The Wonderful World of Japan's ‘Okonomiyaki’

Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. Image from Wikipedia, CC 3.0.

Over the past decade, as Japanese izakaya pub-style fare has become popular all over the world, many people outside of Japan have been introduced to okonomiyaki.

One Japanese Twitter account, @honoo_teppann (炎の鉄板, or “The Red-Hot Grill”) is on a mission to promote this quintessential Japanese comfort food through retweets and lively conversation.

But first, a little explanation about okonomiyaki:A savory creation, okonomiyaki is difficult to describe to anyone who has never eaten it. As Japanese language and culture blog Tofugu says in an excellent and encyclopedic entry on okonomiyaki:

Okonomiyaki is described many ways. “Crepe” and “omelette” are two common comparisons. But you’re bound to hear “Japanese pizza” or “Japanese pancake” most often. These descriptions are all true to an extent but basically wrong.

Generally speaking, okonomiyaki is a mixture of batter made from taro-root flower, lots of cabbage, meat, a teriyaki-like sauce, and a variety of condiments including mayonnaise and pickled ginger.

The tweet below helps convey how okonomiyaki is good over a flat stovetop, typically right in front of the customer:

Let's grill! If we were to say one thing about our okonomiyaki it's that it incorporates a local Hiroshima delicacy called gansu. Gansu is a kind of processed fish popular in Hiroshima.

Osaka vs. Hiroshima: An Age-Old Rivalry

There are two generally recognized styles of okonomiyaki in Japan: Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style.

Osaka-style okonomiyaki tends to scramble all of the ingredients together when cooking. In Hiroshima, the different ingredients are added to the grill layer-by-layer.

Osaka, Japan's colorful and charming “second city, is generally regarded as the home of okonomiyaki. Twitter user @honoo_teppann aims to change that:

世界に誇る食文化「広島風お好み焼き(お好み焼)」を極める場所です。 作る人も食べる人も大歓迎。熱くokonomiを語りましょう […] Location: 広島市中区土橋

This Twitter account is dedicated to promoting Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (the only true okonomiyaki) to the world. We welcome anyone who creates or consumes okonomiyaki. Let's all spread the word about okonomiyaki […] Location: Dobashi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima

Indeed, honoo_teppann frequently writes tweets about okonomiyaki from the cuisine's “ground zero”, Dobashi in Hiroshima.

While honoo_teppann has a blog, their photos on Twitter are the best place to view the different approaches to the dish at various Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki eateries all over Japan:

Introducing Okonomiyaki Yo Yo (Kaita, Hiroshima); Their okonomiyaki has a fragrant exterior with a fluffy texture. Yo Yo was opened ten years ago and has never lost its enthusiasm for making okonomiyaki. #okonomiyaki #hiroshima

Introducing Okonomiyaki Wakataka (Hiroshima CIty); Their okonomiyaki features a savory [as opposed to sweeter-tasting] sauce, topped with deep-fried cayenne peppers, spicy sesames… and called “Carp-Yaki” [after the baseball team].

Introducing Harumi (Hiroshima); Made especially in commemoration of beloved Hiroshima Carp pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, their signature dish is the “Kuro-yaki”. It's black in color [kuro means ‘black’ in Japanese] with a distinctive taste all its own.

For a definitive look at how to cook okonomiyaki from scratch, be sure to check out Tofugu's excellent article on the topic.

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