Okonomiyaki: Japanese savory pancake
Sushi, Wagyu beef, ramen and tempura are all well-known Japanese delicacies. The umami-packed pancake called okonomiyaki is perhaps lesser-known, but no less tasty! I was first introduced to this sumptuous treat in Hiroshima, during my first visit to Japan. Since then, I’ve had the chance to go to Japan again and explore more variations of the ‘cooked as you like’ (‘okonomi’ translates to ‘as you like/want’ and ‘yaki’ is ‘ grilled’) dish.
The city of Hiroshima was largely destroyed after the atomic bomb dropped in 1945, during the Second World War. You can get an idea of how the A-bomb affected the city and its inhabitants in the museum at the Peace Memorial Park, where you can also see the remnants of the A-bomb Dome. Hugely impressive and harrowing. These days, Hiroshima is a big, bustling and vibrant city. Besides its gruesome past, it is also known for okonomiyaki, the tasty savory pancake that comes in many variations.
My landlady at the ryokan (tradional lodging style with tatami mats and futons) recommends I try okonomiyaki at Nagata-Ya, just beside the Peace Memorial Park.
Because I’m traveling alone (combining business with pleasure) I have the privilege to sit on a stool at the teppan (hot plate) where I can observe the chefs working their magic. The ingredients are layered on the teppan, starting with the pancake batter, lots of cabbage, bean sprouts and pork. Every restaurant or stall has its own special way of preparing the dish. In this restaurant, you can choose which additional toppings you want, such as baby octopus or squid. I choose kimchi. The okonomiyaki in progress shrinks before my eyes until the heap of delight is ready for the next round of ingredients: noodles and egg. Between every layer, plenty of Japanese Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise is added. Then the kimchi comes on top and finally, dried pieces of seaweed and scallions. With a spatula and chopsticks I dig into the delightful dish in front of me. The piling, the simmering and the sauces make the ingredients all melt together into a mouthwatering dish that is sure to satisfy.
Where to eat okonomiyaki:
Nagata-Ya, just across the bridge from Peace Memorial Park on Hon Dori.
Okonomi-mura, okonomiyaki village, enter the parking garage and go up, see website for instructions and pictures of how to find it.
Ikkakuju, a bit outside the main center grid. Thanks to Yusuke for the tip!