Along with takoyaki, this dish may rightly be described as Osaka soul food. While both dishes involve dissolving flour in dashi, okonomiyaki includes cabbage—a non-negotiable ingredient—usually along with pork, as well as whichever additional ingredients you like.
A thin layer of batter is spread out in a circle atop an iron griddle, and the browned savory pancake is then served with toppings such as sauce, mayonnaise and powdered seaweed—a serving style that is in turn said to have influenced takoyaki.
There are various theories concerning okonomiyaki’s origin. One is that the similar Tokyo-style monjayaki went through several off-shoot dishes before becoming okonomiyaki; another is that okonomiyaki was developed from the idea of restaurant patrons grilling their ingredients of choice in a playful, festive manner. Okonomiyaki in its present form dates back to the period following the Second World War.
Adding cabbage in order to make the dish more voluminous, it was at this point that it became known as a main course rather than a snack.
The Osaka version features the addition of yamaimo (yam) to the batter, providing a lovely fluffiness. In many restaurants, staff prepare and serve the okonomiyaki rather than having customers grill the dish themselves, as is customary.
In 1970, on the occasion of the World Expo in Osaka, the dish became known throughout the country as an Osaka specialty.
Today, an increasing number of establishments offer a choice of ingredients such as cheese, kimchi, and mochi (pounded rice cake)—further increasing okonomiyaki’s popularity.
“Modern-yaki,” which combines okonomiyaki and yakisoba fried noodles, is also popular. Okonomiyaki also features prominently as a side dish in Osaka homes, where, for example, it is served alongside white rice as a pairing of two carbohydrates—a somewhat surprising fact for people in other regions.
Another fun okonomiyaki fact: Those who are able to utilize the fry turner to flip their pancakes with skillful preciseness will earn hero-level status among family members.
Udon & Udonsuki
In Osaka, udon noodles are famed for the way that their softness harmonizes gently with the kombu and skipjack-accented broth. One age-old favorite is salty-sweet kitsune udon, where the noodles are topped with fried tofu boiled to plump perfection.
The style of accenting it with condiments such as takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (green laver, or edible seaweed) and skipjack flakes are said to be an influence from okonomiyaki following the end of the Second World War.
Sushi in Tokyo is known as Edomae, and is pressed by hand. Osaka’s famous style of sushi, meanwhile, is pressed sushi. “Box sushi” is one example: the toppings and vinegared rice are placed into a square wooden mold and pressed to fit. Watching the process of pressing box sushi is mesmeric.
A restaurant customer ordered the same thing daily: an omelette with rice. The cook decided to enliven the dish accenting the rice with ketchup and wrapping it in a thinly fried omelette.
Kushikatsu eateries are found not only in the Shinsekai district, but all over Osaka . In addition to the lively, bar-like establishments, there are also fancy kushikatsu specialty restaurants with a unique creative menus.
Kappo, which became an established style of Japanese cuisine in the late 1910s, is said to have originated in Osaka.
Japan’s various regions are home to local hot pots, and Osaka is no exception. Local versions include udonsuki and sakanasuki (wheat flour noodles and fish flavored hot pot, respectively), whale meat hot pot, and the much-loved wintry special, tecchiri, or fugu hot pot. Also popular are chiritori (“dustpan”) nabe and motsu nabe, both featuring beef intestines and vegetables.
Conveyor belt sushi
Popular not only throughout Japan, but also now overseas, kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) allows patrons to select their sushi of choice by taking plates off the revolving belt as they pass by.
These soft buns are made by fermenting a flour and water-based batter that is then stuffed with fillings and steamed.