I dont think any visit to Japan is complete without a visit to the following city:
Thats right. Hiroshima. It was a last second decision by me, at 2 am in the morning and I was on the 8 am bullet train out of Osaka, but it was worth it.
Thats the atomic bomb dome. A memorial to what most people remember Hiroshima for. I might put up a long post on the same on my other blogs. However the one thing I remember the city for most, is a forward looking attitude where they have maintained memories of the past, but are now growing like any other city in Japan. They have a warm and vibrant people, a beautiful city and lots of good food.
These maple leaf shaped cakes are absolutely delicious. You can find them stuffed with chocolate, cream, strawberry, and many other flavours. I personally like the plain cream filled ones. The chocolate ones tasted a little dry for me.
Oysters are popular at nearby Miyajima. A tiny little island less than an hour away, that boasts the world's largest spoon.
Which now brings us to the subject of this post. The Okonomiyaki. It's a japanese lettuce pancake that is also called the Japanese pizza. If you have difficulty in remembering the name, a friend told me that it was also christened the "Econo-miyaki", as it is a tasty budget dish.
Are any of you thinking the words "lettuce pancake" and are a bit turned off? I request you to gather courage and read on.
The Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is different from how they make it in Osaka. Osaka tends to mix the ingredients together, while in Hiroshima they are layered. Usually it contains lettuce, pork, optional meats like octopus, squid, cheese, with a fried egg layered on top, and covered with okonomiyaki sauce. So lets see how its made.
I had the luck of finding an absolutely fantastic Okonomiyaki place on the 4th floor of the Hiroshima bullet train station. I dont remember the name (it was in japanese). But the fact that it was being made right in front of us won me over when compared to the conveyor belt sushi restaurant next door.
I picked a basic Okonomiyaki with Pork, Cheese and Udon Noodles. The waiter offered for me to sit on a table somewhere, but I decided to wait extra to see it being made. About halfway through the process I realized that I needed to document the process. Hence these pictures jump all over the huge stove that they have, but you guys get the drift.
Anyway, so lets get started. You start with the basic batter, and make 2 thin pancakes out of it.
Heap on the lettuce on one of the pancakes. When I say heap, I mean really heap it on.
Now you might want to add some other sprouts and similar leafy vegetables for taste.
You want to heat up your meats on the side. Here they are preparing octopus.
Get your udon noodles ready on the side as well. Just looking at those noodles cooking makes me hungry.
Get the meats on your sprouts. Its always good to have balance in your diet.
Now you want to add the udon noodles ontop of your second pancake. They add a variety of sauces and seasonings to it. Now lift up the pancake + noodle carefully.
Now just invert the pancake + noodle over the other half which holds the sprouts.
Now take those big spatulas and compress it down as much as you can. That looks like so much fun. You are concentrating all those flavours into a thin flat pancake.
On the side, whilst its cooking, you want to set your egg down to fry. Just break it over the stove. You also want to break the yolk with your spatula.
Now carefully invert the whole compressed pancake onto the egg.
Let it cook for a while. Flip it over again so the egg is on top. Add on the cheese slice and then brush it liberally with Okonomiyaki sauce.
Sprinkle on some oils, yakisoba sauce, salts, crushed nori (sea weed) to taste.
Serve yourself some nice hot Okonomiyaki made Hiroshima style!!!!!
Okonomiyaki is probably my favourite Japanese food so far. The Hiroshima style beats the Osaka style by a thin margin. As I said before, the trick is to compress all those flavours into a single thin bite. You can taste the tang of the okonomiyaki sauce, the juice of the meats, everything in each small bite. It is a delicacy that no one visiting Japan should leave without trying.