In Japan, the suffix “yaki” means “grilled” or “cooked”. I’m sure you’re all familiar with teriyaki (“teri” meaning shine or luster). Here in Japan we’ve had the pleasure of eating a few other delicious yakis as well. Here are two we particularly enjoyed:
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake native to the Hiroshima region of Japan. It consists of a batter, shredded cabbage and, depending on the region, various other vegetables or meats. It is a dish that is often left at the table for you to prepare yourself. (In South Korea and Japan many establishments have grills built into or on top of the table at which the customer is seated.) Fortunately for us, the restaurant where we tried okonomiyaki had staff who came around to flip the okonomiyaki for us and let us know when it was ready to eat.
The okonomiyaki preparation goes as follows:
- The staff bring a bowl of the okonomiyaki mix to the table and ensures that the grill is oiled and at the proper temperature.
- The mix is placed on the grill and pressed into a rough pancake shape.
- After cooking for a little while flakes of katsuobushi are placed on top of the okonomiyaki. Katsuobushi is shaved flakes of fermented, smoked, and dried skipjack tuna. It has a delicious flavor that is very umami.
- After a bit more cooking, the okonomiyaki is flipped to allow the other side to cook.
- The okonomiyaki is done cooking! At this point a sweet and savory sauce similar to Worcestershire and mayonnaise are added to the top of the okonomiyaki. Delicious!
When we get back home we fully intend to learn to prepare this dish, or a variation on it, ourselves. We thought that replacing some of the cabbage with shaved zucchini could be good.
Takoyaki are small balls of battered and fried octopus. (“Tako” means octopus.) A special frying pan with round indentations is used to prepare this dish. The savory octopus balls are served with a similar sweet and savory sauce as is the okonomiyaki. They are also garnished with mayonnaise, finely diced green onion, and/or katsuobushi.