An attractive, prosperous and busy city, Hiroshima is the home to a plethora of sightseeing destinations and so attracts thousands of travelers from all over the world. Your visit to Hiroshima, Japan is incomplete without enjoying several of its regional food specialties. Okonomiyaki, literally meaning “fry what you like,” is the most flavorsome item of Japan, specifically in Western parts of the country. Though it is not easy to describe how it exactly looks like, you can view it as something sandwiched between pancake and pizza.
The pancake mix is based on spring onion, flour, cabbage (the secret ingredient), and egg, but the best thing is that you are free to add anything that you like – hence the name. Most often, you will find squid and pork Okonomiyaki in Japanese restaurants, but a few also offer special toppings like rice cake, cheese, shrimp and beef, or all of the above. It’s definitely a low-budget food so go ahead and pig out.
You can prepare this extremely luscious item in two ways – Hiroshima style and Osaka style. While the more mainstream Osaka style fries the mixture and toppings all together inside the pan, in Hiroshima the constituents are not mixed up, but rather cooked separately and only then combined. In Hiroshima, each and every constituent is first piled in order and then noodles are placed in between.
Sauce has its own importance in the food item. The sauce color is dark brown and the taste is crisp, which many add on the Okonomiyaki together with mayonnaise. When the dish is all ready, an egg is sometimes cracked on a griddle and it gets rolled over the top of the Okonomiyaki. To add more to the taste, it is recommended to sprinkle dried bonito flakes and nori (seaweed) at the end. Noodles make an important ingredient of the dish, and so are included usually as well.
Most interestingly, Okonomiyaki is more of a cultural thing than a Japanese culinary treat. Since Okonomiyaki cooking is entirely free-style and involves a central pan into which anybody can throw practically any topping, “Okonomiyaki Parties” are quite popular. These normally include a good amount of alcohol, Okonomiyaki till you pop, and some Japanese entertainment (check out the Usavich animation series).
When traveling in Japan, make sure you never decline an invitation to an Okonomiyaki party, or at least order one of these Japanese pancakes at a restaurant (the cheap price without doubt underestimates their heavenly taste). Or, just hop on a Shinkansen bullet train and have some of the famous Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. There’s actually an entirely multiple-story building dedicated to it, packed with small, budget-friendly Okonomiyaki shops.
Josh Shulman, Author of All-You-Can Japan