What is okonomiyaki? >>Find Okonomiyaki, Monja RestaurantsOkonomiyaki is a tried and true favorite of Japanese cuisine. Almost everyone who tries it likes it.
Okonomiyaki is a type of Teppanyaki cuisine. Okonomi means "your favorite" or "what you want," and Yaki means “grilled”. It's basically a batter that is mixed with various ingredients, such as meat, seafood, vegetables and then fried on a hot pan. Really, it's an anything-goes cuisnine. Part of the fun of okonomiyaki is that you cook it yourself, so you can prepare it exactly as you want. When okonomiyaki is in its completed pancake-like form, you can drizzle it with special sauce, mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried bonito shaving), or ao-nori (green seaweed). Sounds good, huh?
Why is okonomiyaki so popular?Part of the draw of okonomiyaki is that it's the perfect food to eat with friends. It's like pizza; it's more fun when there's a crowd. Plus, when you have a large group of people, you can try okonomiyaki with several different ingredients. But wait, what if you're worried about gaining weight? No problem. While it seems like the sauce, mayonnaise, and meat would make okonomiyaki a high calorie dish, it's actually very health. Each okonomiyaki contains about 570 calories, and you can make it healthier by adding ingredients like natto.
Kansai Style vs. Hiroshima Style >>Find Okonomiyaki, Monja RestaurantsThere are two famous ways of cooking okonomiyaki. The first, Kansai style, is flat; the ingredients are mixed in the batter. Generally, the term okonomiyaki refers to the Kansai style. However, Hiroshima style is cooked so that ingredients, like Chinese noodles, eggs and cabbage, are in layers instead of mixed together. If you imagine yakisoba covered with okonomiyaki, you'll have the basic gist of Hiroshima style. Both styles are prepared in Tokyo, the center of Japan's gourmet scene. Try both style while you're in Tokyo.
How to OrderThere's only one rule when you're ordering okonomiyaki; order exactly what you want. Generally, okonomiyaki restaurants offer ingredient like pork, beef, shrimp and squid. Some offer less common ingredients such as natto. Menus items including more than one ingredient are called "mix menu," such as "seafood mix" or "zenbu (all) mix." Try them all and find a combination that's uniquely you.
- Pork or Seafood Mix: This is the staple okonomiyaki dish.
- Mochi (glutinous rice): Mochi isn't just for sweets. Try your okonomiyaki with this unique Japanese ingredient, and enjoy the chewy texture and the mild taste.
- Mentaiko (cod roe): Roe adds a unique salty taste loved among the Japanese.
How do you to eat it?Okonomiyaki is served in one of two ways. Either you can cook it for yourself, or the staff can cook it for you. The former is more common in Tokyo.
If you want to experience cooking okonomiyaki, look for restaurants that specialize in that style. It will definitely be a memorable experience. But, if you're interested in good okonomiyaki cooked by trained staff, look for restaurants serving that style. Okonomiyaki cooked by professionals tends to look and taste better. The price is almost the same in either way.
How to Cook itIf you're up to the chalenge of cooking your own okonomiyaki, follow this handy guide.
1. Though your server will probably help you with this, heat the oil in the pan.
2. Remove the meat from the other ingredients.
3. Stir up the remaining ingredients. Make sure to stir it up quickly to let air into the batter. By doing so, the okonomiyaki will be soft once cooked.
4. Pour the batter on the pan.
5. Using the small spatulas, round the batter. The key to making good-looking okonomiyaki is to shape it gently from the edges, as shown in the picture below.
6. When it has been shaped, lay the meat on top of it.
7. Grill it until the bottom turns light brown (approximately 5 minutes).
8. Flip it over. This is the most difficult and important step. The key is to do it in one shot without hesitating. Flipping it lets the meat cook, and let's the juices spread throughout the okonomiyaki. Grill it until this side too turns light brown (approximately 5 minutes).
9. Flip it over again for good measure. If you wish to grill it evenly, flip it a few more times. Flipping it twice, however, is quite enough.
10. Top it with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, ao-nori, and katsuobushi.
11. Divide it among yourselves and dig in!
Hiroshima StyleCharacteristicly, the ingredients aren't mixed into the batter. Instead, the ingredients top the okonomiyaki, kind of like crape. Typical Hiroshima style ingredients include noodles and cabbage. Since the ingredients are less compact, Hrioshima style okinomiyaki has more volume than Kansai style. Most restaurant staff members can help you cook them.
How do you order it?Again, choose the Okonomiyaki ingredients that suit your taste. In contrast to Kansai style, you generally, choose the type of noodle as well.
Examples include "Pork" and "Soba" or "Seafood Mix" and "Udon."
You don’t know Monja-yaki? >>Find Okonomiyaki, Monja RestaurantsSushi, tempura, sukiyaki. If that’s your list of Japanese food, you’re forgetting something. For those of you who are thinking, “During my stay in Tokyo, I want to eat some Japanese food that’s really authentic!” why not try Tsukishima’s monja-yaki? Monja-yaki in particular is truly a dish that comes from deep in the heart of Japanese cuisine.
What’s Monja-yaki?Dissolve flour in water, add Worcester sauce, mix in cabbage, your preference of meat and/or seafood and grill all of it together on an iron plate. Just when it turns crispy and burns around the edges, use a small spatula to eat it straight off the grill. That’s monja-yaki. Not quite clear yet? Let me try to explain again.
Monja-yaki, fundamentally, is a dish with a fun do-it-yourself style. There’s a big iron plate set in your table, with oil and some condiments in containers on the side. Places are set with a small plate, chopsticks, and a little metal spatula for each person. After you order, all the ingredients come already mixed together in a big bowl. Now, it’s all up to you to cook your own monja-yaki (though in most restaurants, if absolutely no one in your party feels up to the challenge, it’s alright to ask your waiter to show you how to make the first one). So let’s move on to explaining just how to go about doing this:
How to cook Monja-yaki? >>Find Okonomiyaki, Monja Restaurants1. Pour oil on the metal plate and spread it thinly over the surface with the spatula (There should be a container of oil waiting on your table already). Then, wait until the plate is hot.
2. Once the plate is hot, dump the main ingredients onto the plate to stir-fry. Make sure to only put the main ingredients on the plate at this time—don’t pour any of the monja-yaki broth (called ‘tane’) at the bottom of the bowl onto the iron plate now. You’ll get to the tane later; right now, just stir fry.
3. Stir-fry the meat and/or seafood and the cabbage separately. This is to ensure that everything—the meat especially—cooks all the way through. Grill the meat on both sides until it’s done. Using larger table spatulas, chop the cabbage finely and stir-fry it on the metal plate. Chopping it on the hot plate brings out its flavor; the cabbage tastes better if you do it like this so even though it comes cut up for you, chop at it on the iron plate too.
4. Once the meat is done and the cabbage becomes soft, mix the meat and cabbage together on the plate with a spatula. This lets the different flavors permeate through the whole dish. Then, make a little bank with a well in the middle out of the meat and vegetables on the grill. Don’t let it sit so long that it burns, but check to make sure there are no gaps in the embankment. It’s best to have a big hole in the middle, like in the picture below.
5. Pour all the tane, the monja-yaki broth, into the center of the well. Be sure to pour carefully as the sudden addition of the broth may cause the banks to burst or overflow.
6. Once all the monja-yaki broth has been poured into the middle, let the broth come to a simmer and wait until it thickens.
7. Then, once the tane has thickened, break the bank of meat and veggies and mix them together with the broth in the middle. Stir-fry briskly until the monja-yaki has a uniform consistency.
8. Now that you’ve mixed everything together, spread the resultant mixture out thinly across the metal plate. There’s a knack to spreading it out well; you’ll get the hang of the more you try, but what’s important is to try to spread it out as thinly as possible. Keep in mind that monja-yaki isn’t supposed to be as thick as okonomiyaki, and keep it thin. If the edges turn crispy quickly, then you’ve done it right.
9. All that’s left is to sprinkle shichimi and seaweed flakes over the monja-yaki (there isn’t any right amount, just add to taste), and your monja-yaki is perfect!! Use the little spatula to tear parts off and eat it straight off the spatula. It’s not at all necessary to move the monja-yaki to a plate first, and it’s better hot. Monja-yaki tastes its best when it’s just a little burnt around the edges.
Still hungry?Monja-yaki started out as a snack you could get at cheap sweet shops. Since there’s a lot of water in it, one or two might not fill you up. That’s ok though; why not take the opportunity to go with a big party, order a lot of different varieties, and all share with each other? It gives you the chance to try a lot of different flavors without having to eat all of them by yourself. And it’s a lot more fun that way too.
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