Okonomiyaki: The Savory Japanese Pancake

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Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese dish often described as a savory pancake or Japanese pizza. It consists of a wheat flour-based batter mixed with shredded cabbage and other ingredients, then cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan on both sides.

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What is Okonomiyaki?

Origins and History

Emergence in Japan

The origins of okonomiyaki are uncertain, but it is believed to have emerged in Japan during World War II when rice was scarce. Cheap and filling wheat-based dishes like okonomiyaki became popular ways to fill hungry bellies.

Meaning of the Name

The name “okonomiyaki” first appeared in the 1930s and means “grilled as you like it”, referring to the customizable mix of ingredients.

Ingredients

While recipes vary, the base of okonomiyaki is a batter made from:

  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Water or dashi stock
  • Nagaimo (a type of yam)

Shredded cabbage is the main vegetable ingredient.

Other common ingredients mixed into the batter or used as toppings include:

  • Pork belly, beef, bacon, seafood
  • Green onions
  • Tenkasu (tempura scraps)
  • Mochi
  • Kimchi
  • Cheese
  • Corn

Okonomiyaki is topped with:

  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
  • Dried nori seaweed flakes (aonori)
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Pickled ginger (beni shoga)

Styles

There are two main regional styles of okonomiyaki:

Osaka/Kansai-style

The ingredients are mixed into the batter and pan-fried. This style tends to be thicker.

Hiroshima-style

The ingredients are layered on top of a thin crepe-like pancake base. It is also typically served with yakisoba noodles.

In Tokyo, a runnier version called monjayaki is popular. Okinawan-style hirayachi is made with only batter, eggs, and green onions.

Dining Experience

Okonomiyaki is best enjoyed hot, fresh, and made-to-order at specialized restaurants. Many restaurants have hot plates or griddles built into the tables where you can cook your own or have the chef prepare it in front of you.

The dish is then cut into pieces with a spatula and eaten directly off the grill. Prices range from 800-1500 yen on average per okonomiyaki.

The cities of Osaka and Hiroshima are famous for okonomiyaki. Osaka has over 4,000 okonomiyaki restaurants, with popular dining neighborhoods like Dōtonbori and Tennōji. Hiroshima has Japan’s highest concentration of okonomiyaki shops.

Nutrition

A single okonomiyaki pancake provides around 200 calories and contains carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The vegetables provide nutrients while the wheat flour and eggs offer filling protein. However, with the oil from frying and some of the high-calorie toppings like pork belly, the dish can also be high in fat and sodium if not eaten in moderation.

Okonomiyaki is a customizable savory Japanese pancake made with flour, cabbage, and various mix-ins then topped with flavorful sauces and spices. This popular street food dish provides a unique dining experience through its variety of ingredients and cooking styles.

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