blog if you have a few spare minutes - just abt finished my new years diet so more exciting entries coming soon www.viciosange.blogspot.com

    By Blogger Ange, at 1/19/2006 12:18:00 pm  

  • Cin - I asked my friend and she said it was just the Japanese place in the foodcourt (Macphersons, down the bottom of Collins St). But she had one last week and it was awful. Really floury and not enough fillings or brown sauce. More like a pancake with bits in it; she doesn't recommend it. A shame! We'll just have to get a recipe and make our own.

    Sue - I would love to have a home-cooked version and I'm with you on the brown sauce. I think it was the same stuff they put over the tako yaki (octopus batter balls) which were the other yummy street snack food I loved. It's the perfect warming, filling food for winter, isn't it?

    Laura - definitely worth hunting down, but make sure you don't have a bad experience, like my friend in the food court!

    Ange - Japan is fab. I highly recommend it. I will check out your blog soon; I haven't had a chance to check anyone's since I returned as I went straight back to work (and shouldn't be doing these comments here at work right now) and have been busy in the evenings. Would you belive I've been home over a week and have not yet even switched on the home PC?!?!

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/19/2006 12:22:00 pm  

  • There are heaps of recipes online - its not actually that hard to make. I found the brown sauce in an Asian supermarket, called appropriately - okonomiyaki sauce. It comes in the same kinda packaging as the kewpie mayonnaise. I agree, same stuff as takoyaki. Yummo! I even love the bonito shavings on top, delicious.

    By Anonymous Sue, at 1/19/2006 03:06:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki.

    I have posted the recipe for the one I made on my site. I also gave the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki a go tonight. failed miserably. On the blog though :-)

    Matsumoto in lygon street make okonomiyaki. From memory I think there is a little bit too much batter and not enough cabbage, but I think it was OK!

    I agree about the different sauces. Basically yakisoba sauce, okonomiyaki sauce, takoyaki sauce and I think tonkatsu sauce as well are all the same sort of sauce. They differ only slightly in viscosity and perhaps also a little different in their sweetness, but are basically the same. I have bottles of three of those and just tasted them to see what they difference is!

    By Blogger Crazy Gaijin, at 1/19/2006 09:10:00 pm  

  • Enjoyed your blog. Wish i can do something like that

    By Blogger Godknows, at 1/20/2006 02:21:00 am  

  • Sue - I had a quick look online for recipes; you're right. There's hundreds out there! Although we're in the middle of a heatwave (41c forecast for Sunday!!) so I might wait a few months.

    CG - I love that intensity of research! Can just imagine you in your little kitchen tasting your different sauces. Am about to go and check out your Hiroshima version. I haven't been to Matsumoto yet; I've been informed (by E) that it isn't quite as good as Atami. Is she right?

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/20/2006 09:20:00 am  

  • Hey! When I was in japan, I tried that and i think the sauce is like the best part of the dish!

    By Blogger diva., at 1/20/2006 04:42:00 pm  

  • I saw this post and just had to email my friend to ask if he thought I'd like it. He's lived several years in Japan (Italian-American, married to a lovely Japanese woman, now living in Idaho). I offered that I wasn't sure about the squid -- but he made me promise to try it all!

    I have a recipe now. It will take me a while to gather all of the ingredients, but it really looks like it will be worth it. Convincing my boy-o? Now that might take some doing....

    By Anonymous Lisa Marie, at 1/21/2006 02:59:00 am  

  • Hey there, I just tagged you for a meme! I hope that's ok ... if you don't feel like doing it, don't worry about it. They're kind of fun though. :)


    By Blogger Kristen, at 1/21/2006 08:59:00 am  

  • This is one thing that has been on I must try making this some day list. I have a favourite place in Auckland for Korean pancakes but I think it is quite different to the Japanese version.

    By Anonymous b, at 1/21/2006 12:06:00 pm  

  • Yep - Matsumoto isn't as good as Atami. But is closer (well - was before I moved here!!). Both have some Japanese waiters/waitresses but have Chinese chefs! One of the great things about Atami is the enka!

    By Blogger Crazy Gaijin, at 1/21/2006 05:50:00 pm  

  • Diva - I agree entirely!

    Lisa Marie - I reckon you would like it. It's eggy, warm, filling, salty and sweet, tasty...yum! My mum came home from the Asian grocery store with the sauce and mayonnaise and bonio flakes and dashi etc. as a surprise for me on Friday, so I really have to do it myself now!

    Kristen - I do mean to get around to the memes, but somehow I just can't seem to do it. I will try though!

    b - What is a Korean pancake like? I'm interested.

    CG - Yeeeees. Enka. Hmmmmmmm.....

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/23/2006 05:27:00 pm  

  • Does anyone know of any 'do it yourself' okonomiyaki restaraunts in Melbourne or Sydney?

    I am an okonomiyaki fan from my time in Japan - my favourite style was Hiroshima okonimiyaki which included loads of noodles.

    However I can't find a place in oz where you can cook it yourself - which is where all the fun is!

    By Blogger Joey, at 4/26/2006 01:22:00 pm  

  • Hi~
    I have been searching for okonomiyaki sauce all over the place in adelaide but couldn't find one.

    Would you please tell where I can get this fantastic sauce and how does it look like? If not, what is the nearest tasting sauce to okonomiyaki sauce as a substitute?


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