Day: November 24th, 2007

Adventures in okonomiyaki

Saturday, November 24th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese dish, whose name (according to Wikipedia) is derived from the Japanese words “okonomi,” meaning “what you want”, and “yaki” meaning “grilled” or “cooked.” I’ve seen the dish described as Japanese savory pancake, or Japanese pizza — understandable, if not perfect, reference points: the popular Japanese street food is prepared in a pan or on a griddle by integrating flour batter with layers of cabbage and assorted toppings of seafood, meat and vegetables.

I’d first sampled okonomiyaki at Otafuku in the East Village, but JL had assured me that the homemade version would be far superior to anything ordered in a restaurant. After picking up a few final ingredients at the Sunrise Mart above St. Mark’s Bookshop — knowing how to read Japanese would have been very helpful here! Good thing for packaging photos — we were off to cook.

The mise en place:

Okonomiyaki setup

JL laid out all the ingredients and explained the process of making the base, adding copious amounts of sliced cabbage and toppings, and flipping the entire pancake to allow the different layers to hit the hot pan at various intervals. Our Hiroshima-style version of the dish included a layer of pan-fried noodles (Kansai [Osaka]-style omits this), sliced bacon, shrimp and squid, rice cakes (which melted down to gooey goodness), and chopped onions. Lots of fun, actually, and once we began assembling in earnest, the mad flurry of activity sent clouds of smoke wafting throughout the kitchen.


We finished the pancake with squeeze-bottled grids of mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce, plus generous handfuls of bonito flakes which danced eerily in the heat. Filling and delicious!


To accompany our okonomiyaki, JL put together a flight of Hitachi Nest beers from Kiuchi Brewery. The company, which has been producing sake out of Ibaraki since 1823, first entered the beer market in 1996, though their products have been available in the United States only since 2000. The brewer has seen the line’s popularity spike locally over the past couple of years in large part due to being by championed by David Chang at his Momofuku and Momofuku Ssäm Bar restaurants. Chef Chang himself has evinced particular devotion to the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, his restaurants’ bestseller.

Check out this row of little red owls. Did we really drink all this beer? Why yes, yes we did, though after a while, it became somewhat difficult to distinguish among the different brews, most of which fell into a fruity/sweet pattern. The Real Ginger Brew was noticeably ginger-y; the Espresso Stout, too, sticks out in my mind — though not for particularly good reasons. Still well worth sampling, though. Kudos and thanks to JL for setting up this fine evening of food and drink.

Hitachi Nest

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