Okonomiyaki (savory pancake with various ingredients) (お好み焼き)
Okonomiyaki refers to one of the foods grilled on an iron plate.
It uses flour mixed with water as dough and meat, seafood, and vegetables ingredients and they are grilled on an iron plate and are eaten with seasoning, but the way of grilling or the ingredients varies depending upon the region.
The origin of okonomiyaki is said to be 'funoyaki' (a variety of desert) which SEN no Rikyu had them make in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Later, originating from funoyaki from the late Edo period to the Meiji period, the 'sukesoyaki' (crepe-like pancake) was born, which was made by wrapping bean jam instead of miso. The food was born in Kojimachi, Tokyo and during the Meiji period monjayaki (a type of Japanese pan-fried batter with various ingredients) and dondon-yaki (a type of Japanese pan-fried batter with various ingredients) was also born. In the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, it played a role as a staple diet and in the Showa period 'mojimonjayaki' (a type of Japanese pan-fried batter with various ingredients) eaten by coating it with Worcester sauce or 'issen yoshoku' (literally, one cent Western food) became popular as the way of making up for food insecurity. They were introduced to Osaka and 'beta-yaki' (Japanese pancake) or 'chobo-yaki' (Japanese pancake) was born, that used konjac or beans as ingredients and were eaten in soy sauce, and they developed into various kinds of foods grilled on an iron plate, and in the Kansai region and Hiroshima prefecture the current 'okonomiyaki' style is said to have been established.
(Funoyaki > sukesoyaki > monjayaki > dondonyaki > 'okonomiyaki')
The basic way of cooking Kansaifu-okonomiyaki centered on the Osaka region, is to mix shredded cabbage with the flour dough and grill it on a heated iron plate. And the food texture is often lightened ingeniously by mixing yamaimo (Japanese yam) in the dough.
Before the war, it was called 'yoshoku yaki' (Japanese pancake), 'issen yoshoku,' 'nikuten' (Japanese pancake) and so on, and the noseyaki (Japanese pancake), where the flour was mixed with water, spread in a circle, the green onion, tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep-fried dough produced as a byproduct of cooking tenpura) and so on were put on it and grilled, was the mainstream and it was something like a kids' snack. After the war, the volume was emphasized as substitute food and the 'mazeyaki' (Japanese pancake) style, where cabbage was mainly used, became mainstream, but even now, chiefly negiyaki (a thinner offshoot of Japanese pancake made with a great deal of Welsh onion) as nibbles with drinks for adults steadfastly remains depending upon the region.
And in the western area of Kobe City, Banshu (old name for part of Hyogo Prefecture) or Awaji-shima Island, the ratio of traditional 'noseyaki' is higher and there are many areas where Osaka-style 'mazeyaki' has not spread.
Also nowadays, from the influence of pizzas, crepes and so on from foreign countries or other creative cuisine, ingredients like cheese, strawberry, chocolate and the others are topped on it and the shops have increased, where unique okonomiyaki suiting the taste of young people are served.
How to make (one example)
As the most common menu for okonomiyaki, the basic way of cooking 'butatama' (savoury pancake with pork) is shown below.
First make the dough. Mix the flour with water or the soup stock of bonito or konbu (a kind of kelp used for Japanese soup stock), beat it well and let it stand for about eight hours (the amount of water is the same as that for flour, as a rough indication).
A moderate amounts of hen's eggs and grated Japanese yam are added to the dough.
Add a brimful amount of shredded cabbage to the dough and mix it lightly.
Grease an iron plate, heat it well and spread the dough in a circular (It is about 25 centimeters in diameter and about 2.5 centimeters thick).
Put many slices of pork on it, aligning them neatly.
Grill one side until golden brown, turn it over using two large spatulas for the okonomiyaki and bake the other side (when turning it over, be careful not to break or scatter the dough).
When both sides are grilled until brown, reduce the heat and coat the top side with lots of sauce.
Strew the whole surface with sliced dried bonito and aonori-ko (dried powdered seaweed).
Cut it in sainome (diced) using a spatula (called 'kote' in Osaka and so on) and you can eat it.
And when it is grilled, you can eat it after cutting a desired section right on the iron plate. If squid is included instead of pork, it is called 'ikatama' (savoury pancake with squid). In addition to these, there are several ingredients such as shrimp, beef, eye of scallop those that can be mix with these. When using ingredients that take a long time to cook, it is better to grill them lightly on an iron plate. Nowadays, mayonnaise is put on it.
Common ingredients: cabbage, potato, grated yam, Japanese white radish, pickles (USA, UK and others), pork, beef, squid, scallop, oyster, shrimp, green onion, tenkasu (or agedama), beni-shoga (red pickled ginger) and additionally mochi (rice cake), potato chips, cheese, salted squid, bacon, ham and so on.
In the case of okonomiyaki shops, they often let flour mixed with water stand to make it fluffy, but commercially available okonomiyaki powder includes baking powder, salt, soup stock and so on.
Trivia: Adding carrots makes the taste mild. To mix Coke (drink) into the dough makes it fluffy.
They use sauce exclusively for okonomiyaki, having luster and viscosity and taste both sweet and spicy by using various kinds of vegetables and date palms and so on. In the Kinki region, major manufacturers such as Ikari Sauce Co. in Osaka City, Oliver Sauce Co., Ltd. in Kobe City and so on have sold okonomiyaki sauce for a long time and recently those from OTAFUKU SAUCE Co., Ltd. in Hiroshima City have also been sold. And there are unique local sauces in various areas where local tastes are enjoyed. In okonomiyaki shops, not only these store-bought sauces, but also various kinds such as Worcester sauce (this is not a general term for the Worcester sauce group such as medium thick sauce, thick sauce, but Worcester sauce in a limited sense and are same as the above), Tonkatsu sauce (Japanese Ketchup), spicy Doro sauce (literally translates to "mud sauce") are often blended to make original flavors.
Traditionally in previous times, in many Kansaifu-okonomiyaki shops, mayonnaise was not used. Even now in Hiroshima or Kobe few use mayonnaise and even in the same Kansai region; the preference for mayonnaise is different between Osaka and Kobe. Currently in Osaka many shops use mayonnaise, while in Kobe, which sticks with the traditional okonomiyaki, many shops do not prepare mayonnaise and do not serve it without being ordered even if it has been prepared. There are various theories about from where or when Kansaifu-okonomiyaki started to be made using mayonnaise and this isn't known for sure, but there is a theory that Boteju (a long-established okonomi-yaki chain famous throughout Japan) started to use it, and another theory that an individual shop started using it, and also a theory that it has been used in households for a long time. At present, the taste blending the salty-sweet taste of sauce and the acid taste of mayonnaise is preferred by some consumers and in many shops serving kansaifu-okonomiyaki, mayonnaise is popular. And depending on the shops, a small amount of mustard paste reconstituted from mustard powder and water is sometimes added.
Modanyaki (thin and flat pancakes cooked on a hot plate with pieces of meat, seafood and chopped cabbage)
Modanyaki (also called 'sobanose') is a kind of Kansaifu-okonomiyaki and as the ingredients, boiled (or steamed) Chinese noodles for yakisoba (fried soba) are mixed into dough or they are put on usual okonomiyaki and grilled. Udon (thick Japanese wheat noodles) is sometimes used instead of Chinese noodles and it is called 'udon modan' (savoury pancake topped with udon and fried together). And depending upon the shops, sometimes an egg is not added to the okonomiyaki dough which is overlapped. Characteristically it looks big in volume and the texture reflects the volume. Usually optional ingredients are prepared. Around Kobe or Akashi City, yakisoba is thickened with the dough and is called 'modanyaki' and usual or optional ingredients are prepared. Grill the thin dough lightly, put yakisoba on it, add dough over it, turn it over on the grill.
It is often confused with Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki (Hiroshima-style savory pancake with various ingredients) in the common point 'to use noodles,' but the way of cooking and the texture are totally different between them. Sometimes the shops which do not know what the real Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki is, serve modanyaki and call it 'Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki,' but people in Hiroshima are often disgusted when they hear this.
Culture in Kansai
Formerly (until around 1960) in residential districts of the Kansai region, there was at least one okonomiyaki shop in every town. It means that okonomiyaki was the daily food common people were familiar with. Although okonomiyaki shops are generally family run, it is noteworthy that many are run by widows or women who have retired from the liquor trade. There was an iron plate table about the size of one meter by two meters and four to five customers sat around the table facing the owner who cooked okonomiyaki and at least two tsubo (unit of land measurement; 3.95 square yards; 3.31 square meters) was big enough to be able to run a simple home business from. For comparison, around 1960 when the price level was one-tenth that of the present time (the early twentieth century), yasaiyaki (fried vegetables) using cabbage as a main ingredient cost 15 to 20 yen and if some meat was added (nikuten), it cost 20 to 30 yen.
Adding soba yaki (fried noodle), modanyaki or seafood in season, basically based on grilled meats or fried vegetables, okonomiyaki was grilled on an iron plate in accordance with the literal 'okonomi' (preference) of the customer and was also served as snacks to go with beer or alcoholic drinks. Sometimes extra cooked rice was brought into okonomiyaki shops and with appropriate ingredients suggested by the customer it was cooked up as fried rice and taken back home. An okonomiyaki shop that could accept such orders was a place for communication among the neighbors centering around one iron plate.
Later, as dietary life became diversified, such home business shops became obsolete and shops specializing in okonomiyaki mainly in downtown areas were in competition with shops serving other kinds of food. And many shops, aiming at the upmarket, changed to the shops which served chiefly grilled steak or seafood.
As for business conditions of Kansaifu-okonomiyaki shops there are self-service ones, where the raw ingredients and the dough are served to the customers according to their order and they grill or cook by themselves. Many chain stores operate this way because it is economical to just prepare the foodstuff and around the Kanto region there are lots of shops of this type. With the popularization of electric hot plates, okonomiyaki has widely become common in households because it does not require high cooking skills, can be freely grilled and seasoned as one likes, not having to stick to the way the shops grill the food, and so the demand from couples, students, group customers is high.
It is a custom to eat okonomiyaki as a side dish with cooked rice in the Kansai region. In fact, many okonomiyaki shops in Kansai generally serve cooked rice or rice balls, calling them 'okonomiyaki teishoku' (set meal with savoury pancake with various ingredients). Entertainers from the Kansai region have said 'okonomiyaki is an accompanying dish' and such statements have become known nationwide. However, some point out that the other regions see it strange because they have no custom to treat okonomiyaki as a side dish.
Nowadays, also in the Kanto region, Kansaifu-okonomiyaki shops have increased and the customers are not limited to people who come from Kansai and many are from Kanto or various other regions in Japan. However, eating habits are very different between Kansai people and others. Kansai people eat okonomiyaki with a spatula by cutting it in sainome (diced) without using chopsticks, but many people from various regions as well as Kanto eat it by cutting it radially from the center like pizzas.
Key points to cook okonomiyaki well in the household.
When cooking okonomiyaki in the household, they sometimes make one that is very different from what is served in shops.
The main reasons are:
The iron plate and the strength of the heat are different when cooking in the household compare to in professional shops.
The composition and the way of mixing the dough are not appropriate.
We can point out the above two examples
The strength of the fire and the iron plate are closely related and the heat is strengthened in proportion to the thickness of the iron plate. In this case not only the strength of fire, but also the width of iron plate where the fire is in contact is important. Generally speaking, the iron plate used in shops is seven to eight millimeters thick. When putting dough on the iron plate the temperature goes down, which can spoil the texture of okonomiyaki, but if the plate is thick and accordingly, more heat is used, the less the temperature decreases when putting the dough on, and the ideal temperature can be maintained. If a thick iron plate is used, okonomiyaki is less likely to burn and the heat is likely to reach the center of it and before the water from the ingredients exude, it is grilled up and becomes a tasty and crispy texture. The thickness of frying pan or hot plate can not keep the heat and the temperature fall is very large. Thus, it is a bit difficult to reproduce the taste of the shops in the household.
However, with a bit of ingenuity, it is possible to reproduce the taste of the shops in the household.
The shops shred or mince cabbage, but in the household they should be shredded or minced even thinner or smaller. Only as a guide, if shredded the width is less than 5 mm, if minced less than 1 cm square is preferred. However, if the crunchy texture of cabbage is preferred, a little bit rough cutting is OK. If pursuing only the taste of okonomiyaki the core part should be removed and only the leafy parts should be used, but some preferably shredding the core and using it (because of the rich nutrients it contains).
As an important procedure, when washing cabbage, put it in a colander and drain the excess liquid. The dough should have a high water content, but if the cabbage has a high water content, the texture of the finished one often becomes soggy. And when cutting, using a sharp kitchen knife influences the taste.
The base for the dough. The okonomiyaki powder on shelves includes the soup stock or yamaimo and if there is not a special preference it is good enough as it is.
However, the amount of water with which the dough is mixed is important and if the dough is hard the texture becomes heavy and if soft the dough flows out when grilling. The amount of water written at the back of a bag of okonomiyaki powder is just a reference and you had better grasp the ratio of water to dough produces the most favorite texture.
And mix the dough with cold water as you would do with cake dough, make it absorb a lot of air and try to mix it in a short time. After mixing, let it stand for a few hours to stabilize it.
Yamaimo (Japanese yam)
It is important and makes the texture better when grilled. This ingredient is second only to cabbage in terms of the amount used.
Often it is not used in the household, which makes okonomiyaki heavy and hard. It is indispensable when making dough from flour, and if using okonomiyaki powder it is better to add a little yamaimo.
Put some dough in a bowl every time you grill and add a hen's egg and mix it properly.
At this time it is OK to put an egg in beforehand, but be careful not to completely mix the yolk and white. To purposefully leave the unevenness of the egg can give the okonomiyaki a fluffy texture.
Often it is not used, but accentuates the taste. Many people feel they are missing something if it is not put in. Mix it appropriately.
Timing critical for mixing
It is extremely important and we can say that timing determines the texture.
The cause of the failure in the household is mainly allowing the dough mixed with cabbages, an egg to stand too long. If too much time passes after mixing, the fluffy effect of the added egg will disappear and the cabbage will become wrinkly and no matter how good the dough is or the method of grilling, the crispy texture will not be accomplished.
Thus, set the dough (yamaimo can be included) apart from cabbages and the egg and mix them just prior to putting the mixture on the iron plate. Some shops are ingeniously attempting to mix the dough and put it on an iron plate as soon as possible.
Ratio of amounts
The appropriate ratio for the amount of cabbage, yamaimo, egg, and flour is said to be approximately from 4:3:2:1 to 3:2:2:1, but as mentioned before, the style varies from one shop to another and when cooking okonomiyaki in the household it is not necessary to rigidly observe this ratio. However, too much cabbage make the dough break easily when turning it over.
Sliced pork back ribs which have a lot of fat are the best, but mistakenly some people often mix the meat with the dough. To do this does not spread the good fat on the surface, causes it to burn easily and spoils the texture or flavor.
The right way is; after spreading the dough on the iron plate, three to four slices of back pork ribs are also put on. If you put the meat on the iron plate beforehand and then spread the dough on it, the fat will spread and enhance the flavor, but the timing to put the dough on or the way to spread it is critical. The more fat there is, the more crispy the texture will be, which looks like frying rather than grilling the surface.
Temperature for grilling
The ideal temperature of the iron plate is about 180 ℃. When you dash some water on a hot iron plate or a frying pan, the water conglobates, bubbles, and gradually evaporates, which is regarded as a guide to proceed. If the water evaporates in an instant the temperature is too high and if it spreads on an iron plate and bubbles, the temperature is too low.
In the case of a hot plate, you should set the temperature relatively higher (about 220℃), considering the fall of the temperature and the slowness of heating up when putting the dough on it.
When grilling the okonomiyaki a hot plate is mainly used in the household, but a frying pan excels in heating power and the flip of a wrist can turn it over beautifully without using a trowel (spatula) or a turner. This needs practice to some degree, but can be done like you turn over fried rice when cooking Chinese food. However, if it is too difficult for you it is easy to turn it over with a spatula, by tilting the frying pan.
However, as the frying pan is thinner than an iron plate and closer to direct fire, if cooking it over high heat, it is likely to burn on the surface before the inside is cooked. So we are tempted to grill it up soon by pressing with a spatula and so on, but this works against us. It is preferable to grill it with the lid on to prevent burning and cook the inside well. To do this, we can expect the effect of fire power to the full.
Once okonomiyaki is formed to some degree, stick a chopstick into it and check the dough. If the dough is not thick, it is time to eat. Then, cook both surfaces until crispy with the lid off and then the okonomiyaki, with the inside fluffy, will be cooked up well. Do not turn over repeatedly, just about two times.
When rice as a staple food was lacking during war times, okonomiyaki was born from a children's snack issen yoshoku, to which vegetables and so on were added. At present (2006), it is said that there are more than 800 shops just in Hiroshima City alone (estimated from a survey by Chugoku Shinbun newspaper in 1992) and 2000 shops in Hiroshima Prefecture. In the food wagon town (later, the okonomiyaki village) which emerged around 1950, Mitsuo ISE called Mitchan and Zenjiro NAKAMURA called Zen-san opened the shops, who are said to have been the originators of Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki. In 1950, okonomiyaki in those days was similar to negiyaki.
Many women whose husbands were killed in war or by the A-bomb remodeled a doma (dirt floor) in the house and opened the shops, which is why there still remain many shop names called 'XXX chan.'
And due to the extraordinarily heavy snowfall which struck the Chugoku region in January 1963, many families left farming villages in mountain areas of the Chugoku region and moved to Hiroshima City during the high economic growth period, where many farmers' wives opened shops. That is why even now in a small shop in town there remain the shops which old ladies run alone. Until around 1970 the customers could bring eggs or meat to the shops from home and cook them in okonomiyaki. Nowadays eggs and meat are usually included in okonomiyaki as basic ingredients, but a long time ago it was not unusual to have only vegetables and soba or only vegetables included. In those days, the price of the vegetables only was about 250 yen. And when bringing it back home without eating in the shops, they went there with a flat dish. Now plastic trays are popular, but in those days they did not exist and so dishes were required. After coating this dish thinly with sauce, okonomiyaki was put on it. As Saran Wrap did not exist at that time, the dish was wrapped up in newspaper and the newspaper was often soaked with the sauce by the time it reached home.
The way of grilling in Hiroshima area was 'noseyaki,' the same way of cooking the present day Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki. At first vegetables were superimposedly grilled without meats, half folded, wrapped up in newspaper and served. Cabbage or agedama and so on were included, but soba was not. The style which sandwiched the ingredients between the two-folded dough like a crepe is still popular and it needs less space than the disk-shaped one, and the one which sandwiches in yakisoba and tamagoyaki (Japanese style omelet) between the dough are often sold in the supermarkets in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Due to the food situation after war the supply of green onions varied from one season to another and instead of this, cabbage which was cheap and available through the year came to be used (in later years bean sprouts were also used). During the 1970s, soba (Chinese noodle) or udon was included. Allegedly this is because of the influence of instant noodles that started to be sold at that time. Rice was still expensive in those days.
At the early stage Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki also used Worcester sauce. As ingredients increased, soba was flavored with yakisoba sauce and furthermore, sometimes, the surface was also coated with the sauce. Depending upon the districts the sauce changed to okonomiyaki sauce, but the way of cooking itself still remains the same in some districts. As the ingredients increased, it was necessary to thicken up the taste of the sauce and the sauce company was lobbied. And the sedimentary liquid produced from the sauce making came to be used and furthermore sweetened, flavored or thickened and developed into the present okonomiyaki sauce.
To improve the appearance, the two-folded form was changed to a disk-shape. At first it was just a snack, but it changed into a staple food. And it became the present Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki around 1955. The completed form of okonomiyaki did not appear suddenly. Because they operated food stalls in those days, the secrets of the other shops were easily given away and they were influenced by each other and developed into the present form.
As for the names, regular names did not exist at first. As the favorite (konomi) ingredients were put in, they were called konomiyaki, but they thought the name was not appropriate and added "o" to the name and the name okonomiyaki seems to have appeared. The name spontaneously emerged.
Characteristically they grill the ingredients such as cabbage without mixing it with the dough, which is because they are following the tradition of issen yoshoku.
How to cook (an example)
The way of cooking Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki changed in the process of formation. Thus, depending upon the areas or further on the shops, the way of cooking is different from each other. The typical example of cooking is below.
Put a moderate amount of water into some flour and let it stand in a refrigerator for more than three hours and make the dough. The reason for letting it stand is to stabilize the gluten and do not add yamaimo. If you add yamaimo, following Kansai-style, the dough is likely to break.
Without mixing the ingredients in with the dough, spread the dough on a relatively low temperature iron plate slowly, thinly, circularly, concentrically and push-outward like when making a crepe, using the tadpole (a hemispherical ladle whose flat part is small is not appropriate). Kaeshi' (turning it over) is said to be difficult in Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki, but in fact the stage when the dough is spread decides more than half of the completed ones. If the dough is not stable, the last cooking process kaeshi is difficult and if the dough spread on an iron plate boils, thickens or hardens too much, you have to adjust the temperature of the iron plate, the density of the dough and the way of spreading and try again from the start.
When the surface dries a little, sprinkle some shavings of dried fish in a circular manner.
Pile up sliced cabbage as a basic ingredient, put bean sprouts on it and season it further with salt and pepper. At this time water from the cabbage permeate the dough and thus it is desirable for the surface of the dough to be dry to some degree and have both hardness and softness before putting the cabbage on. And it is not necessary to be in a hurry to perform the following procedures.
Put your favorite ingredients on the dough (pork or fried squid - note: raw squid, oyster, mochi etc. have been added recently), sprinkle a bit of tenkasu, green onion, and fish powder and add a little dough as a thickener. And put slices of pork with lots of fat on top of it. These slices of pork play a supportive role for the ingredients when turning it over and after it's turned over they are at the lowest position, preventing the ingredients from burning and enhancing the flavor because fat permeates all the ingredients.
By turning it over, cover the ingredients with the dough and scallop it by strengthening the heat a little. The 'kaeshi' needs a bit of knack. When you pick it up, do not turn it over like an avalanche; instead turn it over like you are rolling it to your side just before the highest point when picking it up, keeping the upward momentum and then you can prevent the mess of ingredients. Once you are used to it, the place where you pick it up will be the same place you put it down. It is an important point to smother it for about eight minutes until the cabbage is cooked and steamed without bearing down on it. When you use noodles such as yakisoba and so on, fry them with sauce next to it.
Shape it slightly from above with an instrument such as a large spatula and drain the vegetables of some of its juice. When adding noodles, when it is grilled up well, put it over the noodles which are spread (however, there is controversy regarding whether the noodles should be sandwiched in).
Next to it, hen's eggs (1 to 3 eggs for one piece) are grilled sunny-side up. At this moment, butt the yolk with a spatula and spread it to the same degree as the dough (you can scoop it with a spatula). When the hen's eggs are not grilled up and raw, put the okonomiyaki over the eggs. So the surface is covered with the eggs. When the eggs are cooked up, turn it over, coat the egg surface (if possible, using a brush) with the sauce (seasoning) and sprinkle it with aonori-ko, shavings of dried fish and squid powder, if you like them. Usually beni-shoga is not used.
Opinion is divided about pressing it when grilled up. The reason why they grill it without pressing is that if it is pressed, the air or water will exude, heat conduction worsens, the taste or textures spoiled and so, it is desirable not to press it when possible. As for grilling without pressing, during the eighties okonomiyaki was recognized as a specialty and the famous shops were introduced on TV and so on and thus the way of cooking 'it is better not to press' seems to have been regarded as orthodox. And in the program called "Tameshite Gatten" (Experience and Understand) broadcast by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) in 2006, experiments were conducted and it was scientifically confirmed that to steam without pressing enhances the sweetness and flavor of cabbage. On the other hand, the reason why pressing is preferred lies in the problem concerning efficiency for the shops. Naturally it is grilled up earlier when pressed. For the similar reason cabbages are shredded. Some people prefer the cabbage cut into relatively larger pieces like they used to be. However, originally the okonomiyaki has various characters depending on the shops and some shops press it strongly with a spatula or with a weight (iron) for exclusive use from long ago.
The shops that grill it by pressing, state the reason being that 'it is cooked up crisply and becomes delicious because the tastes of vegetables are condensed.'
And in some shops which serve king size okonomiyaki a huge amount of ingredients such as cabbage are sometimes put on and thus it cannot be turned over unless pressed, and therefore, we can not decide which is better; pressed or not pressed.
Common ingredients: cabbage (large amount), bean sprouts, bonito powder (fish powder), pork (slices of parts that include relatively much fat in the pork back ribs and so on), yakisoba (mostly ramen), udon, hen's eggs (spread more thinly than sunny-side up eggs).
The ingredients as toppings: fried squid, raw squid, green onion, raw shrimp, mochi, cheese, Hiroshima oyster (shellfish), kimuchi, garlic, Chinese chive, natto (fermented soybeans), ginger, corn, mayonnaise and so on.
Some people put cheese or raw green onion in the dough and grill it, but raw green onion is crunchy and has a good flavor and so it is more delicious as a topping.
Usually Japanese leeks (edible plant, Allium bakeri, Allium Chinese) are not included.
In the case of Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki, when you say 'ika' (squid) it refers not to raw squid as in the other regions, but to the snack 'ika furai' (snack of squid coated with bread crumbs) often mixed and cooked. Tenkasu of ika furai is used as agedama and tenkasu flavored with the dough blending squid powder and a bit of broken pieces of fried squid are blended and used as agedama. The okonomiyaki which includes raw squid is distinctly described as 'nama ika' (raw squid) in a menu.
Also in the well-established shops in Mihara City, 'ika furai' which fries noshiika (flattened dried cuttlefish) is often called 'noshiika' to distinguish it from 'nama ika.'
After frying noodles for yakisoba or noodles such as udon and so on with a slightly salty taste, they are often incorporated to okonomiyaki and grilled up. Except in the Hiroshima region, in order to distinguish the okonomiyaki including these noodles from Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, it is generally called 'hiroshimayaki' (Hiroshima-style savory pancake with various ingredients) but people in Hiroshima never use this word. They call it okonomiyaki simply or Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki and even if you say hiroshimayaki, they do not understand it at once. On the contrary, except in Hiroshima, Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki often refers to the one that literally incorporates the Hiroshima style and where the dough is thick or the one which is similar to 'hiroshimafu-okonomi pizza' (Hiroshima-style savory pancake with various ingredients) and many people in Hiroshima are disappointed. Also, the word 'modanyaki' (thin and flat pancake cooked on a hot plate with pieces of meat, seafood and chopped cabbage) in Kansai style (including soba) does not make sense in Hiroshima at all. However, in Mihara City, Hiroshima Prefecture, some shops call Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki, which includes soba or udon, modanyaki.
The choice between soba (Chinese noodles) and udon depends on individual tastes, but in general soba is thinner and has lower water content and so the texture becomes crisp and fragrant. Udon has a sticky texture and higher water content and so, if those who are not good at cooking grill it, the finished one tends to be watery. To put it the other way around, while the one containing soba can be grilled well to some degree by anybody, those who can grill the one containing udon well are very good cooks and so you can guess the level of cooking skills of the okonomiyaki shops to some degree by ordering the one that includes udon.
As for the sauce, the manufacturer in Hiroshima OTAFUKU SAUCE Co., Ltd. supports the opening of the okonomiyaki shops and that sauce is used most. The taste is a bit sweet. And some shops use the sauces of the other local manufacturers such as Carp Sauce (a brand of oyster sauce) (a bit spicy), Mitsuwa sauce (a brand of oyster sauce) of Sunfoods Co., Ltd., Hiroshimajaken (a brand of oyster sauce) of Sennari Co., Ltd., Tengu sauce (a brand of oyster sauce) of Nakama Jozo K.K. in Mihara City and so on and various types of sauces are used. The way to see what kind of the sauce is used in the shops is chiefly to check the noren (a short -split- curtain hung at the entrance of a room) put at the entrance of the shops because these sauce companies make the noren with their name printed on it and provide the shops which buy the sauce with it. Recently many shops set up a nobori (flag, banner, streamer) too and so it is easy to check. And the instruments, such as spatulas used when eating okonomiyaki, also have the company name on them. Especially in Hiroshima City there are lots of small-scale shops because they were supported by these sauce companies to open the shops after the war and thus 'housewives in the neighborhood' could open the shops at a low price as a kind of part-time job after refurbishing some parts of their houses. Some shops blend the sauces of each company (for example, Worcester sauce is blended, based on OTAFUKU SAUCE, and so on) and it is enjoyable to visit many okonomiyaki shops.
When the sauce for okonomiyaki was first produced or by what company, is not altogether clear. However, it is highly possible that OTAFUKU SAUCE Co., Ltd., Sunfoods Co. (Higashimaru sauce (a brand of oyster sauce) or Mitsuwa sauce) or Carp Sauce first produced the sauce.
Hiroshima prefecture was the original area producing vinegar and they could apply the technique to the production of the sauce, which, they think, led to the prosperity of the sauce manufacturers and played a role for the spread of okonomiyaki. In fact, many sauce manufacturers such as OTAFUKU SAUCE Co., Ltd., Sennari Co., Ltd. are rooted as a vinegar brewery and even now they produce both the sauce and vinegar.
In Osaka many shops use mayonnaise while in Kobe which sticks to the traditional okonomiyaki many shops do not have mayonnaise and even if they have it, it is not often served unless someone specifically orders it and it's the same in Hiroshima. The shops that put self-service mayonnaise on the table have increased even in the okonomiyaki shops, but even now, depending upon the shops, it is sometimes necessary to pay an extra fee for it and in this case, for example, individually-packaged mayonnaise sticks are served.
Recently in the shops for young people, the mayonnaise is put on when served, but, depending upon the preference or age group, many people do not like it. One theory is the leading one; that the major chain stores TOKUGAWA (okonomiyaki chain store), located in Hiroshima and sold mainly Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, used mayonnaise around 1960. However, now the young people who put mayonnaise on every type of food, called mayorar (mayonnaise addict), have increased and there is TV influence across Japan and the takoyaki (octopus dumplings) of rotensho (stallholder) includes mayonnaise on, and there is no conclusive theory.
How to order
The menus in the shops in Hiroshima have descriptions such as okonomiyaki, soba (udon), niku (meat) and tamago (egg), but the customers order without saying all of them, but saying 'niku, tama, soba (udon) iri (included),' 'soba (udon) and niku tama' (as for tamago, they do not say tamago but 'tama'), 'soba (udon) and niku ikaten.'
(In local areas, they order by saying something like 'Obachan! "niku tama soba de ika" irete yaite ya,' meaning 'I'd like my okonomiyaki with meat, egg, soba and squid, please."')
And sometimes the W is written under soba (udon), which means double soba (udon) or two packs (two tama). It is not recommended for small eaters because of the volume.
When you order 'chanpon,' the okonomiyaki which includes both soba and udon one-by-one is served. It is also called Mix-Double.
In Hiroshima Prefecture, you can order take out and it is put in the styrol box. Then you have to pay about 50 yen extra, the cost of the container. If you call some shops in advance, you can order take out and you won't have to wait for it.
How to eat
As for Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki, the spatulas are used when eating. Every okonomiyaki shop in Hiroshima in past times was small-scale, cramped and narrow (see the reason in the section 'Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki sauce'). There were narrow shops with no seats except around the iron plate and the customers ate from the iron plate using spatulas. In the earliest days of okonomiykaki, wooden chopsticks were used, but they were expensive and were replaced with the spatulas and the customers were delighted with them. And as another reason, the shops that were originally food stalls make the customers eat it on the iron plate so it was not necessary for the shops to wash dishes because traditionally the shops had cut down the water used for washing the dishes. Recently large-scale shops have increased and the tables and seats have also increased and the customers need to acquire the knack for using the spatulas when eating and the tourists from the other regions have also increased, and thus many shops have served chopsticks. Just before grilling it up, many shops ask the customers whether they want to eat from 'the iron plate' (using spatulas) or from 'a dish' (using chopsticks). Some recommend that Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki should be eaten from an 'iron plate' because it is hot and delicious and has a unique stratified structure and the customers can enjoy it at one bite, and others say that eating it with spatulas smells like iron, which means there are good or bad points.
In Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, the majority eat it using small spatulas, but some eat using chopsticks. There are some shops where there is an explanatory description 'eating with chopsticks' (Tsuruhashi Fugetsu (Japanese-style pancake restaurant)) and others where spatulas are recommended.
Also in Hiroshima Prefecture, the way of cooking varies from one area to another. In the east areas of Hiroshima Prefecture (Bingo Province) which is near the prefecture's border with Okayama Prefecture such as Fukuyama City and so on, there are many Kansaifu-okonomiyaki shops because of the vicinity to the Kinki region such as Hyogo Prefecture. In the Bingo Province area where Kansaifu-okonomiyaki was originally mainstream, Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki later became widespread. And in this area some shops add eccentric ingredients. Before on the cookery program, Chizuru AZUMA from Innoshima City, adding konjac (alimentary yam paste) in okonomiyaki, said 'in Hiroshima it is added,' but only in this area. In Fuchu City (Hiroshima Prefecture), ground meat or minced meat are added instead of pork back ribs and it is called 'Fuchu yaki' (Japanese pancake). Many local mothers worked for the manufactures of furniture or paulownia boxes which were the local industry and their children ate okonomiyaki as a snack or supper and in order for the children to be able to buy it with their pocket money, cheap minced pork and beef began to be used instead of pork ribs. If minced meats are cooked well, the soup stock exudes, the taste increases, the fat also exudes a lot and characteristically the noodles are fried crisply. In order for as many okonomiyaki to be grilled as possible on a narrow iron plate, their shape is elliptical. And in Onomichi City some shops add gizzards and in Kure City many shops add udon.
Culture in Hiroshima
Okonomiyaki can be cooked on a hot plate in the household, however, compared to Kansaifu-okonomiyaki which is popular as a common home-cooked meal in the Kansai region, Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki is oriented to be 'professionally cooked' or 'eaten in specialty shops.'
This is because Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki puts far more amount of vegetables than that of Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, is less likely to be cooked because of thickness and thus the low heat in the household can not extract water from the vegetables and so the finished one is watery, a bit of skill is necessary for turning it over, and the iron plate, which is wide enough to be able to grill the dough, soba, egg, etc., at the same time, is necessary. In Hiroshima there are few shops which are half self-service like Kansaifu-okonomiyaki shops, but mostly the shop staff cooks from start to finish and the finished one is served to the customer.
Formerly in the shops it was usually eaten in the daytime and not after dusk or at night. This seems to be because the students often ate it at the shops after school was over in half a day on Saturdays. At night the okonomiyaki shops in town are quiet and close relatively early. Also, this influenced from many housewives who had operated the shop business as an additional job, as mentioned before. That is, many okonomiyaki shops were operated in the daytime when family members were not at home, where husbands worked in a company outside and wives ran the okonomiyaki shops.
Nowadays, large-scale okonomiyaki shops have opened and such small-scale shops have disappeared. When the sightseeing tours such as school trips go to Hiroshima City, 'okonomi mura' (okonomiyaki village) is included in the itinerary and so on, which is roaring even at night as a tourist site in the central part of the city.
Though people from Hiroshima Prefecture live in Tokyo and say 'Let's eat okonomiyaki' to their colleagues at lunch time, they do not agree with them, saying 'it is unusual to eat okonomiyaki in the daytime.'
One of the reasons is that especially office workers in sales want to avoid their clothes from becoming smelly from okonomiyaki.
The difference between the professional and household processes.
Those who are good at cooking may try to cook it at home, but the heat of hot plates on shelves and common stove burners may not be hot enough.
Normally it is desirable to prepare burners for the professional shops, but in ordinary households, it is desirable to prepare more than two stove burners (if possible, four stove burners) and an iron plate which can cover them at one stretch (one used for barbeque and when camping is OK).
(Naturally, you have to be careful about ventilation.)
Spatulas sold in home centers are indispensable for cooking (using turners, it is highly possible to fail). The method of straddling and using a portable gas burner should be absolutely avoided because of the safety hazards.
And the way of cooking by the IH heater in an all-electric home has not been established yet.
As mentioned before, shops that prepare mayonnaise in are on the increase, but basically the seasonings on the table (in the iron-plate-only shops, beside the iron plate) are the sauces only. However, among them, some shops prepare pepper (white peppers), cayenne pepper powder, shichimi togarashi (a mixture of red cayenne pepper and other aromatic spices) or garlic powder.
As Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki covers the taste sufficiently only with the sweetness of cabbages, unlike Kansaifu-okonomiyaki they do not mix the dashi broth soup in the dough (fish powder is sometimes strewn on the dough), is rarely strewn with sliced dried bonito and dried bonito shavings because they are not often put on the table.
In Iwate Prefecture, they mix the ingredients with the dough, grill it very thinly, put a large sheet of dried laver seaweed on it, coat it with soy sauce and eat it, which is called dondonyaki.
The ingredients include sakura shrimp (Sergia lucens), green onion and so on, which is relatively few. In the food stalls, the dondon-yaki is sold by putting it between kyogis (paper-thin sheet of wood).
It is classified as okonomiyaki due to the ingredients and the way of cooking, but the texture and taste are similar to isobe-yaki (grilled food wrapped in nori).
In Sendai City or Yamagata City, dondon-yaki is eaten.
An iron plate is installed at each table and in many shops the customers grill by themselves. Compared with Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, it has more amounts of "thickener" such as flour and so on.
The way of cutting is not in sainome (diced) or Kansai style, but often in a radial fashion like cutting a 'pizza.'
And in Kansai the added ingredients are generally referred to as 'XX ten' instead of calling them 'XX tama' and this is thought to be because of the vestige of the time when an egg was an optional ingredient as in monjayaki.
Around Tsukishima around 1960, there were about five monjayaki shops. Now the toppings have lots of varieties such as cheese, mochi, mentaiko (salted cod roe spiced with red pepper), the toppings for pizza and so on. As for the topping sauce, the shops have used medium thick sauce from long ago, but ketchup or mayonnaise were also used in the household from long ago. Formerly sakura shrimp, sliced squid, yakisoba and beni-shoga, which are almost the same ingredients as monjayaki, are regularly used, but now countless kinds of ingredients are used. In north Kanto, there is a kind of okonomiyaki called Gyoda no furai (Gyoda's fry).
Sometimes in Totominokuni, tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables) such as takuan (pickled daikon radish) and so on, beni-shoga, minced green onion are mixed in the dough and like oden (a Japanese dish containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc.) in old Shizuoka City, it was eaten in mom-and-pop candy stores. Like in Nagoya City, the ingredients and the dough are mixed and grilled.
As for the difference between okonomiyaki in Nagoya City and Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, in the former, after mixing the ingredients such as meat and so on with the dough they are grilled, but in the latter, the ingredients like meat are put on the dough afterward. The usage rate of the seasoning manufacturer in Nagoya City KAGOME CO., LTD's Okonomiyaki Sauce is high. Likewise, the seasoning manufacturer in Nagoya City Komi Co., Ltd. sells "Koku Uma Okonomiyaki Sauce" which includes akadashi miso (special red miso - bean paste) as okonomiyaki sauce for family use. Many people are impressed that miso is put in the okonomiyaki sauce as may be expected in Nagoya.
In the food courts and so on in supermarkets or home centers, okonomiyaki is often sold in two folded way like the earliest Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki and wrapped with tin foil. However, unlike Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki which wraps noodles up in crepe-like dough, many have no noodles and are thick like Kansaifu-okonomiyaki or Tokaifu-okonomiyaki. And many shops keep the price low to the 100-yen level by decreasing the amount. This is because, as one theory, the shops made it for the students who were a bit hungry to be able to take it out easily and eat it soon and keep their hands clean.
In the Kinki region centering on Osaka and Kobe, beef is often used as the ingredient. Except for sliced beef, in Nagata Ward Kobe City, the stewed cow line meat called 'sujikon' is regarded as the specialty and in several areas it is common to use oil cake (food).
In Kishiwada City Osaka Prefecture, there is the mazeyaki called 'kashiminyaki' (Japanese pancake), which uses chicken and beef fat as ingredients.
Okonomiyaki that includes green onion such as nikuten in Kobe City Hyogo Prefecture, negiyaki in Osaka City are also popular.
In Tondabayashi City Osaka Prefecture, there is the okonomiyaki, called 'butaroyaki' (Japanese pancake), which uses pork steak.
In Kobe City, nimaigai (bivalve, a purple Washington clam) called 'ogai' (big shell) is also often used.
In Kyoto City Sakyo Ward, there is also 'hakusai (napa cabbage) okonomiyaki' that uses napa cabbage instead of regular cabbage.
In Bizen City area Okayama Prefecture (especially Hinase-cho), there is okonomiyaki called Hinasefu, Hinaseyaki and so on which is uniquely grilled and in particular okonomiyaki called 'kakioko' (Japanese pancake), in which Okayama Prefecture's local product oyster is included is a specialty. And when the oyster is not in season, the okonomiyaki called 'ebioko' (using shrimp instead of oyster) is famously served.
In Asakuchi City Okayama Prefecture, there is okonomiyaki of bachi (called 'bachioko' following kakioko), where a large amount of bachi (the by-product of hand-stretched fine white noodles of Bicchu) is added to the dough. The noodle making factories dotting the city invented it, catering to the customers who want bachi. Also in the city which is an oyster production area like Hinase, following kakioko in Hinase, shops serving oyster-included okonomiyaki have appeared.
In the south parts of Bigo Province in the eastern parts of Hiroshima Prefecture, centering on Fuchu City (Hiroshima Prefecture), there is okonomiyaki called Fuchufu-okonomiyaki or Fuchuyaki, which includes minced pork.
In four prefectures in Shikoku, mostly Kansaifu-okonomiyaki, that is, mazeyaki, is mainstream.
When people in Shikoku go to Hiroshima Prefecture on business or on a sightseeing trip and eat Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki for the first time, many of them are still shocked at it.
Though they know Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki, some say, 'it looks rather like omusoba (fried noodles wrapped in an omelette)' and some Shikoku women say, 'there is little of the powder dough like Kansaifu-okonomiyaki and while eating, cabbage or other ingredients are scattered and it looks dirty' and they seem to dare not eat it.
However, on the other hand, in Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki, the ratio of cabbage is high and the ratio of carbohydrate can be modulated by the amount of soba, which is healthy, and so the choice of women is moving towards Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki.
In most of the shops the customers grill it by themselves at the table furnished with an iron plate (as for modanyaki, it is troublesome to mix the dough with noodles and so the staff grills it in the kitchen and serves the finished one), but mostly, until grilled up, a set of the spatulas, chopsticks and small dishes are served to the customer by the shop and the spatulas are used only for turning it over and cutting it up and the chopsticks are used by many when eating.
If the customer follows the gourmet and tries to eat it using the spatula, in many shops, the shop staff recommends they use chopsticks when eating, saying 'it is troublesome and you might get burned.'
Also in the shops where the staff grills it in the kitchen, it is common to serve chopsticks, not spatulas.
Mostly the sauce is OTAFUKU SAUCE. In every shop mayonnaise is served, but in the shops where the staff cooks and serves okonomiyaki, without spreading mayonnaise on the dough with the spatula after saucing, they put the sauce, aonori-ko, sliced dried bonito on the dough and after that, mayonnaise is put over all the dough or in the center, or in the shops where the customers grills by themselves at the table, in order for them to be able to put mayonnaise on by preference, a little sachet of it is often served additionally. In this case, the sauces, aonori-ko and sliced dried bonito are also prepared on the table in most of the shops.
In Ehime Prefecture, which has interacted with Hiroshima Prefecture across the Seto Inland Sea from long ago, the shops which serve Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki have increased recently. However, in relations with nautical traffic and nowadays the logistical path such as Shimanami Kaido and the Seto-ohashi Bridge which links Kagawa Prefecture and Okayama Prefecture, there are just a few shops which serve Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki in Matsuyama City or in that neighborhood, which are in so-called Chuyo region, or in the Toyo region which is close to Kagawa Prefecture. Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki which can be stored for quite a while as a souvenir is sold at JR Matsuyama Station or Matsuyama Kanko Port which is the departure and arrival port for the hydrofoil for Hiroshima Prefecture (currently called Super Jet) and the ferries.
When you say 'tama iri' in the okonomiyaki shops in Kagawa Prefecture, it mostly refers to the modanyaki that includes a pack of Sanuki udon (udon noodles from Kagawa Prefecture). If you want soba-tama, not udon-tama, you must say 'soba iri' or 'modan with soba' in advance because if you do not say it, some shops willy-nilly serve modanyaki with udon, so you must be careful.
Okonomiyaki is not so popular in Kagawa Prefecture. This is because most of them are, as we say, 'short tempered about food' and think 'the sooner the food is served and eaten, the better it is' as seen in the popularity of the self-service udon shops.
In Tokushima Prefecture, okonomiyaki with unique ingredients is served, such as mandarin orange, sweetly simmered kidney bean, yogurt, roundly fried 'tenpura' (deep-fried fish and vegetables in a light batter), deep-fried breaded cutlet of fish.
In Fukuoka City, there is okonomiyaki where the dough is about two centimeters thick and chewy. The sauce, coal tar-like and sticky, is used. Characteristically a large amount of mayonnaise which is white custard-like is used. The sunny-side up egg whose yolk is broken is often embedded and the way the dough is added and the surface is grilled crisply.
Omuta and Arao region
In Omuta City Fukuoka Prefecture and Arao City Kumamoto Prefecture, okonomiyaki called 'dago' (savoury pancake with various ingredients) is eaten. As for the number of okonomiyaki shops per population in seven prefectures of Kyushu, Omuta City ranks in the first and Arao City in the second and the junior-high school students are often seen to drop in the okonomiyaki shops on their way home from school. Basically they are Osaka style, but among them, there are some shops which basically serve Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki or monjayaki.
In Okinawa Prefecture, there is grilled food that is thinner than okonomiyaki, called 'hirayachi' (savoury pancake with various ingredients).
The similar food eaten with chopsticks.
One that winds okonomiyaki around a chopstick.
In addition, there are those that thread elongated okonomiyaki onto chopsticks around Japan.
Okonomiyaki outside of Japan
In Taiwan, the square-shaped okonomiyaki called 'Osaka-yaki' (日式大阪焼), which is localized, is widely sold at food stalls.
In South Korea, there is food called "jijimgae," similar to okonomiyaki.
Frozen meals and the others
Frozen meals, quick-frozen okonomiyaki are sold by food manufacturers, sauce manufacturers and famous okonomiyaki shops. They have both Kansaifu-okonomiyaki and Hiroshimafu-okonomiyaki and are popular because of convenience.
And at the major JR stations (Matsuyama Station and Hiroshima Station) in Ehime Prefecture and Hiroshima Prefecture and at Matsuyama Kanko Port and Hiroshima Port (Ujina Port) which are the ports for ships of both prefectures, okonomiyaki for souvenirs, that can be stored to some degree even at normal temperature, is also sold and is popular among tourists and businessmen, who say 'after buying it, it is not necessary to worry that it must be frozen.'