Okonomiyaki – is the Japanese comfort food that we first saw on the Hairy Bikers Asian Special and just had to try it.
It became a favorite after the second World War – and remains so today. In Hiroshima prefecture there are more than 2,000 Okonomiyaki restaurants alone.
Types of Okonomiyaki
And there are different types of Okonomiyaki. And we were first of all in Hiroshima so that’s where we got our first taste. We went to an area of Hiroshima where a building has THREE floors of it. The Okonomimura building is found on Shintenchi street in Hiroshima and was just 9 minutes walk from our hotel.. We know because we timed it.
The Okonomimura Building in Hiroshima
Arriving on the second floor we exited the elevator and found the first of about 10 Okonomiyaki booths. Full of westerners.
A booth is about four metres by 3 metres. Stools are placed around an L shaped metal cooking plate.
There’s a wooden ledge between the stool and the cooking plate. Beer glasses perch on here as you’re waiting for your okonomiyaki to cook.
Picking an Okonomiyaki Restaurant
After scouting the second floor – about 99% westerners, we headed to the third floor. This floor was about 60% westerners and lots of smokers. So we kept going. After a scout of the fourth and final floor, we picked the booth that was left out if the elevator and at the end on the right. No customers, but two kids doing their homework, the Carps v Giants baseball was on and there was a menu in English. Perfect.
Cost of Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki starts at 810 yen for a basic one. But basic is all you need – it comes with pork. Additional ingredients cost from 240 yen each. The cheese is processed sliced cheese, kimchi is available as well as green onions.
It’s customary to order a beer (540 yen for a large, which is about 3/4 pint ) while your Okonomiyaki cooks. So we did and settled in to watch the progression of our dinner.
First, a round of batter on the hot plate.
It’s then seasoned with salt and pepper. Then the cabbage and bean-sprouts are added.
Noodles too begin to cook. You can swap your noodles for udon.
Green onions join the pile.
Slices of pork join the party (this comes for free in the basic at this booth).
There’s a something else added (yup, I can’t quite remember what) and an egg is broken and cooked with what looks like two plaster trowels – amazing, amazing dexterity!
The fried egg now goes on top of the cabbage mix.
Extra toppings (there’s my cheese and Nigel’s kimchi) are added to the noodles.
It’s all added together squirted with the BBQ sauce and eventually delivered to the part of the hot plate in front of you with herbs and green onions on top.
You take your metal spatula chop pieces off and transfer them to your little plate and dig in.
And it is simply divine.
Further on in our trip around Japan we ended up in Osaka, at the famous Kuromon Ichiba market.
Okonomiyaki in Osaka
The Okonomiyaki is somewhat different (and I think a little less tasty) – there’s no noodles, just lots of cabbage, but the cabbage is in a rich kind of batter, so it’s not just vegetable goodness its down home hearty, comfort food goodness.
There’s a lot more gloop on top. And enough mayo to block your arteries, but that’s what comfort food is all about!
So in our battle of the Okonomiyaki for us, Hiroshima wins, and I can’t wait to try and make this myself!