Good Eats: Okonomimura (Hiroshima)

When in Rome, pizza is a must. And when in Hiroshima, you can’t miss out on the local specialty of okonomiyaki. While you can find this “Japanese pancake” nearly everywhere in Japan now, the cities of Hiroshima and Osaka are known for their top quality okonomiyaki and it’s always good to try it at the source.

Okonomiyaki literally means “cooked or grilled whatever you like”. That’s because there is no hard and fast rule about what goes into one of these pancakes and different shops and chefs like to change it up or customize their menus to set themselves apart. At Okonomimura, you’re truly spoiled for choice with 26 different shops gathered together over three floors. Each shop has its own twist on the dish (you can read about them at the link at the end of the page) but all turn out a tasty savory pancake.

The Okonomimura building, all lit up at night
The Okonomimura building, all lit up at night

Part of the fun of the okonomiyaki experience is the preparation. The pancakes are cooked on a large griddle that usually takes up the entire restaurant (if it’s just a small shop) or individual dining table. All chefs start with a batter of flour and eggs, which is whirled into a thin circle on the grill. Then comes your choice of protein – often seafood – and handfuls of shredded cabbage. Some pork strips are usually laid across the pancake and sometimes noodles are added as well (an excellent addition, and a popular one in Hiroshima).

It all starts with the batter
It all starts with the batter

The pancake is carefully flipped to cook on the other side and then coated with a thick sauce, not unlike Worcestershire. Dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi) is added to the top and the whole thing is sprinkled with aonori, dried seaweed in almost a powdery form. Recently, it’s become popular to add mayonnaise on the top, though some traditionalists balk at this. (Too bad – it’s delicious!) After that, it’s time to eat!

Scallop okonomiyaki, ready to eat
Scallop okonomiyaki, ready to eat

If the pancake hasn’t been cooked in front of you, it will be slid over to your part of the griddle and you’ll be handed a small plate, a mini spatula and a pair of chopsticks. Simply carve off a piece of the pancake and plop it on your plate, use your chopsticks and enjoy! I usually find an entire okonomiyaki to be too much for me; some shops offer half-sizes while other’s market it as a “lady’s portion”. And remember, despite the word “pancake” in the translation, don’t be fooled – these are in no way sweet.

I’ve tried two of the shops in Okonomimura and both were very good. Pick what looks most appealing to you and you won’t go wrong.

The website has excellent information in English on location and opening times, as well as the aforementioned descriptions of individual shops.

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