Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Okonomiyaki: Japanese soul food

I couldn’t understand (much less pronounce) what Jo kept raving about. Now I do.

“Okonomiyaki” is a Japanese pancake—Okonomi means “what you like” or “what you want” and yaki means “grilled”. (If only French could be that logical).

After a couple months of hearing Jo telling me we had to go for Japanese pancakes on rue Saint Anne, she, Sarah and I had dinner at Aki last night. And now I understand why she was so keen to share this delectable treat.

It’s the most curious thing ever. The recipe mainly consists of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage. And then you can order different varieties like pork, squid, shrimp, cheese or veggie. I opted for the asparagus and tomato option.

They grill it up, and then douse it in sauces:

one that is like a sweet barbecue sauce…

followed by another heavy mayonnaise-type sauce.

Finally, they sprinkle fish flakes (katsuobushi) on top, and these paper-thin shavings ripple and wave like live grubs.

It looks and sounds not in the least bit appetizing. But trust me, once you’ve eaten the okonomiyaki, there’s no going back.


  1. Oh my goodness, this looks amazing. I'm going to Paris at Easter and I am definitely going to hit up rue saint anne!

  2. Christ, I was forced to sit down for okonomiyaki in Osaka once. First of all, in Japan everyone acts like this is the biggest dinner event of the season. You sit around a griddle table and mix your own concoctions, or rather you watch cockroaches run around the walls. When you bother to look at what's causing that horifying smell afflicting your senses you find yourself staring and tentacles and eyeballs and all manner of inedible flotsam. But you shut up and eat it, fighting all normal gag reflexes, because this is a treat and costs money and they're trying to please you with their native ways.

    The French seem to have reduced the disgusting factor and keep the grilling process away from your face, which is a step in the right direction. The mayonnaise is pretty common in Japan, tho, and used for all manners of inappropriate dishes such as salad. And the sauce, well that makes me think of tonkatsu sauce-- I miss it terrible since giving up meat.

    1. It sounds to me like you just had a bad experience in Osaka. I too have had Okonomiyaki while visiting Japan and I absolutely loved it. Yes, it is a big deal for the Japanese and why shouldn't they celebrate one of their national dishes? There wasn't a cockroach in sight and I loved the fact that you cook your own Okonomiyaki on the huge grill plate in the centre of your table. You can eat at your own pace while the food stays hot on the grill plate in front of you and share slices as if it were a pizza.
      As for Mayo....the more mayo the better if you ask me!

  3. LaLaLa, rue Saint Anne is definitely an experience - if not for the pancakes then for the udon or sushi.

    Legrandzombie - er, I don't know what to say. Cockroaches and eyeballs... it's a wonder you can eat anything at all after experiences like that!

  4. I love, love, love okonomiyaki! I was actually just looking up the address of this restaurant to give it to someone else and saw that you had blogged on it. Great choice - totally affordable, totally fun, really good - but long lines sometimes. And the flakes do totally wave about like some kind of delicate little living thing on top...oh, i just love it!