Okonomiyaki in the Osaka style is rightly world famous, but there is another style of Okonomiyaki that is not often seen outside of Hiroshima. If you have never heard of it, you are not alone. I grew up with Okonomiyaki cooked by family members from Osaka and Nara, but never knew that I had to distinguish it as "Osaka style" until I went to Hiroshima during the year I was living in Tokyo.
Japanese restaurants around the world serve dishes and dishes of the Okona style Okonomiyaki, which I love ( pictured above ). It's a chubby pancake stuffed with cabbage and spring onions and fried in hot lard. This mix can be made with mochi, cheese, kimchi and any number of other fillings before being dipped into an addictive sweet-sweet brown sauce and showered with bonito flakes dancing in the heat of the pancake. A latticed Kravelle of Kewpie mayonnaise is optional but is recommended. Japan is a country addicted to kewpie mayonnaise, and you can find it in sushi rolls with lettuce (the "salad roll") and on pizza (along with corn canned food). The Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki has a completely different composition: two thin crepes encase a mountain of soft yakisoba noodles in addition to cabbage and other fillings that quickly fall off the heat of the grill plate.
That Okonomi of Hiroshima is so different from Osaka is not surprising. Japan is homogeneous at first glance but consists of many different regions. This is most clearly reflected in the gift shops: a gift shop in Aoyama is filled with apple-tree cakes, apple chips and cider, while Nara decorates products with deer motifs. Osaka and Hiroshima are both synonymous with Okonomiyaki, and yes, in both cities you can buy Okonomiyaki memorabilia (I have a pair of socks).
To truly experience the okonomiyaki of every city best, I would recommend a "rail trip" that includes stays in Osaka and Hiroshima – do not skip Osaka, even if you have eaten his Okonomiyaki elsewhere – it's an experience Visiting the source and experiencing the zeal and excitement that a bite of food can produce.There is little that can excite an Osaka more than a photograph of an okonomiyaki being finished in a delicate cast iron pan would even claim that the JR rail pass, which many visitors to Japan use for unlimited JR train travel, allows for such an Okonomiyaki food route, as a trip to Hiroshima from Tokyo on the Shinkansen high-speed train requires a change to Osaka.
Osaka is brash, colorful and stylish, with an over-the-top reputation for humor. It is no coincidence that Osaka's Yoshimoto Entertainment Company is responsible for founding many comedians and that Taro Okamoto's notorious Tower of the Sun was built for Osaka's arrival at the World's Fair. I actually recommend visiting the Sun Tower, although you need to take several trains to get there. It's a scream. While the reconstructed Osaka Castle can be found in every travel guide, Osaka also has its own Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. In short, you could spend days exploring the urban sprawl of Osaka and whetting your appetite for many, many okonomiyaki.
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Okonomiyaki and his spherical cousin, takoyaki (squid balls), are not hard to find in the city. For a taste of the neon lights Osaka is famous for, visit the lush streets of Dotonbori and pick a place to eat. The internet is full of recommendations for "the best" Okonomiyaki in Osaka, but your best bet is to find a no-name shop and do it. There is nothing more appetizing than cooking a professional pancake in front of you before wrapping it with a sample of salty-sweet brown sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and dancing bonito flakes.
You must drive back to the Umeda district to take the high-speed train that will take you to Hiroshima, but before you do that, take a moment to take in the Close to hiking neighborhood of Nakazakicho. Nakazakicho is a labyrinth of dark-whitewashed wooden buildings with tiny art galleries and tearooms Alice in Wonderland . It's a stark contrast to bustling Umeda and its chic department stores, boutiques and theaters. Do not forget to take a pack of Kit Kats of Hojicha (roasted green tea) before heading to Hiroshima. They are delicious.
Hiroshima – and a Ferry to Miyajima
Perhaps it is Osaka's overwhelming reputation in the Japanese psyche and Hiroshima's dark story that the okonomiyaki seems to be Hiroshima-style be offended by comparison. Although neglecting to neglect the monuments honoring Hiroshima's past, it is clear that the city is more than a World War II museum. However, when you step out of the Shinkansen and actually see the city, it is immediately obvious that the city is itself. Trams run through the streets and "arcades" (covered shopping streets) are filled with old sweets and memorabilia. As an added bonus, Miyajima is only a short ferry ride away with Itsukishima Shrine, which seems to float in the water.
The ferry ride is worthwhile alone for Itsukushima's red gates, but there are many other monuments to explore, including the Daisho-in. But do not be too focused on a itinerary: take a moment to take photos of the wild roe deer and enjoy the freshly shelled (and grilled) oysters sold along the ferry. I would also pick up some of the well-known Momjiji Manjus: maple-leafed cakes stuffed with sweetened azuki paste.
In addition to all that the city has to offer, you'll find that Hiroshima takes Okonomiyaki seriously and even has a designated "Okonomiyaki City" (Okonomimura): a three-story building replete with small restaurants on Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima Style are specialized.
If you visit one of the Okonomiyaki shops, you will be amazed by the height of the court. Unlike the Osaka-style version, where all the ingredients are pre-mixed before gridling, a chef in Hiroshima pours two thin ladles of crepe-like dough, one with a large handful of cabbage and pasta, and then with the other thin crepe.
It seems unlikely that all of this could boil down to a manageable amount, and yet it does. All that remains is to scoop up the sweet brown okonomiyaki sauce and the green spring onions generously to distribute. Whatever your choice of toppings, do not forget to bring the regional Kit Kat with citrus flavor for dessert.
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SOURCES: VEGGIENUMNUM FOOD52 THEBUTTY
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