Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Favorite Japanese Food

As promised in my blog about Japanese Culture, today's blog will be devoted to a remarkable Japanese food - Okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese "pancake" made with fresh vegetables. Okonomi means "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki means "grilled" (as in yaki-soba or teriyaki). The Kansei region of Japan (Kyoto/Osaka) and the Hiroshima area are famous for Okonomiyaki. Toppings and batters tend to vary according to region.

Kansai style is a grilled batter cake, typically made from flour, grated yam, dashi(broth), eggs and shredded cabbage. As prepared in Japan, it's vegetarian but not vegan because of the eggs. When we make it at home, we use lecithin as a binder and skip the eggs. Okonomiyaki is topped with okonomiyaki sauce (similar to A1 steak sauce), aonori (seaweed flakes), Japanese soy mayonnaise and pickled ginger (beni shoga). Some restaurants bring the ingredients to your table and you prepare it yourself. Others grill it for you, while you sit on barstools around the cooking surface.

Hiroshima style is layered rather than mixed together and includes fried noodles. The layers are a pancake batter base followed by cabbage, noodles, egg and okonomiyaki sauce. The amount of cabbage used is usually much more substantial than in Kansai style. Hiroshima Okonomiyaki start out piled high and are pushed down as the cabbage cooks.

Both types are delicious, but I find the Hiroshima style more satisfying.

While in Kyoto, I had the opportunity to taste 3 different preparations of Okonomiyaki in one day. As is typical when I explore a city, I walked 25 miles, stopping for Okonomiyaki in the Gion (Geisha) district, in the Kyoto University district (Northeast) and in the Kyoto train station (Southwest).

While in Hiroshima, I had Okonomiyaki in at Okonomi-Mura (Okonomi Village) and on the island of Miyajima at Koumitei.

Along with vegan split pea soup and vegetable pot pies, Okonomiyaki is my "comfort food". Whenever my wife prepares Okonomiyaki at home, my daughter jokes that "mom must really want something special from Dad." Definitely a food worth trying.


mxganse said...

I'd love to see that recipe for vegan split pea soup!

jessica lipnack said...

I really wish you hadn't posted this. Now I'm hankering for okonomiyaki, one of my fave dishes of all time. Truly comfort food.

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