This weather isn't all bad though. For starters, it makes theses "Japanese pizzas", or okonomiyaki, taste even better than they might otherwise do so on a hot summer's day. To bite into the freshly crisp pan-fried outer and to burn one's mouth on the soft centre is just that more enjoyable when it's a little bit cold and grey. Even more amazing is to come off the cold winter streets in Japan to a local okonomiyaki joint and watch as steam rises off your clothes as you adjust to the stifling warmth of the restaurant.
Okonomiyaki literally means "cooked as you like it" and is popular in Japan as a street and restaurant food. We eat the Osaka-style at home (recipe below) but in Hiroshima, where they are famous for the okonomiyaki, they layer batter, cabbage, meats of choice and udon or soba noodles to make a multilayered taste explosion. I have never tried to make the Hiroshima version but have been lucky enough to eat it when I went to Japan last December. Being Christmas time, the green belt of the famous Peace Boulevard was lined with hundreds of LED lights as part of the Dreamination festival held there each year. Walking the streets was beautiful but I started to freeze up after a wee while and it was wonderful comfort to come off the streets and into the little restaurant, the name of which I couldn't remember for the life of me.
I have never been to Benihana, the teppanyaki restaurant everyone here seems to rave about, but I'm guessing that this is as close as I've probably gotten to that experience. Except this time, with authentic food and culture attached.
|Hiroshima okonomiyaki chefs in action|
|The lovely lady sitting next to me digs in.|
As you can see above, customers can even choose to eat off the teppan (hot plate) so the okonomiyaki doesn’t cool down as you work your way through it! I was so excited to try it this way, to the extent where I squealed when the chef placed my order in front of me… I’m sure the restaurant staff were secretly shaking their heads at me, saying things like “silly gaijin” (which literally means ‘outside person’ and is usually used to mean "alien").
2 cup all purpose flour
1 ¼ cup dashi soup stock or water
6 Tbsp chopped green onion
2/3 cup tenkasu (tempura flakes)
12 - 18 strips of thinly sliced pork or beef
Toppings of choice: ao-nori (green seaweed), okonomiyaki sauce (or tonkatsu sauce), Kewpie mayonnaise, tomato sauce
1. Pour dashi soup stock in a bowl. Mix the flour in the soup stock.
2. Rest the batter for an hour in the refrigerator.
3. Chop cabbage finely and mix chopped cabbage, chopped green onion and tempura flakes in the batter. Stir, add eggs, and stir again.
4. Heat some oil in a frypan and pour the batter over the pan and make a round. Cook for 5-7 minutes and place meat (toppings) on top of the okonomiyaki. Flip the okonomiyaki and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
5. Remove the okonomiyaki from the pan and place on a serving plate. Spread your sauce of choice (okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise, mayonnaise and tomato sauce, etc) over the okonomiyaki and sprinkle aonori, katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and beni-shoga (red ginger) over the sauce.