Okonomiyaki お好み焼き is one of Japan’s best-known dishes and is normally associated with the Kansai and Hiroshima regions of the country.
The Kansai version is probably best known throughout Japan and Osaka residents take great pride in claiming this dish as their own. There tends to be a great deal of regional pride when it comes to food in Japan and I have heard more than one Osaka-jin (person from Osaka) get rather territorial when someone suggests that Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki may be superior. “Them’s be fightin’ words!” one might say.
Okonomiyaki is often referred to as a savoury pancake although I personally find the only similarity between it and a pancake is the fact that they’re both flat.
The toppings, sauces and type of batter used to make this dish varies greatly throughout Japan and even within an area such as Kansai, there are many variations and even new fusion styles.
Osaka-style okonomiyaki has a batter that is typically made from a type of yam called “nagaimo”, dashi or water, flour, shredded cabbage, green onions, with strips of pork belly on top. The dish is grilled on both sides until cooked through. It is normally served with okonomiyaki sauce on top (a thick sweet brown sauce), aonori (seaweed flakes) and katsuoboshi (bonito flakes). Mayonnaise and ginger may also be added on top. Sometimes shrimp or octopus can be added to the batter.
My wife who is from Osaka tends to make her homemade okonomiyaki like I described above. Sometimes she uses both shrimp and pork when preparing the dish.
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki uses many similar ingredients, but instead of being mixed together before cooking they are layered. Sometimes noodles as well as a fried egg are used as toppings.
Okonomiyaki restaurants are plentiful throughout Japan and often they have their own twists on the dish. Most Japanese families prepare it at home as well as a common lunch or dinner. Many Japanese people comment that they like to make it because it is a relatively straightforward dish to prepare and doesn’t take a lot of effort.
If you ever have the chance to try okonomiyaki you definitely should. Those in Osaka often refer to this dish with great pride and you won’t be disappointed.
Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast as well as the Just Japan News Podcast. He is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.
Follow him on Twitter: @madformaple