Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Soul Food, Japanese-Style, Is What I Like

Osaka-style okonomiyaki, above, on the plate. Below, on the griddle and in the mix. Photos from

A few weeks ago I arrived at a street fair on the ravenous side and immediately had a falafel sandwich before I could hook up with a sausage on white bread. The sausage was whispering my name in a very seductive voice.

Yours Truly never met a falafel sandwich she didn’t like, and this one was no exception. It was lip-smacking good – and it lasted about 45 minutes. Maybe I needed two. My stomach was on near empty and I was beginning to hear the sausage again. Vying for attention, too, was corn-on-the-cob. Sliced watermelon was smiling warmly up at me. But I wanted something more substantial than watermelon wedges, but not as substantial as the grilled turkey leg, which looked like a weapon of mass destruction.

Just when I was on the point of chewing my leather purse strap, I saw a long line of people near a stand. They didn’t look as hungry as I, and they seemed content to wait their turn for what looked to my eyes like a potato pancake. Soon enough I was handed my very own okonomiyaki. Had a craving for it today when I returned from the gym. Alas, I settled on a Korean-style bowl salad of brown rice, red-leaf lettuce, spinach, red onions, tomatoes, carrots, chicken-apple sausage and a honey mustard dressing drizzled on top. It was delicious, but I still have okonomiyaki on the brain.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese dish that looks like a pancake/omelete/frittata. Its most common ingredient is cabbage. My street fair version also included scallions, onions, carrots, etc., and was topped with okonomiyaki sauce, a sweet sauce with a similar look and consistency of Worcestershire sauce. Depending on the region of Japan, okonomiyakis may also contain fish, seafood, pork, cheese, noodles, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, pickled ginger and so on. Much like the hot dog in the United States, it is common fare of Japanese street vendors. Some consider it soul food. In Japanese restaurants it is not unsual for diners to prepare okonomiyaki themselves! Of course, diners who don’t feel up to cooking while they are out for dinner have the option of watching the cook prepare it.

Okonomiyaki comes from the word okonomi, which roughly translates as you like and yaki, meaning grilled. There are two major styles of okonomiyaki, named for the cities where they originated. Mine was Osaka-style. In this version all of the ingredients are mixed together and cooked on both sides like a pancake. Ingredients in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki are layered, and the cherry on top of the cake is a fried egg a la the French hamburger.

Because okonomiyaki aka okonomi-Yaki and okonomiyake can have loads of ingredients it can be eaten as a one-dish meal – think stirfry. My nutritious, delicious street fare was served with only vegetables and would need a little something something extra to stick to the ribs. To this simple recipe (no “optionals” included), methinks I will have chicken/steak/salmon or catfish! (

Learn where in the world are restaurants that serve okonomiyaki outside of Japan at; learn where in New York are restaurants that serve okonomiyaki at; learn more about New York City street fairs at

No comments :

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
Based on a work at .
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at .