Yesterday, No Recipes talked about okonomiyaki (oko – no – me – yaki). I adore this choose-your-own-adventure dish. It starts with a thin pancake batter and then the okono-master may add whatever else the mood calls for.
My first okonomiyaki was outside of Tokyo in 2003. I was visiting a Japanese friend of mine who was born and raised in Omatasande – an outlying neighborhood of Tokyo proper. We had gone that night to her photo club (20 friends get together, first for a beer. Then they split up and have 2 hours to shoot one roll of film and get it developed. They reconvene – we reconvened at Denny’s – and decide on the best overall photo by process of elimination. Brilliant). After the festivities were wrapped up at Denny’s, we went on a boat ride in which they served Okonomiyaki. The tables were hibatchi style and it was up to each group to make their own pancake combo. I got to see what were typical fillings (cubes of ham, dried shrimp), toppings (mayo, bonito flakes, chili powder, ketchup, BBQ sauce) and methods for eating this unwieldy dish (folding with chopsticks and shoveling it in). It seemed like a real down-n-dirty meal for the Japanese – like a special indulgence similar to stadium food for Americans (unless you are at Citifield). I highly recommend getting a group of friends together and making a big okonomiyaki to share. And don’t forget to close out each bite with a swing of Sapporo.