FOOD & DRINK

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Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki, literally meaning “cooked as you like,” is a savory, fried pancake-like dish popular across Japan. A large part of its appeal, besides its robust flavor, is the enjoyment of gathering in a casual restaurant to take turns cooking it atop a scorching hot teppan plate. Though the dish is also associated with the Kansai region, it is particularly beloved in Hiroshima, where its history is entwined with the city’s postwar recovery.

In Hiroshima, okonomiyaki restaurants number well over a thousand and can be found both as stand-alone shops and clustered together in locations such as Okonomimura (“Okonomiyaki Village”). This three-story establishment, which retains the atmosphere of the 1960s, consists entirely of okonomiyaki stands.

Hiroshima okonomiyaki is distinguished from other regional styles by its thin batter base, upon which ingredients are built up in layers rather than mixed together. Meat, seafood, egg, noodles, and vegetables are key ingredients, and the cabbage is piled far higher than in other types of okonomiyaki. These basic features aside, there is great freedom for diners to add whatever they like, as the name of the dish indicates.

This “free” approach to the dish derives from its origins as something eaten by Hiroshima’s citizens as they tried to rebuild their lives immediately after the war. Originally a traditional children’s snack called issen yoshoku (“one-coin Western food”), the dish was adapted and came to be eaten by people of all ages, with ingredients consisting of whatever was at hand. The dish was dubbed okonomiyaki, and soon had a special sauce concocted for it. Stalls and small restaurants serving okonomiyaki, often run by war widows, sprang up around the city and formed an important part of the recovering local economy.

okonomiyaki

Composition of a classic Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki
From the top down:
– Egg
– Noodles
– Pork belly
– Spring onions
– Bean sprouts
– Cabbage
– Batter

Shops selling Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki can be found anywhere in the city, and such shops can be found clustered together in places like Okonomi-mura, Okonomi Republic, and Okonomi Monogatari. Okonomiyaki shops can sometimes also sell grilled meat, grilled oysters, stir-fried vegetables, or oden (Japanese stew). Typical soba-niku-tama (egg, meat and soba noodle) okonomiyaki cost approximately 700 yen each. Variations such as udon-niku-tama (egg, meat and udon noodle) okonomiyaki are also common, and toppings such as cheese, oysters, and mochi rice cake are also available.

Tell me more! Local and historical variations.

Mihara Modanyaki, a type of okonomiyaki containing chicken giblets.
  • Mihara City
Mihara Modanyaki, a type of okonomiyaki containing chicken giblets.
Kure Yaki, a type of folded okonomiyaki containing chopped udon noodles.
  • Kure City
Kure Yaki, a type of folded okonomiyaki containing chopped udon noodles.
納豆と山芋を入れた「ふわふわ納豆焼」
  • Kumano-cho
Fuwafuwa Tofu Yaki, a type of okonomiyaki containing natto and yam.
酒粕や日本酒を生地に練り込んだ「たけはら焼」
  • Takehara City
Takehara Yaki, a type of okonomiyaki made with batter containing sake and sake lees.
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