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Okonomiyaki from Osaka,  Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo. What is the difference?

Okonomiyaki from Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo. What is the difference?

Japan, renowned for its rich cultural heritage and culinary delights, presents a diverse array of flavors that tantalize the taste buds of both locals and visitors alike. Among its many gastronomic treasures, one dish stands out for its versatility, simplicity, and savory appeal - Okonomiyaki. Translating to "grilled as you like it," Okonomiyaki is a beloved Japanese pancake or savory pancake that captures the essence of Japanese comfort food. Originating from the Kansai and Hiroshima regions, Okonomiyaki has evolved over time, with each region offering its unique twist on this delectable dish.

 

okonomiyaki recipe

The Basics of Okonomiyaki

At its core, Okonomiyaki consists of a batter made from flour, grated yam, eggs, shredded cabbage, and dashi broth, mixed together and cooked on a griddle. The name "Okonomiyaki" itself reflects the dish's customizable nature, as diners have the freedom to add various ingredients according to their preferences. Common additions include thinly sliced pork belly, seafood such as shrimp or squid, green onions, and tenkasu (tempura scraps). Once cooked, Okonomiyaki is typically topped with a savory-sweet sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed powder, creating a symphony of flavors and textures.

Osaka okonomiyaki

Osaka Okonomiyaki

Osaka, known as the culinary capital of Japan, boasts a vibrant food scene, and its signature okonomiyaki reflects this dynamic spirit. Osaka-style okonomiyaki is characterized by its thick, fluffy batter mixed with shredded cabbage, dashi (Japanese soup stock), flour, eggs, and a variety of toppings such as thinly sliced pork belly, shrimp, squid, green onions, and tenkasu (tempura scraps). The batter is poured onto a hot teppan (griddle) in a circular shape, forming a large pancake-like base. Once golden brown and crispy on the outside, the okonomiyaki is topped with a generous drizzle of okonomiyaki sauce (a sweet and savory sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and aonori (dried seaweed flakes). The result is a savory, umami-rich dish that perfectly balances textures and flavors.

Hiroshima okonomiyaki

Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

Hiroshima's take on okonomiyaki is distinctively different from the Osaka style, reflecting the region's culinary preferences and influences. In Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together in a batter. The base typically consists of a thin crepe-like pancake made from flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage, which is cooked first on the griddle. Next, layers of thinly sliced pork belly, yakisoba noodles, cabbage, and other toppings are added on top of the pancake base. The layers are then topped with a final layer of batter before being flipped and cooked until golden brown. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is often served with a sweeter and thicker variation of okonomiyaki sauce, along with mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and aonori. The result is a hearty and satisfying dish with a harmonious blend of textures and flavors.

Kyoto okonomiyaki

Kyoto Okonomiyaki

Kyoto, renowned for its traditional culture and cuisine, offers a more refined and subtle version of okonomiyaki compared to its counterparts in Osaka and Hiroshima. Kyoto-style okonomiyaki is characterized by its minimalist approach, focusing on quality ingredients and delicate flavors. The batter typically contains less cabbage and is flavored with dashi and soy sauce for a more subtle taste. Toppings often include seasonal vegetables such as Kyoto turnips, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots, as well as high-quality seafood such as shrimp or scallops. The okonomiyaki is cooked on a griddle until lightly golden and served with a light drizzle of okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of bonito flakes and aonori. The result is a refined and elegant dish that highlights the natural flavors of the ingredients.


tokyo okonomiyaki

Tokyo Okonomiyaki

In Tokyo, where culinary trends collide and evolve, okonomiyaki has undergone various interpretations to suit the diverse palate of its residents. Tokyo-style okonomiyaki combines elements of both Osaka and Hiroshima styles, offering a unique fusion of flavors and textures. The batter is similar to Osaka-style okonomiyaki, with a mix of cabbage, flour, eggs, and dashi, but the toppings often include a combination of ingredients found in both Osaka and Hiroshima variations, such as thinly sliced pork belly, yakisoba noodles, and seafood. Tokyo-style okonomiyaki is typically cooked on a griddle, allowing the ingredients to meld together while retaining their individual flavors. It is served with a balance of sweet and savory okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and aonori, creating a satisfying and indulgent culinary experience.

 okonomiyaki recipe

Regional Influences and Modern Twists

While traditional Okonomiyaki recipes remain cherished staples in Japan, chefs and home cooks alike continue to experiment with new ingredients and flavor combinations, resulting in a myriad of modern twists on this classic dish. In recent years, variations such as seafood Okonomiyaki, vegetarian Okonomiyaki, and even dessert Okonomiyaki have gained popularity, catering to diverse dietary preferences and culinary trends.

A culinary gem from Japan with many variations

Okonomiyaki is a versatile and customizable dish that reflects the diverse culinary landscape of Japan. From the hearty and bold flavors of Osaka to the refined elegance of Kyoto, each region offers its own unique interpretation of this beloved comfort food. Whether you're savoring a savory pancake in Osaka, indulging in layers of goodness in Hiroshima, embracing tradition in Kyoto, or experiencing culinary innovation in Tokyo, okonomiyaki never fails to delight the senses and celebrate the rich culinary heritage of Japan.

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