Knowledge of Japan Travel

How to Enjoy Okonomiyaki in Japan: A Comprehensive Guide

Okonomiyaki is one of Japan’s most beloved dishes. This savoury pancake, filled with a variety of ingredients, is a must-try for anyone visiting Japan. It’s not just about the taste, but the experience of cooking it at the table, which makes dining at an Okonomiyaki restaurant a fun and unique experience. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know to enjoy Okonomiyaki in Japan.

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Understanding Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is often referred to as “Japanese pizza,” but it’s more like a hearty pancake. The name Okonomiyaki comes from the Japanese words “okonomi” (as you like) and “yaki” (grill). It’s made with a batter of flour, eggs, cabbage, and often includes ingredients like pork, shrimp, or octopus. There are two main styles: the Kansai or Osaka-style, where all the ingredients are mixed into the batter and grilled, and the Hiroshima-style, where the ingredients are layered.

Choosing an Okonomiyaki Restaurant

When choosing an Okonomiyaki restaurant, look for ones that offer “teppan” or iron griddle cooking at the table. This way, you can enjoy the full experience of preparing and cooking your Okonomiyaki. Some popular chains in Japan include “Okonomiyaki Chibo” and “Okonomiyaki Botejyu.” However, many local spots offer a unique take on this dish and are worth exploring.

Ordering Okonomiyaki

When you’re seated at your table, you’ll likely find a menu with a variety of Okonomiyaki options. Traditional ingredients include pork, squid, shrimp, and mochi, but you may also find unique variations with cheese, kimchi, or even noodles (a popular addition in Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki). When in doubt, ask for the “omakase” (chef’s choice) option, and they’ll prepare an Okonomiyaki with their recommended ingredients.

Cooking Okonomiyaki

Once you’ve ordered, you’ll be given a bowl with your batter and ingredients. If you’re at a self-cooking restaurant, here’s how to cook your Okonomiyaki: mix the ingredients thoroughly, then pour the mixture onto the hot griddle and shape it into a round pancake. Let it cook for a few minutes, then flip it using the spatulas provided. Once it’s cooked on both sides, top it with Okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes.

Etiquette and Tips

While the casual environment of Okonomiyaki restaurants means there’s less rigid etiquette than some other Japanese dining experiences, there are still a few things to keep in mind. Remember to turn off the griddle when you’re finished cooking, and be careful not to burn yourself. When eating, it’s common to use the spatula to cut pieces directly off the Okonomiyaki on the griddle. Lastly, although it’s not a must, you can say “Gochisousama deshita” (it was a feast) to the staff when leaving as a way to express your appreciation for the meal.

In conclusion, dining at an Okonomiyaki restaurant is a memorable and delicious experience. Whether you’re a fan of trying new foods, or simply looking for a fun dining experience, Okonomiyaki is a Japanese culinary adventure not to be missed. Enjoy your Okonomiyaki journey in Japan!

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