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Okonomiyaki & Monjayaki July 5, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Okonomiyaki & Monjayaki” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-r1

Okonomiyaki is a food that started in Kansai, the region around Osaka.  Translated, “to ones liking”, it’s a dish that cannot be explained easily.  The first time I ever had this dish it was explained to me as a Japanese pancake.  While this is true for some people, it’s not how I would explain it.  For me, I chose the second most popular way, Japanese pizza.  The dish itself has a base of cabbage and batter.  From there, things get very complicated.  You can add sliced meat, typically bacon or you can add soba noodles, egg, or pretty much anything you want.  There are hundreds of different ways you can prepare it, and various regional styles.

The first thing to notice is the atmosphere of the restaurants themselves.  The typical restaurant can look very dirty, and it tends to be a little intimidating as many of the staff won’t speak any English.  You will often sit at a table with a large black teppan in the middle.  This is where you will cook the okonomiyaki.  There are higher class shops where you will be served in a teppanyaki style.  Instead of a teppan in the middle of your table, you might sit at a counter where a chef will stand.  Separating you and the chef will be a large teppan where the chef will cook up all of your food.  The final style is almost exactly like a restaurant.  All you have to do is sit, order, and possibly watch the chef make your okonomiyaki which is cooked in an open kitchen.

If you choose to enter a shop where there is a teppan at your table, you can usually get someone to make the okonomiyaki for you, but it can be more fun to do it yourself.  Generally, the kansai version is the only one that people make at their table.  You will get a small bowl with batter at the bottom, and various vegetables, meat, and seafood on top.  To make this, all you have to do is mix it up very well, add oil to the teppan, and pour it on into a pancake shape.  Once the okonomiyaki is brown on one side, flip it over and add the various toppings.  The brown sauce is first, followed by dried green onions, and finally, bonito flakes.  Typically, you eat the okonomiyaki on the table, straight from the teppan.  You don’t really need to use a plate, but if you are like me, you need to because eating from the teppan is too hot!

The second most popular style of okonomiyaki is the Hiroshimayaki.  It’s a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.  This version of okonomiyaki is very different.  Rather than mixing everything together, they tend to put things in layers.  You will usually add a fried egg and noodles, but this isn’t always the case.  This style of okonomiyaki is more popular in festivals where you can fold it in half and it looks a lot better when on display.  It does take a lot more time to cook, but for myself, I enjoy this more than the traditional Kansai version.

There is also a Kanto, Tokyo area, version of okonomiyaki, but they don’t say okonomiyaki.  They call it monjayaki, or monja for short.  This is very different from okonomiyaki; it is similar to a cousin.  The food itself is not like a pancake, but rather closer to slop.  Unlike okonomiyaki, you generally only get this with a teppan, as you must eat it directly from the teppan.  When served, you have to start a little differently.  You start off taking all of the vegetables and meat and placing it into a ring shape.  As it cooks, it will form a small barrier.  You should also add a little liquid to help “seal” the bottom.  Once it’s mostly cooked, you add the rest of the liquid to the centre of the ring and cook it for a few more minutes.  Once it has reduced a little, you can mix everything and you’ll have a sloppy mess.  You will have your own personal spatula to eat with.  You can either scoop a bunch up into a plate, or eat like a Japanese person “should”.  There is a technique that must be seen to understand, but basically, you bake it onto your spatula and pick it up in one scoop.  It’s kind of like eating the burnt bits, or the browned bits, of any baked dish.  It’s actually very nice, but it isn’t good as a meal, more of a snack to accompany a drinking party.

If you have a choice, do try to eat okonomiyaki.  Monja is good if you are living in Japan, but not necessary.  Feel free to ask about some places if you’d like a recommendation, or just look for it yourself.  It’s good to have an adventure.

Okonomiyaki Videos:

Kansai style Okonomiyaki:

http://www.youtube.com/v/NzxSPNIQn14&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01

Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki:

http://www.youtube.com/v/VNDOLrl6OKM&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01

Monjayaki:

http://www.youtube.com/v/nUOBFRRo0kU&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01

Okonomiyaki Information:

Guide to make Okonomiyaki:  http://www.sakuratei.co.jp/en/okonomi-yaki.html
Okonomiyaki (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/r/e100.html
[Japan Guide has a step by step instruction manual with pictures on how to make Okonomiyaki, Kansai style]
Okonomiyaki (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okonomiyaki
Guide to make Monjayaki:  http://www.sakuratei.co.jp/en/monja-yaki.html
Monjayaki (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monjayaki

Okonomiyaki Restaurants: [Note that all sites are in Japanese]

Foo Moo by Hot Pepper (Japanese):  http://www.hotpepper.jp/A_11100/smd0_svcSA11_grcG016_grf1.html
Gournavi (Japanese):  http://sp.gnavi.co.jp/search/theme/z-AREA110/t-SPG110218/p-1/s-new/c-1/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Hiroshima Redux September 7, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Hiroshima Redux” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tx

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote my first blog post on Hiroshinma and Miyajima.  I wrote about my 2007 trip to Hiroshima.  Recently, I had the chance to go back after nearly 3 years away from Hiroshima.  Each time I have visited Hiroshima, I have seen it through different eyes.  On my first trip, it was my first year in Japan, and I didn’t speak much Japanese.  I was with a friend of mine who didn’t speak any Japanese and we had a hotel room that wasn’t in the best location to do anything in the city.  It was a good location as it was close to Hiroshima Station, but far from the night life.  On my second trip, I stayed in the same hotel, but I was with my girlfriend, so the experience was also unique.  Travelling with different people to the same place will inevitably give a different impression on you.  This time, I travelled with an old friend from Vancouver who is living in Osaka, and a friend I work with in Tokyo.  This was our last stop on a great adventure that started in Tottori and ended in Hiroshima.

On this trip, we drove into Hiroshima rather than taking the train.  We were coming from Izumo and spent the morning and early afternoon driving.  The approach into Hiroshima from the north-west was amazing.  We drove through a tunnel that basically cut through a mountain and under a park.  The exit into the city shot us out of the tunnel and directly onto a bridge that took us over a river and into the heart of the city next to Hiroshima Castle.  We headed straight to the station to get some tickets, which we failed at, and then on to the hotel.  If there is anything I hate more, it’s driving in major Japanese cities, especially around the station.  It’s a big mess of intersections that leave you wondering how to get from A to B without killing yourself.  We thankfully arrived at our hotel safely.  Our hotel was located on the edge of the Hiroshima Peace Park, which made for a great staging area for our adventures in the city itself.

The city hasn’t changed much, if at all.  It is the same city that I remember when I first visited.  Things look familiar, and staying in a newer area meant that I could get familiar with the surrounding area a lot more.  Hiroshima Peace Park is still a must see for a first time visitor.  The need to educate oneself on the horrors of an atomic bomb in an urban area is something that must be seen and experienced.  I’m not sure how other tourists feel, but I am always humbled to the point of near depression when I visit the park.  The symbols you see are all of peace and destruction.  You will see objects of twisted metal, earthen mounds to symbolize death, and various objects to symbolize the hope for peace.  I didn’t go to the peace museum again as it was something that I would not enjoy.  It’s something that should be done once in your life, but that’s all I can handle.

On this trip, I had a chance to walk around two new areas.  The first is around Former Hiroshima Municipal Stadium and along the river towards Hiroshima Castle.  The stadium itself is not an important place to be anymore as the Hiroshima carp have moved out to be closer to Hiroshima Station.  The stadium is now closed, and I don’t know what they’ll do with it in the future.  The area behind the stadium, near the library is an old train called C59161 or C59 for short.  It is an old steam locomotive that has been mothballed next to a library.  The locomotive is open to the public and you are free to climb into the cab area and take pictures.  Inside the cab, it’s a little dirty, but it’s a fun place to be.  There weren’t many people when I went, but I went on a weekday, so things may be different on a weekend.  The river behind the train is also nice. It’s good for a walk and there are several joggers in the area.  I found it to be a nice relaxing place that is away from the noisy streets near the stadium.

The other place that I had the joy of discovering is a river that is located near Hiroshima Station.  Heading south from the station, you will soon run into a river.  You can’t miss it as all of the trams cross over it.  Walking along this river for an hour or so is wonderful.  The banks are lined with trees here and there, and there are a few pieces of art.  I learned a little about the Kappa, a strange little devil-god that looks like a cross between a turtle, a frog, and a human.  While most people won’t have the time to go for a walk in this area, I do recommend it for people going to Hiroshima to work/live in the area.

As I mentioned, everything else in Hiroshima hasn’t changed.  The area around Ebisucho is still a hangout for good food and the sex trade in Hiroshima.  There is one shopping arcade that goes from the Peace Park towards the station that is nice to visit.  I found a nice park that went parallel to the shopping arcade that is near the peace museum.  It’s interesting as it has a few trees that survived the atomic bombing.  I wouldn’t consider this area to be of special interest as it’s not special.  There aren’t too many pieces of art, but it’s nice.  When going to Hiroshima, I always recommend going around and just exploring.  Pick a direction and just go.  You’ll always find something interesting no matter which direction you go.

The Hiroshima series continues with Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Information:

Japan Guide: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2160.html
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Hiroshima
JNTO: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/r…mashinai.html#

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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