I first learned about okonomiyaki when I watched Buzzfeed Tasty’s video about Japanese dishes. The producer and chef, Rei, made one of her favorite Japanese foods, okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake that contains a variety of ingredients depending on the region where it’s made. The dish’s name comes from the conjunction of the words okonomi, meaning “what you like,” and yaki, meaning “cooked.” In the video, the pancake was made with a tempura batter, cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions, pork belly slices, eggs and yakisoba noodles. All the ingredients were layered on top of each other and flipped at the very end, before being topped with mayonnaise and nori flakes. After watching this video, I knew I had to try it, but I knew making it at home would require a lot of practice and I simply didn’t have time for that.
So instead of making it myself, I found a restaurant in Los Angeles that specializes in okonomiyaki. Chinchikurin serves up Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki in Little Tokyo and Westwood and I couldn’t wait to try it. I got there as soon as it opened for lunch and sat at the bar to watch the chefs construct my dish. Their okonomiyaki consists of 11 layers and it was made with similar ingredients to the ones used in the Tasty video. I ordered the “Broc N’ Shrimp,” which is the classic okonomiyaki topped with sauteed broccoli and shrimp. I also had a choice between soft and crunchy noodles, and I chose crunchy because I wanted the texture variation.
The okonomiyaki was served to me right off the grill and came with a handy metal spatula so that I could cut the pancake into bite-sized pieces. When I took my first bite, I instantly fell in love. The savory, umami flavors and the contrasting textures of the noodles, egg and cabbage worked in harmony to form the perfect bite. I found myself adding more japanese mayo to my okonomiyaki because the creamy sauce paired so well with it, and I just found myself eating more and more until there was nothing left on the plate.
I’m glad I stumbled upon the video and learned about this amazing cultural dish. I’d definitely go back to Chinchikurin to try out the different menu items, as they offer a lot of different meat and vegetable variations for their okonomiyaki. Hopefully, I’ll get to go back soon, but if not, I guess I’ll have to start learning how to flip a an okonomiyaki pancake!