Most, if not all, Japanese foods will leave you tousled in a very nice way and you’ll be drooling like a little baby while exclaiming “oishii!” (in kanji – 美味しい) and (in hiragana – おいしい) as you ask for more.
Today we’ll be talking about two of the most well-laced Japanese recipes, in terms of ingredients that is, that just happens to be as world renowned as any other Japanese cuisine – the okonomiyaki and its evolved version, the monjayaki.
- Okonomiyaki is a unique recipe developed in Kansai or Hiroshima regions in Japan, but is now a household delicacy throughout the country.
- The monjayaki, on the other hand, is a pan-fried batter and had originated in the Kantō region.
Check out our article about teppanyaki accessories as well
How Okonomiyaki Differs from Monjayaki
These two Japanese savory pancakes containing a variety of ingredients are very similar to each other, which is why it’s necessary to identify the few differences that they have to avoid any sort of confusion.
First off the okonomiyaki which roughly translates to “whatever you want to grill” is the progenitor (if you will) of the monjaki and is believed by food researcher, Tekishū Motoyama, to have derived from the funoyaki – a thin crepe-like confection that was popular in Japan back in the 16th century (Sengoku period) which was often served as a snack to children.
Later on this simple snack recipe spread to Kyoto, Osaka and then to Edo (modern day Tokyo) and was dubbed gintsuba and kintsuba respectively.
In the Meiji Era it was called mojiyaki, but it wasn’t after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake (Taishō Era) when the okonomiyaki began taking its current form.
Besides the common sweet types, savory types using fish, vegetables, and various meat began appearing when people cooked these crepes to pass up the time.
And again during the Second World War when Japan experienced rice shortage the okonomiyaki finally became recognizable as it has the basic ingredients that it has today.
The monjayaki which may have split from the okonomiyaki around the Meiji Era in the 19th century and may have derived from the old term, “mojiyaki” that we’ve just talked about earlier.
Although it is similar to the okonomiyaki in which its batter is also based on wheat flour, water, eggs, meats and vegetables, the monjayaki uses different liquid ingredients more so than its predecessor.
In fact, you can differentiate the two recipes when you see them in person or in videos and images, because okonomiyaki looks like a large fried pancake with meats, vegetables and toppings, while the monjayaki is a bit more runny and viscous.
In this case, while the okonomiyaki looks more like a pancake, the monjayaki, on the other hand, resembles some type of omelette.
There is also a difference on how the two meals are served, for instance, you can eat your okonomiyaki in a small plate or bowl with chopsticks, whereas you can only eat the monjayaki hot off the grill with a spatula-shaped spoon.
Okonomiyaki Roots and Regional Variations
The okonomiyaki being the more prominent of the two dishes has not only evolved over the centuries, but has also became a widespread delicacy across various regions in Japan with each having its own blend and taste.
It’s interesting to know that places like Tsukishima, Hinase, Tokushima Prefecture and a few other regions have their own unique style of cooking the okonomiyaki meaty-vegetable pancake.
The evolution of okonomiyaki is a wonder in and on itself. Now let us look at the different variations of this Japanese savory pancake.
The Okonomiyaki comes in these different styles of cooking:
- Kansai/ Osaka Style
- Hiroshima Style
- Tsukishima Style
- Hamamatsu Style
- Okinawa Style
- Hinase, Okayama Style
- Kishiwada, Osaka Style
- Fuchū, Hiroshima Style
- Tokushima Style
This is a text overlay image of the original work Okonomiyaki! by SteFou! on Flickr under cc. What a great looking dish!
This particular version of the okonomiyaki is the most popular among all of the okonomiyaki pancakes in all of Japan.
Dissecting this cuisine will be tough as it has lots of basic ingredients and since its name implies that you can customize it, that becomes even more complicated.
- Starting off with the batter, it is made from wheat or buckwheat flour and sort of forms the foundation for the whole pancake
- Then other ingredients include a tuberous root vegetable called nagaimo which is a type of yam that is grated
- dried kelp or skipjack tuna extract called dashi or sometimes they just use water as a substitute ingredient
- shredded cabbage and eggs.
- Additional ingredients include mochi or cheese, konjac, vegetables, shrimp, squid, octopus, thin strips of pork belly meat (looks very similar to bacon) and green onion.
The various slang for okonomiyaki may also include as “Osaka soul food,” “Japanese pizza,” pancake or omelette.
The okonomiyaki also has very delicious toppings which adds even more taste to the already savourous and those condiments include:
- beni shōga or pickled ginger
- Japanese mayonnaise
- katsuobushi or what is otherwise known as bonito flakes
- aonori (seaweed flakes)
- and Worcestershire sauce or otafuku/okonomiyaki sauce.
The okonomiyaki is cooked atop a teppanyaki grill and you may go to either a staff-served or grill-it-yourself restaurant where the latter will give you the freedom to cook your own okonomiyaki.
There are also other variants of the okonomiyaki where they serve it with an additional layer of fried udon/yakisoba and it’s called, modan-yaki. The negiyaki, on the other hand, is a type of okonomiyaki with lots of scallions.
This okonomiyaki style is quite distinct from its Osaka counterpart and while the ingredients of the latter is mixed, the former’s is layered like rock formations detailing geological timelines.
The layers commonly consists of:
- baked flour batter
- pork (or seafood items such as octopus, squid or shrimp)
- and cheese.
- Typically it is topped with udon or yakisoba noodles much like the modan-yaki
- plus enough okonomiyaki sauce to blow all your blues away, simply because it’s very delicious.
This okonomiyaki has such a unique blend and taste to it that you’d recite the Japanese idiomatic expression, ‘花より団子’ which translates to “dumplings rather than flowers,” eloquently; and it can generally mean someone who prefers substance over style or is a practical person.
In my collective assumption the practicality of layering the okonomiyaki’s ingredients rather than mixing it enhances its taste more!
The Hiroshima cooking style of the okonomiyaki is sometimes referred to as Hiroshima-yaki or Hiroshima-okonomi.
Specializes in monjayaki as this is believed to be the place where the monjayaki was born, but restaurants here also offer okonomiyaki.
They even named the main street here “Monja Street” as a reference to the monjayaki recipe.
They cook takuan which is pickled daikon radish and hardly considered as a type of okonomiyaki, except for its vegetable pancake-ish looks.
Is a very simple type of okonomiyaki called Hirayachi, but you will find it more common in households rather than in any restaurants in Okinawa.
Hinase, Okayama Style
Chefs from this region love to put oysters in the okonomiyaki and improve upon the recipe to call it kaki-oko, which is their version of the famous cuisine.
Kishiwada, Osaka Style
Their version of the okonomiyaki is called kashimin-yaki (カシミヤキ) and the usual pork meat that’s added to the recipe is replaced with chicken and tallow, which gives the kashimin-yaki its unique flavor.
Fuchū, Hiroshima Style
This version of the okonomiyaki has also replaced the pork meat belly in favor of ground beef or pork.
Is a type of mixed okonomiyaki.
Steps in Cooking the Common (Kansai) Okonomiyaki Recipe
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl made of plastic – you’ll get the desired airy texture of the okonomiyaki if you stir the ingredients thoroughly in a plastic bowl than in a glass or metal bowl, so this is a good start for your okonomiyaki cooking skills.
- Start frying the mix into the teppanyaki grill – make circles from the mix kind of like how you make regular Western pancakes by using a specialized Japanese spatula called, hera.
- Flip your patty like a pancake – you need to flip the savoury pancake as many times as possible in order to get the perfect color and texture. Unlike the monjayaki which can only be cooked on a teppanyaki, the okonomiyaki can be cooked on both the teppanyaki grill and a regular skillet or frying pan.
- Add mayonnaise – here’s a tip on how to efficiently use the mayonaise as a topping for the okonomiyaki; instead of aimlessly making a zig-zagging pattern with it, try to make a grid on the surface of the pancake and seal the edges by making a circular pattern afterwards. This way the sauce doesn’t drip down from the okonomiyaki and stays locked in place inside the grid pattern that you’ve made earlier.
- Add okonomiyaki sauce and aonori – first add the okonomiyaki sauce (note this is not the same as normal soy sauce as it is a mixture of honey, ketchup and soy sauce which gives the pancake a better flavor) onto the pancake. Then sprinkle the aonori all over it too! The aonori is dried seaweed which also enhances the taste of the okonomiyaki pancake.
- Add katsuobushi – adding a final touch to the whole dish by strewing katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) on it will promise an exotic flavor that you’ve never tasted before.
- Serve it hot – slice the onomiyaki into bite-size cubes is how you serve it. Enjoy every bite of this Japanese savoury pancake!
Proper Way to Eat the Okonomiyaki
You can choose one of two ways when eating the okonomiyaki meat-vegetable pancake and that’s by using the hera (small spatula-like spoon) and eat it directly from the teppanyaki grill, or transfer it onto a small plate or bowl and use chop sticks.
The okonomiyaki is a full meal in and on itself, so technically you really don’t need to pair it with anything else.
However, if you do want to pair it with something else, then I suggest that you pair it with a green salad with an Asian-flavored dressing.
As for the drinks you can drink it with sake, soda or fruit juice.
Steps in Cooking the Monjayaki
This is an animated gif of the original work Monjayaki @ Fuugetsu, Tsukishima by Hajime NAKANO, monja yaki by Helen Cook, IMG_2704 by Clemson, Tsukishima Monjayaki by sodai gomi and MONJA! (Tsukishima, Tokyo, Japan) by t-mizo on Flickr under cc.
- Cook the ingredients that are not used for the batter first – start putting the beef, pork, squid, shrimp, octupus and vegetables on the teppanyaki grill and fry them for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Arrange the scattered ingredients into a circle – use the hera (small spatula-shaped spoons) and chop and form the ingredients into a circular form.
- It’s time to pour the batter in – gouge out a hole in the center until the first ingredients form a donut shape and then pour the dashi batter in approximated amounts just enough to mix them together thoroughly and not spilling the whole thing all over the grill.
- Repeat the process until you’ve poured in all the batter ingredients – each time you repeat the process (this may take only 2 – 3 times to finish all the batter) wait for the whole mix to become viscous enough before you gouge a hole in the middle of it again and pour more dashi batter into it. Keep chopping the mix as you stir them over the grill so that the vegetables and the meats will be finely chopped and the whole thing becomes as gooey as possible.
- Add the remaining ingredients – depending on the chef’s or your preference there are other ingredients that could be included in the mix besides the basic ones. In Chef Yasutami Ōhashi’s restaurant the Hibachi and Taiyo no Jidai, for example, he compliments his monjayaki with strawberries and cream! And no, you don’t eat that separately because it goes right into the monjayaki mix as well. Weird, I know, but that’s just how they do it in Japan. Meanwhile, in Tsuru-Chan’s restaurant they compliment theirs with mentaiko (salted walleye pollack roe with red pepper) and mochi.
- Add toppings – It’s popular to top monjayaki with cheese.
- Your patience will pay off – even though the monjayaki looks a lot like an omelette you mustn’t treat it like one. You have to patiently stir it thoroughly and not turn it into a soft-boiled egg by slacking off, because the only way to eat the monjayaki is by eating it while it’s still gooey or viscous. It’s no fun if you overcook it.
Proper Way to Eat the Monjayaki
There is only one way to eat the monjayaki and that is hot right off the grill and you wouldn’t want it any other way, because eating it cold would feel a little off.
The hera is once again used to scoop up the monjayaki from the teppanyaki grill and sample it. Do be careful though because the hera is sharp, especially at the edges, so it is best to enjoy your monjayaki by eating it slowly.
You may use the same drinks to pair with the monjayaki as with the okonomiyaki which are sake (or any other liquor or beer), soda or fruit juice. Y
ou could also make the monjayaki as bread filling and eat it with bread, but some Japanese folks might frown upon it, so if you must, do it at home where there are no judging eyes to pry you.
The Teppanyaki Connection
By now you must have realized that both the okonomiyaki and monjayaki are often cooked on top of the teppanyaki grill, which should be the preferred way to cook them if you ask tenured Japanese chefs.
There simply is not enough room to maneuver on a frying pan or skillet – even the biggest ones – while holding two heras on both hands chopping and stirring the okonomiyaki or the monjayaki.
The teppanyaki grill has enough space for the chef and/or you to even cook multiple okonomiyaki and monjayaki pancakes all at the same time! That’s efficiency you don’t get from any other kitchen utensils and as such exemplifies Japanese inegnuity in creating items to satisfy the need for cooking extravagant and exotic food recipes.
Okonomiyaki Recipe Examples
1.) Okonomiyaki Savoury Pancake
For the Batter:
• 100g okonomiyaki flour
• 100ml water
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cabbage
• 1 spring onion
For the Toppings:
• meat/seafood toppings of your choice (bacon, shrimp, or squid would be good)
• okonomiyaki sauce
• dried bonito flakes
• aonori seaweed
• pickled ginger
• tenkasu tempura flakes
1. Pour the 100g specially-made okonomiyaki flour into a medium-size bowl, add the 100ml water and mix thoroughly. Set it aside for later use.
2. Start chopping the cabbage and spring onion finely and pour it into the bowl where the batter mix is.
3. Toss in the egg to the bowl together with the batter mix. Try not to mix too much as you may not get the desired result for your batter.
4. Heat up the skillet or teppanyaki and pour some vegetable oil over it, set to high heat. Now pour the okonimiyaki batter mix into the teppanyaki and use the hera to form a circular shape from it just like how you would make a regular pancake. Allow it to cook for about 3 – 4 minutes and see if the bottom becomes brown color.
5. This time you may add the toppings before you flip the pancake over. Let the other side of it cook for another 3 – 4 minutes until it also becomes brown color. In order to keep the pancake light and fluffy just let it cook on its own and do not try to press it down with the spatula.
6. Once cooked, transfer it to a large plate and then add the condiments such as the okonomiyaki sauce, aonori seaweed, bonito flakes, pickled ginger and tenkasu tempura flakes.
• In case the specialized okonomiyaki flour is not available in your area, then just use ordinary flour and mix it with 1 tsp baking powder and 2g of dashi stock powder.
• If you want to cook the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, then fry up the yakisoba noodles in a separate skillet or another space in the teppanyaki while one side of the pancake is still being cooked. Then flip the pancake on top of the noodles in order to cook the other side.
• Once your okonomiyaki is almost done, break an egg atop it and cover with lid in order to steam-cook the egg. After 1 – 2 minutes remove it from the teppanyaki grill and serve with the egg yolk almost viscous.
2.) Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki (Japanese Layered Pancakes)
• 1¼ cups all-purpose flour (187g)
• ½ tsp salt
• 1¼ cups water (300ml)
• 4 tbsp vegetable oil
• 4 tsp katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes, crushed)
• 1 lb cabbage (thinly sliced) (450g)
• 8 strips bacon (cut into halves)
• 1 package yakisoba (17 oz/480g)
• 4 tbsp mirin (Japanese cooking rice wine)
• 1 cup okonomiyaki sauce (240ml)
• 6 oz shrimps (peeled and deveined) (170g)
• 4 large eggs
• Aonori (finely shredded green seaweed)
• 4 green onions (thinly sliced)
1.) Mix the all-purpose flour in a large bowl with the 300ml of water and mix thoroughly.
2.) Turn on the teppanyaki grill and set to medium heat. Spread the oil with a brush evenly across the iron griddle. Spread the batter too using a ladle and then drizzle a teaspoon full of katsuobushi on it also. Pour in the batter and add the shredded cabbage on the top (do not use all the cabbage in one time), then start adding the 4 bacon slices on top of the cabbage as well. Cook it for roughly 5 minutes.
3.) Once the one side is cooked (with a brownish color), then flip it over with the hera to allow for the other side where the bacon is to cook (Do it for 4 – 5 minutes).
4.) While the okonomiyaki is being cooked on a certain spot in the teppanyaki grill, try cooking the yakisoba on another space and add the okonomiyaki sauce and mirin.
5.) Find another empty space and cook 5 or 6 pieces of shrimps there, then mix it together with the fried yakisoba as well.
6.) This time flip the okonomiyaki pancake once more onto the yakisoba covering it.
7.) Fry a scrambled egg on another unused space in the teppanyaki grill and then flip the pancake again on top of it once it’s cooked (the egg should be cooked in just about 1 – 2 minutes).
8.) Flip the pancake one last time and sprinkle it with okonomiyaki sauce.
9.) Now transfer it onto a large plate and drizzle it with the aonori and green onions.
10.) Serve immediately.
Monjayaki Recipe Examples
Monjayaki Recipe #1
• 500ml water
• 3 tbsp. flour
• 4 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 300g (10.6oz.) cabbage
• 10g (0.36oz.) Sakuraebi (dried small shrimp)
• 50g (1.8oz.) Tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep fried flour-batter)
• ((you can add other ingredients))
• kimchi, seasoned cod roe, cheese, corn, tuna, Mochi, noodle snacks, etc…
For the Batter:
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce
• 3/4 cup Flour
1.) Get a medium-size bowl and pour in the flour, water and Worchestershire sauce simultaneously. Mix thoroughly until the flour has dissolved.
2.) Turn on the teppanyaki griddle, set temperature to medium-high and pour the oil on it.
3.) Put the shredded cabbage and other ingredients in a small separate bowl.
4.) This time pour the cabbage mix into the grill, make them into a circle and start frying them.
5.) Remove some of the cabbage mix from the center and push it to the sides to form a donut shape.
6.) Pour the batter on the center of the cabbage mix where you just made a hole earlier and then mix and chop them even more while you cook them.
7.) Continue pouring the remaining batter and the other ingredients until they’re all used up, keep chopping and stirring the monjayaki until it looks runny and viscous. Cook for up to 5 minutes and then serve hot off the grill right away.
Monjayaki Recipe #2
• 75 grams pork offcuts
• 1/8 head cabbage
• 3 pieces mochi rice cakes
• 150 grams frozen corn
• 30 grams pizza cheese
• 1 tsp curry powder
• Dashi stock 400 ml
• Japanese Worcestershire sauce 50 ml
• Flour 100 ml
• 1 cup of Japanese Worcestershire sauce
• 1 cup of water
1.) To make the monjayaki batter, mix the flour, dashi stock and Japanese Worcestershire sauce in a medium-size bowl.
2.) Chop the cabbage finely.
3.) Cut the pork meat into 2cm cubes.
4.) Spread vegetable oil on the teppanyaki grill and heat it up as you sauté the pork.
5.) Check to see if the pork becomes brown in color and then toss in the cabbage and keep cooking.
6.) Gouge out a hole from the middle of the pork and cabbage and form a ring out of it.
7.) Pour in the batter mix in the center hole you’ve just made, then mix and chop them together with the heras (2 spatula-like spoons) and repeat the process until you’ve used up all the batter.
8.) Add the mochi and corn, and stir.
9.) Mix until the mochi melts.
10.) If you see the mochi melting, then add the curry powder and cheese to complete the recipe and mix and chop them some more for about 2 – 3 minutes.
11.) Serve hot off the grill.
Cooking the Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki at Home
Preparing these Japanese savoury pancakes at home is not that complicated and because you can create your own okonomiyaki and monjayaki, you can’t make a mistake if you already know the basics.
This is an amazing cuisine to make an impression on your guests or just to please your own self while enjoying some leisure time.
However, you may need to buy a teppanyaki grill to create the best okonomiyaki and monjayaki pancakes at home.
Check out these Robata grills for Japanese cuisine
Top Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki Restaurants in Japan
The okonomiyaki and monjayaki had become a national craze across Japan since WWII ended and not only did people set up restaurant businesses offering exclusive okomiyaki and monjayaki food services, but in some areas they’ve developed their own unique style of cooking the okonomiyaki recipe too!
If you’re planning to visit Japan any time soon and you want to try these Japanese pancakes, then check out these awesome okonomiyaki and monjayaki restaurants.
1. Mizuno Restaurant in Osaka
2. Tengu, Osaka
3. Kuro – Chan, Osaka
4. Okonomiyaki Kiji Restaurant in Tokyo
5. ZEN Restaurant in Shinjuku District
6. Okonomiyaki Sometaro in Asakusa District
7. Suzume no Oyado in Shibuya
8. Okonomimura Restaurant, Hiroshima
9. Lopez Okonomiyaki Restaurant in Hiroshima
10. Okonomiyaki Sakura Tei in Harajuku
Check out our teppanyaki buying guide for home grill plates and accessories.