Most popular Japanese konamono or “flour things”: Have you tried them all?
Have you heard about Japanese Konamono dishes?
Hint: it’s all about flour!
So, you’re probably wondering, “what is konamono?”
A konamono dish refers to a type of food in which flour is one of the main ingredients. Konamono is also called “flour things” (Kona = flour + mono = things) because these foods are mostly made of flour-based batter.
More specifically, konamono is used as the term for any batter-based food where the flour is dissolved in water.
The word Konamon in standard Japanese means thing made from flour. Konamono is the Osaka dialect, but it’s widely used.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 History of Japanese konamono
- 2 The most popular Japanese konamono or “flour things”
- 3 Takeaway
History of Japanese konamono
Now that you know konamono refers to flour things or foods, it’s time to look at a brief history of how this food category came to be so popular.
The term originates in Osaka in Japan’s Kansai region.
Osaka is the home of some of the tastiest konamono-style street food dishes.
It all started in the Edo period, when Osaka was the hub of commerce and transportation. All the popular foods and ingredients passed through the city first, resulting in lots of new recipes developing.
But the main reason that flour-based dishes are so popular in Osaka is due to the severe food shortage that followed World War II.
People used the U.S. military’s flour supplies to make a kind of dumpling that could be eaten with soup since there wasn’t enough rice available for the general population.
After a while, dough-based food like bread was introduced to school lunches as well as batter-based fried foods. Later, food trucks selling Westernized food such as pancakes, curried rice, and tonkatsu pork cutlets were first introduced in Osaka.
These events all led to the rapid popularization of konamono.
What is the origin of the word konamono?
In the 1980s, the word “Konamon,” which is now widely used throughout the country, was first popularized. Now the term is konamono, but you can use both.
Konamon is the standard Japanese word for things made out of flour, whereas konamono is the Osakan dialect.
It all happened as a joke after a well-known comedian from Osaka announced that the city was the headquarters for the best konamono dishes.
Osakans are known for their adventurous foodie culture. In fact, the culinary scene there is probably Japan’s most interesting!
There is a special street named Dotonbori, and there you’ll find a host of food stalls, cafes, restaurants, and street food specialties.
Next, I’m going to discuss all of the popular konamono dishes you must try.
The most popular Japanese konamono or “flour things”
There are some amazing konamono flour batter dishes available all over Japan.
The word konamono is rather general, and there are many food types that are included in this umbrella term.
As I mentioned before, the term konamono is loosely interpreted, so it includes various dishes.
Some of these favorites include takoyaki, okonomiyaki, noodles, and even pizza but let’s look at them in more detail below.
Takoyaki – fried octopus balls
Takoyaki is popular Japanese street food and a great snack comprised of deep-fried batter, shaped into balls and filled with delicious diced octopus.
It is served with toppings like takoyaki sauce, tempura, pickled ginger, and green onions.
The batter is made from wheat flour – hence why it’s considered a konamono dish.
Tako means octopus, and yaki refers to baked or fried food, and this dish is also known as “octopus balls.” The balls are fried in a special takoyaki pan or griddle molds.
Takoyaki has a savory flavor, and many Japanese people refer to it as umami. This snack is tasty because it has a crispy fried exterior and a tender interior which is enjoyed while hot.
The takoyaki sauce has a semi-thick consistency. It has a brown color and is made from Worchestershire sauce, mentsuyu sauce, ketchup, and sugar. It has a mild, sweet flavor and pairs well with fried octopus.
It’s best not to eat it one-handed unless you don’t want to burn your tongue. It’s best to cut it in half before you eat it.
Many places in Osaka sell takoyaki. However, most people have their own takoyaki pan and can make takoyaki at home.
Okonomiyaki – runny pancakes
If you’re a fan of savory pancakes, you’ll love okonomiyaki.
Unlike traditional American-style pancakes, okonomiyaki has a runny pancake batter, and it’s cooked on a teppan (flat top griddle).
It is a savory dish made with wheat flour batter and topped with savory ingredients such as cabbage, meat (usually pork), octopus, and seafood.
Then, to top it off, delicious toppings such as okonomiyaki sauce, aonori, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), pickled ginger, and a dazzle of Japanese mayonnaise.
Okonomiyaki sauce comprises fruits, veggies, sugar, vinegar, kelp, soy sauce, and some shiitake mushrooms. It has a runny consistency and a savory taste.
The pancake is fried but still a bit runny, so it’s not dense like your iHop pancakes.
In Osaka, pancakes have been popular for centuries. Back in the day, okonomiyaki was much simpler and made of a runny batter with chopped cabbage and spring onion.
To this day, cabbage is the key ingredient for this yummy dish.
“Okonomi” is the Japanese word for “preference” or “to your liking.” The reason for this name is that people can customize the pancakes and add the ingredients they like to the pancake.
There’s a second theory about the name, and it’s believed that this food was served at tiny restaurants with small seating booths.
Usually, couples would go there and eat together, so okonomi refers to the person you prefer to go out with.
If you visit Japan, you can go to restaurants where you are seated around a teppanyaki grill and cook your own okonomiyaki. Or, if you prefer, you can get it ready-made and eat it on the go as “fast food”.
In case you were wondering if you Can Use Okonomiyaki Sauce for Takoyaki? You certainly can
Negiyaki – green onion pancake
Negiyaki is the most basic of Japanese pancakes and a popular cheap konamono food.
It is a type of okonomiyaki but with only a basic ingredient – green or spring onions.
The name comes from the Japanese word for green onion, which is “Negi.”
It’s savory and delicious, especially when served with its signature soy sauce which is NOT okonomiyaki sauce.
The reason why negiyaki is served with soy sauce is that it is light on the digestive system.
Therefore, this snack food is not considered a full meal like okonomiyaki.
Kyabetsu Yaki – cabbage pancake
Kyabetsu-Yaki is another simple and lower-priced version of okonomiyaki.
The name comes from the Japanese word for cabbage, which is kyabetsu.
It’s the same type of fried batter, and the only ingredient is cabbage, so you don’t have a variety of other toppings. You can also ask for okonomiyaki sauce if you like.
This dish is mostly sold at small street food vendors and stalls, and you eat it on the go while standing or walking around the city.
Another difference is that, unlike okonomiyaki which is considered a meal because of all the ingredients, kyabetsu yaki is more of a lighter snack and not as filling.
Kushikatsu is one of the most famous types of konamono and one of the tastiest too!
If you’re a meat lover, you’ll enjoy these deep-fried meat skewers.
Also known as kushiage in some areas of Japan, it is a dish made of skewered meats and vegetables coated with crumbs (Panko), a runny batter, then deep-fried until crispy.
Any food can be fried from pork to chicken, beef pieces, fish, shrimp, other seafood, asparagus, pineapple, or basically any meat, fruit, vegetable, and even tofu!
Kushi is the term for skewers, while katsu refers to a fried meat cutlet.
Kushikatsu is originally from Osaka, too, and it is must-try street food.
The skewers are served with a dipping sauce made of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, and water. However, you have to know one thing: there is no double-dipping when eating Kushikatsu!
There’s a sanitary reason for this, but it’s best to dip into a lot of sauce the first time so you can taste the savory goodness.
This dish is served while sitting at a table with others, and everyone dips into the same sauce jar. So for each piece of food, you dip once.
Did you know that noodles are also considered konamono or flour foods? Well, it’s not surprising because many types are made with flour.
Japanese fried noodles are called yakisoba.
In the Osaka region, yakisoba noodles are always served with a special yakisoba sauce. Actually, people are quite picky about their noodle sauce here.
Many people notice that the sauce flavor is different from other parts of Japan and tastes more delicate and refined. It is an okonomi sauce with a bold flavor.
The noodles are usually cooked with pork, cabbage, and bean sprouts, then the savory yet slightly sweet sauce is added to add the finishing touches.
Udon noodles are made of wheat flour, and they are used to make tasty soup and stir-fries.
Because of their thick and chewy texture, these are some of Osaka’s most popular noodle types.
The best udon noodles are fried alongside vegetables, meat, garlic, green onions, and then topped off with a soy-based sauce.
They are also a konamono food type although most people don’t automatically think of this dish.
However, if you visit the Kansai region and Osaka, you’ll find plenty of tasty ramen soups and stir-fries with all kinds of yummy toppings.
In Osaka, ramen noodles and soups often contain roasted pork or tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlets).
Po-Po – Miso crepes
Okinawa has some delicious konamono foods that you won’t really find in other areas of Japan.
One of these must-try dishes is Po-Po. It is a traditional confectionery that is similar to a French crepe.
The batter is made with eggs and flour and cooked very thin, so not quite like American pancakes, which are thicker.
Then they spread a layer of Andansu on top and roll it up. Andansu is sweet seasoned miso paste, also known as abura miso.
Po-Po is an old dish and has been popular since the Ryukyuan Dynasty (1429-1879), and the recipe has remained mostly unchanged.
There is another local variety that is even simpler. It is called sobe po-po, and there’s no abura miso filling inside. Instead, the batter contains brown sugar, which makes this a sweet dessert.
Also check out my most on Japanese Pancakes | from sweet to savory and even a pancake drink!
Hirayachi – thin pancake
The hirayachi is a simple izakaya (pub) food. It is a think fried pancake that is completely customizable with only the ingredients you like.
The batter is made by mixing flour, egg, water, and your choice of ingredients. These usually include vegetables, meat, tuna, and other seafood and a topping of chives or spring onions.
When cooking this dish, the batter is fried in a regular round pan and is ready in just a couple of minutes (depending on your ingredients).
A popular hirayachi variety is made with mugwort, shrimp, thin pork slices, and a topping of shaved bonito flakes. This meal complements a cup of sake or beer at the pub.
The simple but delicious Okinawan dish can be made with many different ingredients, and half the fun is creating tasty combinations.
Try it if you have the chance to go to an Okinawan restaurant or izakaya.
Alright, this one is a bit odd, but sobagaki is also a konamono food except it’s made with buckwheat flour, not regular wheat.
Don’t confuse sobagaki with soba noodles because they are not the same thing. Sobagaki is not fried or boiled because buckwheat flour doesn’t require cooking.
For this dish, you would combine soba flour with hot water and mix it well using chopsticks. It becomes a sticky and pasty clump. This is eaten as is and dipped into a sobatsuyu (dashi) or shoyu (soy) sauce.
A fried food made with flour can be considered a konamono dish. In fact, most Japanese foods that contain a lot of flour or flour is one of the main ingredients fall under this “flour things” category.
Luckily there are many delicious dishes to try because it’s not just about takoyaki, although those octopus balls are some of the best.
If you’re traveling across Japan, you might not really hear much about konamono or see it listed on a menu but just know that many dishes are in fact made with flour and can be called that too!
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.