Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes)

There is one kind of Japanese food that as far as I'm aware, has not really made it over to Europe. Okonomiyaki is probably best described as a cabbage pancake, or perhaps pizza. It is a very odd thing indeed. Okonomi means favourites, so I guess you are meant to put all of your favourite things in the mix.

I went to an Okonmiyaki cafe in the Shibuya district. It was a small place with perhaps eight tables. Each table is fitted with a hot plate, a bit like at a Korean or Mongolian BBQ place. The radio pumped out 80s hits and Yuki (my culinary tourguide) and I, got on with the task in hand.

First you start off with your bowl of ingredients. Cabbage, an egg and batter type stuff that you have in tempura. It is customary to have a meat, so I went for pork.

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You mix up the ingredients in your bowl and then put them on the hotplate using your mini chisel, creating a patty type structure.

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With one side cooked, it is time for the flip, as if you were making an omlette. There is a certain skill involved but I passed with flying colours.

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I would say you probably do four or five minutes on each side before it is ready. But wait, here is the strange bit, before you eat it, you need to add some more things. Firstly you spread mayonaise on top. Then you add something which is similar to Worcester sauce. Then finally sprinkle on some finely chopped seaweed

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Basically I liked it, the cabbage, egg and meat mix was tasty and I certainly enjoyed the novelty factor of eating a cabbage patty to the soundtrack of New Order. However, the somewhat bizarre mix of Worcester sauce and mayonaise was something that I didn't understand and to me, they really didn't go together. If I had it again, I would choose one OR the other - but I'm not sure if this would be in the full Okonomiyaki spirit.

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