Japanese cuisine is one of the most famous ones in the world for good reasons. Because Japan is so stretched out and has many regional differences in what people eat, it is one of the richest cuisines in the world with endless dishes to choose from. One all-time favorite dish of locals and tourists alike is the okonomiyaki of Hiroshima.
The word ‘okonomiyaki’ derives from the word ‘okonomi’. This means ‘what you like’ or ‘what you want’, and ‘yaki’ means ‘grilled’ or ‘baked’. Okonomiyaki is a kind of savory pancake, full of vegetables, seafood, meat and adored by almost everyone.
The history of okonomiyaki is over 70 years old. After WW2, many street stalls selling okonomiyaki popped up all over the city due to fires caused by the atomic bomb. The okonomiyaki, which was made of dough of flour and some vegetables, helped the people of Hiroshima stay alive at the time of food shortages.
To prepare the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a small thin pancake is roasted, then several ingredients are layered starting with a large amount of shredded cabbage, and then others are added, also in layers. Then turn the pancake over fried eggs on one or both sides, before serving. Hiroshima’s style usually includes fried noodles.
Okonomiyaki in a Restaurant
When going to a restaurant specialized in okonomiyaki, the customer chooses the ingredients they would like to add. There is a wide variety of combinations, so it can take a while to choose, but you can be sure that no matter which ingredients you pick, any combination will be delicious.
After ordering, the chef cooks the okonomiyaki in front of the customer. First, they pour a thin dough of flour to create a small circle. Then they pour a handful of sliced cabbage, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced pork, followed by the chosen toppings. This is left to cook while the chef begins to fry the noodles on the side. When the noodles are ready, the chef arranges the noodles in the okonomiyaki. Finally, a fried egg completes the layers and the okonomiyaki is placed in front of the diner.
Once the okonomiyaki is served to the customer, they can also add several condiments. The most popular combination is brown okonomiyaki sauce, seaweed flakes, and mayonnaise. In Hiroshima, the tradition is to use a metal spatula to cut and eat the okonomiyaki, directly. But if you would prefer so it is also possible to eat using chopsticks and a plate.
Hiroshima is full of okonomiyaki restaurants. If it is the first time you visit the city, it can be a bit difficult to decide where to go. Therefore, it is recommended to go to Okonomimura, the village of okonomiyaki, which houses more than twenty specialized restaurants. Each store is small and can only accommodate about ten people, with two or three chefs working hard to please their customers.
The people of Hiroshima are recognized for their kindness and the cooks are also very attentive. The experience provides customers with a delicious Hiroshima-style meal, a warm conversation, and an intimate experience that can be quite rare in Japan.
Trying regional foods is one of the best parts of traveling within Japan. If you come to Japan, don’t miss the opportunity to try this exquisite and fun dish, especially if you also visit Hiroshima.
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