What’s an Okonomiyaki?
Imagine a savoury pancake stuffed with bacon, eggs, and all your favorite veggies drenched in kewpie mayonnaise and topped with everything else delicious in Japan. It exists! This masterpiece is known as the “Japanese Pizza” or Okonomiyaki. A bit of a tongue twister but one that your tongue will be thanking you for.
Yaki means “grilled” and okonomi is “what you like”, so basically the name means what you like, grilled. And that can be anything that your mind can conceive! Just like pizza or crepes, there is a new okonomiyaki being invented with unexpected and sometimes bizarre ingredients all the time in Japan.
History of Okonomiyaki
After World War II, there was a demand for cheap, street eats. The pre-war children snack Issen-yoshoku which implied one-coin western food was adapted into a dish that adults could eat as well to fill up hungry bellies by adding strips of pork onto it. Word spread like wildfire and soon you could find it nation-wide and issen-yoshoku became okonomiyaki. There is speculation that perhaps the idea of a crepe-like dish can even be traced back to as far the Edo period, to a Buddhist dessert called Funoyaki, and then came Sukesouyaki a sweeter version in the Meiji period.
Then there was Tokyo’s restaurant only Monjayaki similar to okonomiyaki but its batter is more liquid. This spawned the street food version called dondonyaki, more solid and rolled up on a stick during the same era. The cheap, street eat may have inspired Osaka and Hiroshima to create what is known as Okonomiyaki today.
Here’s the thing, who exactly is the real creator of the “Japanese Pizza?” Everything we know so far is speculation. There is a lot of debate as to whether Hiroshima or Osaka birthed this savoury pancake as both places came up with variations around the same time. One restaurant in Osaka claim they thought of adding mayo, and Hiroshima has had simple savory pancakes available before the war. And the real question, which is better? Till this day, each place has maintained their own style of preparing this dish.
Okonomiyaki to the people of Kansai is what curry is to Indians, and poutine is to Canadians. It is rooted into their soul, which is no surprise since Osaka is known as the “kitchen of the nation.” Food is life down there, and there is no corner where you can not find this “Japanese pizza.” Even though it has all the makings of falling into the junk food category, it is often eaten with rice which is a carb overload for the rest of Japan.
We have the basic ingredients listed below, but it’s the way it is prepared that makes it Osaka style. The unique way that the people of Kansai make this dish is just throwing all your ingredients together and mixing it in with the batter. Then you grill is on either side on add your toppings.
But there is more to it! Osakans love to get creative with their okonomiyaki, and jam packing it with as much stuff as possible. And the most noticeable difference of this savory pancake from everywhere else is the rich mayonnaise that you can always find sitting on top.
There are a few ways to serve the okonomiyaki as well. At some food joints it is grilled on a giant sheet and cut up into serving portions and patrons can add their own condiments. Other places there is the choice of what you want in your pancake, and then it is made in front of you. And most of the population’s favourite or maybe just foreigners is getting a table and ordering the ingredients…and making it yourself! Here is how to do it:
When in Hiroshima, careful not to mention Osaka okonomiyaki, they don’t take it very lightly, particularly the yakuza… I’m just teasing you! If you do happen to accidentally mention the competition, the retaliation will be a local taking you to have the best Okonomiyaki the city has to offer!
The basic ingredients of Hiroshima style is not so different from Osaka. What makes it different are the oily fried noodles that are thrown on top! The noodles can be either yakisoba which is known as Nikutama style or udon noodles a.k.a Nikutama style, but soba is a lot more common. And add to the layers of fried goodness, an oishi egg is placed on top.
There is no mixing involved with the Hiroshima okonomiyaki, a thin grilled pancake goes at the bottom and then the other ingredients are stacked on top. Beginning with shredded cabbage…like a ton of cabbage! Four times more than the Osaka version. Bean sprouts are another signature ingredient to this region’s style. The most apparent difference in flavour is the sauce which is sweet rather than spicy. It is pretty much a layered Hiroshima pizza!
You can find these ingredients listed below in both Osaka and Hiroshima Style:
Aonori: Finely shredded seaweed (the green bits)
Dried Bonito Flakes: They look they’re moving in the heat
Japanese Mayonnaise A.K.A Kewpie Mayo
Thinly Sliced Pork Belly: Fattier the better!
How To Make Okonomiyaki at Home
If you want to satisfy your okonomiyaki cravings, we have an awesome recipe that you can impress your friends with!
Ingredients you will need:
-Okonomiyaki Flour 1 cup
-Water (or Chicken stock) 2/3 cup
-Eggs (or Egg substitute) 2 (or 1/2 cup)
-Cabbage, cut into 3cm strips 4 cups
-Green Onions, thinly sliced diagonally 2 stalks
-Tenkasu (Tempura bits) 1/4 cup
-Bacon, cut into 8cm pieces 6 strips
-OPTIONAL: Raw shrimp cut into approx 1 cm chunks 1/2 cup
Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger) 1 oz
- In a large bowl, whisk together Okonomiyaki Flour and Water until it is free of clumps
- Add Eggs, Cabbage, Onions, Tenkasu, Ginger, Shrimp and stir it all together. Remember to never over mix.
- Oil up a griddle that has been heated to 400F and add the mixture then divided into two pancakes.
- Using a spatula start flattening and forming the pancakes until it’s appoximately 1.5cm thick and 30cm across.
- Add Bacon pieces to cover top of each pancake.
- After about 3 minutes, flip over pancake with the bacon facing down and cook for 4 minutes.
- Flip the pancake over so the bacon side is up and cook for another 3 minutes or until firm and browned.
- Place it onto a plate and drizzle with Kewpie mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce and sprinkle with Aonori and dried bonito flakes.
WARNING!! It can be very hot so remember to blow a lot and try not to burn yourself!
Toppings You will DEFINITELY need:
-Seaweed Flakes (Aonori)
-Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi)
Okonomiyaki is not complete without it’s secret sauce! Without it your just making a regular savoury pancake and you probably can’t get it if you’re not in Japan. Sucks for you…Just Kidding! We’ve got you covered.
Here’s a recipe on how to make the sauce:
-Ketchup 3 tablespoons
-Soy Sauce 1 teaspoon
-Worcestershire Sauce 1 tablespoon
Mix it all together and you have your not so secret sauce!
A lof the items mentioned are not available to those of you living overseas. Here is a simple recipe for the pancake with ingredients you can find at your local grocery store:
Cooked bacon 2-3strips cut into small pieces
Cabbage 3/4 cup shredded
A few prawns
Baking powder 1 teaspoon
Cake flour 4 tablespoons
Salt 1/6 teaspoon
Chopped green onion 1/2 cup
Water 3 tablespoons
We can’t talk about Okonomiyaki and not mention Monjayaki, Tokyo’s very own style of this dish. The preparation of this dish requires a few more steps. The ingredients are first grilled and are shaped into a ring. The batter is then added to the centre. There is no need to wait for everything to cook through, runny is how it should be. It is not solid enough to place on a plate so it is eaten right off the grill using a okonomiyaki spatula.
If you want to try this Monjayaki, head to the man made island of Tsukishima and onto Nishinaka Dori street. This is a savoury pancake oasis within Tokyo and also the location of the oldest Koban (small police box) in Japan.
There are dozens of shops that offer both Okonomiyaki and the tokyo style version. We’ve listed a few places you must check out down below!
Osaka Style Restaurants In Tokyo
〒100-0005 Tokyo, Chiyoda-Ku
Marunouchi, 2 Chome−7−3
3-17-9, Tsukishima, Chuo-ku
〒135-0042 Tokyo, Koto, Kiba
Ito-Yokado Kiba shop
3-6-4, Tsukishima, Chuo-ku
Hiroshima Style In Tokyo
Miyakotei (みやこ亭) in Nihonbashi
2-5-8 Nihonbashikakigaracho Chuo, Tokyo
Carp (カープ) in Kanda
3-5 Kanda Kajicho Chiyoda Tokyo
Hiroki (ヒロキ) in Shimokitazawa
2-14-14 Kitazawa Setagaya Tokyo
Hasshou (八昌) in Kyodo
2-14-14 Kitazawa Setagaya Tokyo
1F, 3-5-4, Tsukishima, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0052
Monjayaki Restaurants in Tokyo
〒150-0001 Tokyo, Jingumae, ３−２０−１
Son-Grandpa Building 2F, 3-4-5 Tsukishima Chuo-ku Tokyo
3-12-10 Tsukishima Chuo-ku Tokyo
Top Places To Eat Okonomiyaki In Osaka
Mizuno (美津の) in Dotonbori
1 Chome-4-15 Dotonbori Chuo-ku, Osaka
Okonomiyaki Momiji (お好み焼 もみじ)
Tanimachi IS Building 1F, 9-19 Ikutamacho Tennoji-ku, Osaka
Houzenji Sanpei (法善寺 三平) in Nanba
1 Chome-7-10 Dotonbori Chuo-ku, Osaka
Okonomiyaki Chibou (お好み焼 千房 千日前本店) in Nanba
Toufuu Building 1-2F, 11-27 Nanbasennichimae Chuo-ku, Osaka
Purejidento Chibou (ぷれじでんと 千房) in Shinsaibashi
Osaka Nikko Hotel Nikkou Building B2, 1 Chome-3-3 Nishishinsaibashi Chūō-ku, Ōsaka
Kiji (きじ) in Umeda
9 Kakudacho Kita-ku, Osaka
Yukari (ゆかり 曽根崎本店) in Umeda
2 Chome-14-13 Sonezaki Kita-ku, Osaka
Tsuruhashi Fugetsu (鶴橋風月本店) in Tsuruhashi
2-18 Shimoajiharacho Tennoji-ku, Osaka
Okaru (おかる) in Nanba
1 Chome-9-19 Sennichimae Chuo-ku, Osaka
Top Places to Eat Okonomiyaki In Hiroshima
10-6 Yagenbori, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken, Japan
〒730-0034 Hiroshima Prefecture, Hiroshima, Naka Ward, Shintenchi, 5−13
Mitchan Okonomiyaki Hatchobori Main Shop
〒730-0013 Hiroshima Prefecture, Hiroshima, Naka Ward, Hatchobori, 6−7,
4-17 Fujimicho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0043
Interesting Twists Of Okonomiyaki
Lopez Okonomiyaki offers a guatemalan twist to this Japanese dish. The restaurant offers the classic Hiroshima style okonomiyaki but also one that is topped with Jalapeno peppers! To further add the latin touch, there are side dishes like nachos and salsa.
Address: 483-2 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture
Sakura Tei in the back alleys of Harajuku offers a variety of okonomiyaki and monjayaki, but one that stands out is their Mexican Okonomiyaki! It’s the classic do it yourself osaka style but instead you mix in taco meat and cheese.
Address: 〒150-0001 Tokyo, 渋谷区Jingumae, ３−２０−１
I apologize for causing some stomach grumblings and mouth watering after reading this, but now you have all the knowledge you need in the world about Okonomiyaki and where to find this delicious treat. Even if you are trapped in a small American town just dreaming of the day you can visit Japan and take a bite of the island’s pizza, we’ve got you covered with the recipe that will keep you satisfied until that day comes.
Tell us in the comments which one you would prefer, Hiroshima’s noodle clad version, or Osaka’s jam packed mixture?
If you’re interested in Japanese food recipes, check out this delicious Ramen Recipe!