Thursday, August 18, 2011

Okonomiyaki - Hiroshima style, or Kansai style?

Last weekend I took a trip up to Osaka for the weekend. We were going to Summer Sonic, but had waited too long to buy our tickets (oops!) so we were only able to get tickets for Sunday. No big deal. We were very close to Kyoto so we spent Saturday in Kyoto. Sweating so much that I think I lost at least five pounds. I will never go in August again, but Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I can't wait to go back. When it's not scorching hot, of course. If you ever get a chance to go, you should definitely do it.

I have a bad habit of digressing. I always feel the need to tell you all about everything instead of just getting right to it.

"It" is okonomiyaki. I think most foreigners call it a Japanese pancake. Okay, I can see where that came from. It does kind of look like a pancake. It's round. It's flat. However, it is not sweet. It also has lots of cabbage in it. There are two styles of okonomiyaki. If you live in Iwakuni, you are very lucky because authentic Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is just a short train ride away. My favorite place in Hiroshima is Okonomimura, which literally means "Okonomi Village". I will be blogging about it in the near future.

Since I was in Osaka for the weekend, I had to try authentic Kansai style okonomiyaki. Osaka area is also referred to as "Kansai" so that is where the Kansai comes from. I'm sure you are wondering what the difference is between the two styles of okonomiyaki. For me, it's in the way the okonomiyaki is prepared. For Kansai style, everything is mixed together and then poured onto the hot griddle. With the Hiroshima style, just the batter is poured onto the griddle at first, and it's cooked like a thin crepe. Then you put the cabbage and whatever other toppings you've selected on top. You can get noodles with both, but I did notice in Osaka that the noodles were thicker. In Hiroshima, we usually have a choice of soba noodles or udon noodles. My favorite is the soba noodles.

Once I knew we were going to Osaka for sure, I tried to do some research to find a good okonomiyaki restaurant. I didn't have to look too far though because my friend, Courtney, very kindly introduced me to her friend, Taichi, who lives in Osaka. Taichi-san told me to check out Fugetsu. It was near our hotel so it was also very convenient.

So, after sweating in Kyoto all day we got off the train at Umeda station and starting looking for the building Fugetsu was in. It took all of about 30 seconds to find it. It is on the 8th floor of the Yodobashi Camera building. Ummm...the Yodobashi Camera building is huge and hard to miss. As we crossed the street, I was super excited about two things. Okonomiyaki, AND a large camera shop! In the same building! We made our way up to the 8th floor and found Fugetsu after a few minutes of wandering around in awe. The 8th floor is all restaurants and some of them looked and smelled really good. My happiness in finding Fugetsu went down a notch when I saw the line in front. The it went right back up again because I remembered that a busy place means a yummy place. I went in and looked for a list to put my name on, but I didn't see one. One of the servers came over and told me that they just seat in the order of arrival so we just had to get in the back of the line and just keep moving up until we get to the door. Okay. Off to the back of the line we went. I have to say, the line moved pretty quickly. We thought we were going to be waiting for a long time, but I think it took about twenty minutes for us to get to the front of the line. One of the servers came out to get us, but first she pulled me aside and said, "it's VERY hot at the table and our tables are not really that going to be okay?" I told everyone what she said and they all looked as confused as I felt. Why was she telling me this? We knew it would be hot. It's cooked at your table. Then we realized, they must get complaints from foreigners who don't realize it's cooked at the table. Aahhhh. But the table wasn't small so I'm not sure where that came from.

As soon as we were seated, we all started guzzling water and checking out the menu.

It was way past our feeding time so we were all starving. I ordered my usual, regular with pork and noodles. Jason got his with pork and kimchi, Bill got his with beef, shrimp and cheese, and Alma got the same kind I got. They turned on our griddle and it started getting really hot, really fast. Luckily, they had these cute, pink hand fans with pigs on them for us to use.

It wasn't long before our server was bringing out our orders. He verified who ordered what and went right to work. He held one bowl out over the griddle and started mixing things up.

Once he had mixed it all up enough, he poured it all onto the hot griddle.

Then he grabbed another bowl and did the same thing, until they were all on the griddle. Super cool and super yummy looking. Did I mention we were all starving? It was like torture to look at them on the griddle and smell them cooking.

I had to post a picture of the one with kimchi. Doesn't that look good????

Then it was time to put the noodles and the bonito flakes on them.

Our server would come by our table periodically to check on them. Then he would ask us to please wait a little longer.

Then it came time to flip!

Then he asked us to wait a little longer. Okay. I see another difference between the two styles. I think the Kansai style takes longer to cook. Not complaining. Just repeating what my stomach told my brain.

Finally, it was time to add the finishing touches. The sauce and the mayonnaise. I got both, but you can just get sauce if that's all you want. I just really love the sauce mixed with mayonnaise.

Now we can eat!! I couldn't wait to dig in!!

It was really good. I would have a hard time picking which style I like better. I like them both, but if I absolutely had to choose one.....I would have to say I like Kansai style more than I like the Hiroshima style.

If you are ever in Osaka, check out Fugetsu. They have two locations in Osaka. One is right by the Umeda(Hankyu) train station in the Yodobashi Camera building, and the other one is located in Universal City Walk by Universal Studios Japan. You can also get Kansai style okonomiyaki in Iwakuni. There is a Tokugawa restaurant on Route 2. You cook it yourself and most of it is mixed together. There are also a couple of little okonomiyaki places scattered around town that make the Kansai style okonomiyaki. Definitely give okonomiyaki a try while you are here, and definitely try the different styles.

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