Okonomiyaki – Genuine Soul Food of Japan

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okonomiyaki pancake

As you are getting familiar with Japanese food, you may hear about a dish called “okonomiyaki” more frequently. The reason is simple: Japanese people absolutely love it. They eat it at a restaurant, at home and at a food stand of festivals and events. It makes a great lunch, dinner, snack, and even breakfast to some people.

So what is okonomiyaki anyways? Often referred to as “unsweetened pancake” or “savory pancake,” okonomiyaki uses ingredients such as flour, egg, dashi stock, meat, cabbage, green onions and other vegetables, instead of butter, milk and syrup for typical Western pancakes.

However it’s ultimately up to you what to put in it other than the batter, as the name “okonomi” stands for “whatever you like.” Some people choose pork or shrimp for protein while others throw cheese or kimchi to enhance the flavor. In California even jalapeño made it in the list! You can be creative in finding the perfect blend of flavors mixed in the umami-rich batter and topped with the layers of seasonings. That’s what makes okonomiyaki fascinating.

Types and Features of Okonomiyaki

There are two major styles of okonomiyaki: Osaka (Kansai) and Hiroshima. Both derive from the region they were born. To learn more about okonomiyaki and the difference in style, this video, produced by the okonomiyaki sauce maker Otafuku Foods, does an excellent job. Let’s watch it!!!

The interesting part is that Otafuku uses date palms as secret ingredient to their sauce when most Japanese people don’t know what a date is!

Where to Eat Okonomiyaki?

Though there are more than 18,000 restaurants specialized in okonomiyaki in Japan, only few are found outside the county. Here is what we found in the U.S.

Gottsui (West Los Angeles) – A LA branch of a popular okonomiyaki chain in Japan which gained rave reviews from Japanese people (Closed on 7/15/2016)
Go Squared (Torrance & Irvine) – A food court eatery at two locations of Mitsuwa Marketplace
Chinchikurin – A popular franchise of Japan specialized in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki arrived in West Los Angeles with much fanfare in March 2018
Otafuku (NYC East Village) – A cafe co-operated by Otafuku Foods
Okiway (Brooklyn NY) – Japanese bistro serving okonomiyaki, takoyaki and small plates (Closed in 2071)

Some Japanese restaurants do serve okonomiyaki as a part of their menu so keep checking and try a piece whenever you have a chance! Here is an article featuring NYC restaurants offering okonomiyaki.
Nine Great Places to Eat Okonomiyaki in NYC (Eater NY)

When traveling in Japan, you definitely want to visit a great okonomiyaki restaurant popular with local people. Here is the list of restaurant guides we put together for your reference.

Having hard time pronouncing “okonomiyaki”? Try “oh-ko-no-mee” and eliminate “yaki” for short. That’s enough 🙂