The mystery at hand is お好み焼き or okonomiyaki. Does it belong in the pancake or omelet category? Or maybe its more of a pizza? The loose description of the basic batter is a combination of:
  • flour
  • eggs
  • a type of Asian yam
  • water
  • shredded cabbage
  • baking powder
but you can usually choose from a variety of different mixes. The popular additions include pork, cheese, squid, shrimp, onion and/or other vegetables. Two toppings I saw tonight that made me curious were "beef nerves" and "giblets". Keep in mind that the translation from Japanese is not always ideal, but even so I might be hesitant to try these additions.

Depending on the okonomiyaki restaurant, they'll either cook it completely for you, or cook it most of the way and then put it on to the hot griddle set into your table, so you can have fun cooking it for the last few minutes. This seems to make it taste extra delicious, as the smells of the green onion and pork continuously waft up right in front of you.

     Essential to understanding the food is the word itself. o-konomiyaki consists of two "sub-words". The first konomi, is from the verb konomu, meaning "to like/prefer". The second yaki, is a prefix/suffix used to describe something fried (or in some cases, grilled). So putting it all together, okonomiyaki roughly means "fried as you like." 

    So just one more thing before we get down to deciding what okonomiyaki actually is...what are those weird toppings? The lump of chopped reddish/pink stuff is actually sliced ginger. Served nice and cold, it gives the spicy okonomiyaki batter a cool, slightly sour edge. The white stuff that looks more perfect than yellow mustard on a hot dog is mayo. I'm personally not a huge fan of mayo on my okonomiyaki but every Japanese person I have eaten okonomiyaki with has loaded it up (I haven't eaten okonomiyaki with that many Japanese folks), so maybe it'll grow on me. If you're used to Italian cooking your brain might tell you on autopilot that the flaked green stuff underneath the mayo is dried parsley, but it is actually a dried, flaked seaweed. Ewww, you say, I know, but it actually has a decent flavor in moderation.

    Last but not least, what is okonomiyaki? At this point, you've probably come to your own conclusion, and that's perfectly fine, because the fact is that its not a stable creature in Japan either. From Hiroshima to Osaka, to Tokyo, the batter consistency, size, and popular mixes/toppings change as well. I've only eaten okonomiyaki in the Kansai region, but from what I can tell, its somewhat more on the omlet side than the pancake side, although it has the delicious aspects of both!

If you interested in trying to cook your own okonomiyaki, check out the video below! [English]:

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