O-ko-no-mi-ya-ki: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of six steps down the palate… O. Ko. No. Mee. Ya. Kee.
I may not be Nabakov, but okonomiyaki is definitely my Lolita, my gastronomical catnip, my culinary raison d’etre. I’d cross the country for a seat at an okonomiyaki-ya. Just the name alone makes me smile. Those syncopated six syllables drum the perfect rhythm for a dish I’d consider the best comfort food I’ve ever eaten. And in one week, I ate it 9 times. Dinner and Lunch. Lunch. Dinner. Lunch and Dinner. Lunch and Dinner and Dinner. Nope, I was never bored because every single time, that savoury pancake (to conceptualize it for the Western mind) was a completely new creation.
There is nothing pretty about okonomikyaki. And it’s not meant to be. It is an “everything-but-the-kitchen sink” dish of flour batter , cabbage, pork, egg, bean sprouts and noodles, plus whatever else you choose– depending on where you are from when in Japan, or what you like. It’s like the Wild West of recipes with a murky backstory, quick draws and no rules.
Getting my okonomiyaki on – Kansai-style: Okonomiyaki is DIY at its very finest. Personally, I think it should be a first date meal beause it is essentially a personality assessment. The dish is hands out, which means cell phones down. Within five minutes you’ll figure out who is collaborative, encouraging, adventuresome and a food-dynamo or perfectionist, selfish and all around food afraid.
Where: My first and favorite is Poppoya in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. Vibe is charming, rustic, no frills and beer or umeshu (plum wine). Seating is bar side and table.
MORE: My Food Traveller piece on okonomiyaki for The Guardian, July 2016