Monjayaki vs Okonomiyaki? This Is How They Differ

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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, I’ll be talking about 2 of the most well-loved Japanese recipes (in terms of ingredients, that is) that just happen 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 the Kansai or Hiroshima regions in Japan but is now a household delicacy throughout the country.
  • Monjayaki, on the other hand, uses a pan-fried batter and originated in the Kantō region.

Check out our article about teppanyaki accessories as well.

Let’s discuss a little background on the difference between okonomiyaki and monjayaki.

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Monjayaki vs okonomiyaki

These 2 Japanese savory pancakes that contain 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 uses lots of toppings, and so roughly translates to “whatever you want to grill”.

It is the pancake monjayaki evolved from.

Monjayaki may have split from 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’s similar to okonomiyaki (as its batter is also based on wheat flour, water, eggs, meats, and vegetables), monjayaki uses different liquid ingredients; more so than its predecessor.

In fact, you can differentiate between the 2 recipes when you see them in person or videos and images because okonomiyaki looks like a large fried pancake with meats, vegetables, and toppings, while monjayaki is a bit more runny and viscous.

the difference between Monjayaki and Okonomiyaki

This is a text overlay image of the original work Okonomiyaki by Alkan de Beaumont Chaglar and 味家(勝どき) Miya(Monja, Okonomiyaki) by  Hajime NAKANO on Flickr under cc.

While okonomiyaki looks more like a pancake, monjayaki, on the other hand, resembles some type of omelet.

There’s also a difference in how the 2 meals are served. For instance, you can eat okonomiyaki on a small plate or in a bowl with chopsticks, whereas you can only eat monjayaki hot off the grill with a spatula-shaped spoon.

Also read: this is how you make okonomiyaki sauce yourself

Okonomiyaki is the more prominent of the 2 dishes. Not only has it evolved over the centuries, but it’s also become a widespread delicacy across various regions in Japan, with each having its own blend and taste.

Is okonomiyaki supposed to be gooey?

Okonomiyaki is not supposed to be gooey but has a crunchy exterior and slightly soft interior. You are supposed to be able to grab off small pieces with you chopsticks or spatulas. The runny variety of okonomiyaki is called monjayaki, which you eat with a spoon because of its gooeyness.

Steps in cooking the common (Kansai) okonomiyaki recipe

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl made of plastic. You’ll get the desired airy texture of okonomiyaki if you stir the ingredients thoroughly in a plastic bowl rather than in a glass or metal bowl, so this is a good start for your okonomiyaki cooking skills.
  2. Start frying the mix on the teppanyaki grill. Make circles from the mix, kind of like how you make regular Western pancakes. Use a specialized Japanese spatula called hera.
  3. Flip your patty like a pancake. You need to flip the savory pancake as many times as possible in order to get the perfect color and texture. Unlike monjayaki (which can only be cooked on a teppanyaki grill), okonomiyaki can be cooked on both the teppanyaki grill and a regular skillet or frying pan.
  4. Add mayonnaise. Here’s a tip on how to efficiently use mayonnaise as a topping for the okonomiyaki; instead of aimlessly making a zig-zag pattern with it, try to make a grid on the surface of the pancake and seal the edges by making a circular pattern afterward. 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.
  5. Add okonomiyaki sauce and aonori. First, add the okonomiyaki sauce (note this isn’t the same as normal soy sauce, as it’s a mixture of honey, ketchup, and soy sauce, which gives the pancake a better flavor) onto the pancake. Then sprinkle aonori all over it too! Aonori is dried seaweed, which also enhances the taste of the okonomiyaki pancake.
  6. Add katsuobushi. Adding a final touch to the whole dish by scattering katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) on it will promise an exotic flavor that you’ve never tasted before.
  7. Serve it hot. Slicing the okonomiyaki into bite-size cubes is how you serve it. Enjoy every bite of this Japanese savory pancake!

The proper way to eat okonomiyaki

You can choose one of 2 ways to eat the okonomiyaki meat-vegetable pancake. You can use 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 chopsticks.

Okonomiyaki is a full meal in and of itself, so technically, you really don’t need to pair it with anything else.

However, if you do want to do so, then I suggest that you pair it with a green salad with Asian-flavored dressing.

As for drinks, you can eat it with sake, soda, or fruit juice.

The proper way to eat monjayaki

Easy MONJAYAKI recipe you can make yourself

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.

There’s only one way to eat monjayaki and that’s hot right off the grill! 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 serve it. Do be careful though, because the hera is sharp, especially at the edges, so it’s 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 is sake (or any other liquor or beer), soda, or fruit juice.

You 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 staring at you.

The teppanyaki connection

By now, you must’ve realized that both 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 isn’t enough room to maneuver on a frying pan or skillet (even the biggest ones!) while holding two heras in both hands, chopping and stirring the okonomiyaki or 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 the efficiency you don’t get from any other kitchen utensils and, as such, exemplifies Japanese ingenuity in creating items to satisfy the need for cooking extravagant and exotic food recipes.

Monjayaki recipe

Cooking okonomiyaki and monjayaki at home

Preparing these Japanese savory pancakes at home isn’t 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 enjoy yourself 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

Okonomiyaki and monjayaki had become a national craze across Japan since WWII ended. Not only did people set up restaurant businesses offering exclusive okonomiyaki and monjayaki food services, but in some areas, they also 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, Osaka
2. Tengu, Osaka
3. Kuro-Chan, Osaka
4. Okonomiyaki Kiji Restaurant, Tokyo
5. ZEN Restaurant, Shinjuku District
6. Okonomiyaki Sometaro, Asakusa District
7. Okonomimura Restaurant, Hiroshima
8. Lopez Okonomiyaki Restaurant, Hiroshima
9. Okonomiyaki Sakura Tei, Harajuku

Enjoy some tasty okonomiyaki and monjayaki

Now you know all about the types of okonomiyaki and monjayaki. Not only that, but you’ve also got some fantastic recipes to try! If you don’t already have a Japanese grill, consider getting one so you can enjoy the full experience.

Check out our teppanyaki buying guide for home grill plates and accessories.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.