Okonomiyaki / Takoyaki / etc., Gourmet Guide

Okonomiyaki is a casual dish that is especially popular in Osaka. It is made by mixing flour and water, then adding eggs, chopped cabbage, and seafood or pork, and then baking it on a hot steel plate. When it is finished, you put sauce, bonito flakes and dried seaweed on it before eating. Most okonomiyaki in Japan are made in this Osaka style, but in the Hiroshima region, the okonomiyaki dough is spread thinly on the plate with plenty of vegetables and soba noodles atop it.

Be careful when a restaurant has "Hiroshima-style" in its name. The okonomiyaki sold there are a little different from the usual okonomiyaki. Normally, each table at an okonomiyaki restaurant is equipped with a hot plate where you can bake and eat your okonomiyaki. The large spatulas are called "kote." People from Osaka use them to eat okonomiyaki, but most Japanese people prefer chopsticks. In some places, a server will come to your table and bake the okonomiyaki for you, but in most restaurants you do it yourself. If you go to such a restaurant, you stir the ingredients in the bowl first, and then spread them on the hot plate. When the side touching the plate starts to get a nice brown color, you turn it over using the kote and cook the opposite side until it is brown. If you are not confident in your okonomiyaki making abilities, you can ask one of the waiters. They will surely help you out. Ingredients of okonomiyaki can be squid, shrimp, pork, or beef. If the okonomiyaki has all of the above, it's called a "mix." Some are made with kimchi and cheese instead. Many places also have fried soba noodles on the menu. "Konamono" is a general term for dishes made with flour, including okonomiyaki. Others are "takoyaki," which is an octopus dumpling baked in a round shape, or "monjayaki," which is eaten while being cooked on the iron plate. Like okonomiyaki, takoyaki is a dish that originated in Osaka. While okonomiyaki is often eaten as lunch or dinner, takoyaki is considered to be more of a snack. It can be found everywhere in Japan, and is also often sold in places like drive-throughs. Monjayaki, on the other hand, can usually be found in and around Tokyo, especially in the area of Tsukishima. Monjayaki never gets cooked for you, but is eaten by pressing the ingredients against the iron plate with a small kote while they are cooking on it. This needs a litte skill. In many parts of Japan, konamono dishes are local cuisine, such as the "oyaki" (stuffed dumplings) in Nagano, the "tamagoyaki" (soft octopus dumplings) in Akashi, or the "negiyaki" (okonomiyaki made with onions) in Osaka. Apart from okonomiyaki, konamono are often eaten as snacks between meals. Most Japanese like konamono. People from western Japan love them so much that they even have iron plates especially for takoyaki at home. Additionally, every family has their own favorite way of cooking okonomiyaki and certain ingredients they prefer. Konamono culture runs deep in Japan.

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