Okonomiyaki お好み焼き

The first time I came to Japan, my tutor asked me and my classmates if we had ever tried Okonomiyaki. “Okonomi-what-now?” we answered in barely comprahensible Japanese, and we were promptly taken to an Okonomiyaki restaurant. After getting a simple explanation about what it was, and ordered, we waited for a little while, and in came the bowl of batter. Our tutor poured it over the cooking plate in the middle of the table, and skillfully fried it up. Then he cut it into easy-to-handle pieces, and we were told to put Okonomi-sauce, mayonnaise, and shaved dry fish on top. The heat from the Okonomiyaki made the dried fish dance on top, and it all looked like it was alive. I then bit into this creation, and what I tasted was the start of a long love with Japanese food, other than Sushi.

Okonomiyaki is a sort of savory pancake, with a variety of ingredients in the batter. (Different from the French Crepe, or other “foody” pancakes, that are wrapped around an ingredient.) Usually one would find cabbage, pieces of meat, or seafood, and spring onion, etc. Basically, you can put whatever you want in it, as the name tells you: Okonomi (お好み), meaning “what you like”, and Yaki (焼き), meaning “grilled, baked, cooked, fried”.


Halfmade shrimp and cheese Okonomiyaki
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This dish is usually associated with Osaka and the Kansai area, and with Hiroshima. However, one can find restaurants and chains all through Japan that sells Okonomiyaki. Next time you feel a little hungry when out in town, whether you have tried it before or not, why not try to find a nice Okonomiyaki place, and dive a little deeper into the Japanese cuisine?

OBS! Okonomiyaki in Japanese is easily confused with Sukiyaki. Heres why:
好 has two readings, 好む (konomu “to like”) and 好く (suku “to like”). Both are verbs, and when used in other words they usually take the form of 好み (konomi) and 好き(suki).
焼く (yaku “to bake, grill, cook, fry”) undergoes a similar transformation when used in other words: 焼き (yaki), and in this form it is a common word in Japanese cuisine, in everything from sukiyaki, to yakisoba, teppanyaki, etc…
We therefore have two words with different readings, meaning about the same thing. To separate them, we put an お in front of one of them. This お is just a little decorative politeness prefix, and has no real meaning in itself. Hence we have:
お好み焼き (okonomiyaki)
好き焼き (sukiyaki)



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