The okonomiyaki are often compared to typical Western dishes, but the similarities are only very vague. Some say that okonomiyaki are a kind of omelette (or crepes), others say that they are an omelette, but the term I like most is Japanese pizza.
It’s a traditional dish from the Kansai area, more precisely Osaka, in the center of Japan, but as we will see below, there are many other versions.
It is a very substantial single course made mainly of flour and water mixed together with cabbage. Inside and above the okonomiyaki you can add many types of ingredients.
After mixing the dough with all the ingredients, put everything on a plate and form a kind of pizza a couple of centimeters high and occasionally turn until well cooked.
How to eat
In some restaurants it is the cook who prepares the okonomiyaki for customers sitting around a large plate, while in others each customer is provided with a bowl with the ingredients to mix and you can cook with fun with your friends on a plate placed on your table.
Where to eat it
In the area of Osaka you can eat wonderful okonomiyaki, in particular I recommend one of the restaurants of the Chibo chain, really excellent. Consider spending about 1500-2000yen per person.
Cooking okonomiyaki at home is not a problem, instead of preparing this dish using teppan, the classic Japanese plate, you can safely use a traditional pan.
Ingredients for 2 Okonomiyaki
For the dough:
- Flour: 300 grams
- Eggs: 2
- Water: 400ml
- Cabbage: quantum satis
- Bulldog Sauce
- Prepared for Okonomiyaki
For the seasoning
The “Okonomi” means “what you want”, and that’s why you can have fun when you prepare this dish, trying new versions also fusion using typical Italian ingredients. It’s a great dish to help you empty the refrigerator.
For a fish-based okonomiyaki use cuttlefish, shrimp and octopus, while if you want to make a meat-based okonomiyaki use beef carpaccio and pork bacon.
Just before serving the okonomiyaki, you can add mayonnaise or ketchup or tonkatsu sauce on top of Katsuobushi, very fine flakes of dried tuna which, thanks to the heat of the dish, seem to move like they are alive.
For the preparation, mix the flour with water, add the cabbage after cleaning and cutting them very fine and then all the other ingredients cut into small pieces.
Stir until the dough is well blended and cook over medium heat in a pan for a few minutes until cooked.
You can serve the okonomiyaki without adding anything on top, leaving the guest the choice of seasoning, after putting on the table ketchup, mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce and a bowl of Katsuobushi.
Restaurants in Okonomiyaki
Since it is a very popular dish you will find okonomiyaki restaurants in every city and even in small towns, one of the best restaurants to enjoy the original okonomiyaki is the Chibo restaurant in Osaka, which has many branches scattered throughout the city and also a restaurant in Hawaii.
It is an informal and inexpensive restaurant, if you eat the best and most stuffed of the okonomiyaki on the menu you pay less than 1500Yen.
Just one okonomiyaki is enough to be full.
Variants of the okonomiyaki
The okonomiyaki are a tradition of the Kansai area as I wrote above, but in Japan there are many variations but all quite similar.
In Tokyo and in the Kanto region, for example, Monjayaki are widespread, which you can taste in the Tokyo area called Tsukishima where there is a high concentration of restaurants in Monja.
Hiroshima, on the other hand, distinguishes itself by putting soba or udon spaghetti inside the dough, while Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture, is joined by the okonomiyaki Takuan, pickled ginger that gives the dish its characteristic flavour.
On the island of Okinawa, on the other hand, Hirayachi are prepared, a sort of okonomiyaki that is much finer than the original.
Okonomiyaki in popular culture
In the manga and anime entitled Ranma 1/2 among the many curiosities of the Japanese world that you can see, you often see restaurants in Okonomiyaki. In particular, Ukyo Kuonji’s father runs a small okonomiyaki restaurant where Ukyo herself works.
In the much more famous Japanese cartoon Kiss me Licia (the title of the original manga is Ashite Knight) the father of Licia, the protagonist, runs a restaurant in Okonomiyaki that you can see in the piece of the first episode that you find below. The original manga is from 1982 while the cartoon was broadcast in Italy for the first time in 1985, even if only in 2002 in Italy was released the manga entitled Love Me Knight. Given the great success that this cartoon had in the ’80s in Italy was also shot a TV show in which Licia was played by Cristina D’avena, for the first time as an actress.