“Okonomiyaki” (savory pancakes) is a dish made by mixing ingredients like finely sliced squid, shrimp, pork, beef, and cabbage into a batter made from flour and grilling on a flat iron grill.
The name “okonomiyaki” comes from the Japanese phrase “okonomi de yaku”, meaning grill the ingredients you like in the way that you like. Many places let customers grill their own okonomiyaki on large flat iron grills on top of the table. It is a lot of fun to grill up your own okonomiyaki with a group of friends or family.
Okonomiyaki styles are generally categorized in two styles: the “Kansai style” from out of Osaka and the “Hiroshima style” from out of Hiroshima.
For the Kansai style, the flour batter is poured into a bowl along with all of the other ingredients, mixed together, and then poured onto the iron grill.
When grilling, spread the batter to form circular shapes like pancakes. When shaping the batter, if you slap it repeatedly with the okonomiyaki utensil called a “kote” (an okonomiyaki spatula) to expand it, you won’t get a fluffy texture. After one side is grilled, turn it over with the kote and grill the other side. After both sides are done, spread on lots of sauce, sprinkle on “aonori” (lit. “blue seaweed”, also known as “laver” in English) to taste, and cut nice sized pieces with the kote. Some people also like to add mayonnaise. In the Kansai region, eating piping hot pieces straight off the grill with the kote instead of using chopsticks is considered the style for a true connoisseur. Give this method a try. Just make sure you are careful not to burn your mouth.
The Hiroshima style, on the other hand, is to layer the ingredients and batter onto the flat iron grill without mixing them first. Because this style requires some technique, many shops have the staff grill the okonomiyaki instead of the customers. With eggs and soba (buckwheat noodles) added, the portions are satisfyingly big.
For the Hiroshima style, first cabbage and pork are layered on top of the batter that has been spread out to a round shape on the iron grill. This is flipped with the spatula and simmered. Chuka soba noodles (or udon noodles) are fried on the side and then placed on the grilling okonomiyaki. Next, an egg is cracked, and after gently breaking the yolk and grilling, placed on the okonomiyaki to grill further. Then, sauce is spread on with a brush after the okonomiyaki is finished grilling, and “aonori” (lit. “blue seaweed”, also known as “laver” in English) is sprinkled on lavishly.
The Tokyo style okonomiyaki is similar to the Kansai style in that all of the ingredients are mixed before grilling on the iron grill. However, in the Tokyo style, soup stock (dashi) is mixed into the batter. Also, chopsticks are used to eat instead of the kote spatula. And, when cutting, the pieces are cut into cubes in Kansai, but it is common to cut triangle slices like a pizza in Tokyo.
This restaurant was launched in 1937. It is Tokyo’s most representative long standing okonomiyaki restaurant. The exterior and interior are both preserved vintage Japanese household formats. It has been frequented by scholars, artists, and journalists. The menu has a great selection and reservations are accepted.
2-2-2 Nishiasakusa Taito-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 12:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (Last order 10:00 p.m.)
Open year-round (Closed on the 3rd Sunday of May)
This restaurant is located on a back street of Harajuku. It also serves “monjayaki”, which is softer than the okonomiyaki. Enjoy abundant seasonal ingredients. The building was originally a guest house for foreign travelers that has been renovated and expanded.
3-20-1 Jingu-Mae Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (Open all night on December 31)
Chibo Ebisu Garden Place Branch
Launched in 1973, this is a chain that serves Osaka style okonomiyaki all over Japan. The main location is in Osaka. The view from the high rise building is fabulous. The okonomiyaki are grilled by chefs.
Yebisu Garden Place Tower 38th floor, 4-20-3 Ebisu Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Weekday 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m./5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.
Sat, Sun & Holidays 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Bakudan-yaki Hompo Ikebukuro Honten
The “bakudanyaki” is a large grilled flour batter ball measuring about 8 cm in diameter and about 200 g in weight, and has more ingredients than found in okonomiyaki (10 kinds). It is a flour based fast food that is stuffed and grilled like the “takoyaki” (grilled flour batter balls with pieces of squid). The outside is crispy and the inside has a melted texture like the monjayaki (but with a softer type of flour based food). This dish is currently all the rage.
SEGA Ikebukuro GiGO 1st Floor,
1-21-1 Higashi-Ikebukuro Toshima-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.