Pancakes in Japan
I consider okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) and monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き) the pancakes of Japan. Okonomiyaki batter is mainly made of flour and shredded cabbage. The other ingredients, such as meat, seafood, seaweed or even cheese, depend on the eater’s preferences. Monjayaki batter is similar to okonomiyaki’s batter. The difference between the two lies primarily in the way the two are cooked; monjayaki is eaten when it is partially cooked, compared to okonomiyaki’s firm, pancake-like form.
Before I started my internship, I had only one class on Wednesdays. On one of those Wednesdays, my three friends and I decided to pick a random restaurant in the tour book for Tokyo, Japan. Luck brought us to go to Sakuratei, a buffet of okonomiyaki and monjayaki, in the backstreets of Harajuku. We took a few wrong turns a couple times before finding the narrow road up to the entrance of Sakuratei. While we wondered around Harajuku, I found this amazingly inspirational graffiti.
Upon entering Sakuratei, we were immediately impressed by the diversity of art in this Japanese pancake restaurant. There were no walls untouched and no corners uncovered; either a framed drawing or painted mural decorated the entire store. Even the staircase upstairs was decorated along with the walls. This hipster store definitely carried the vibe of Harajuku.
As this was my first time eating okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) and monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き), I had to read the instructions carefully before starting. Luckily, my friend already knew how to make it and showed us. We first took the bowl of ingredients given to us and mixed it until the batter was a glop of flour and cabbage and the extra ingredient we added. The picture below has kimchi has the extra ingredient. It was good!
After mixing it well, we pour out the glop onto the large hot plate. We had to make the glops as round as possible (the waitress came by and helped us with our horrible first batch), letting it fry for about 4-5 minutes per side. After it’s firm, the okonomiyaki is edible. I liked mine a little crispier, so I let it lie a few more seconds.
As for monjayaki, we had to mix the batter as well, but the batter was much more “liquidity.” According to my friend, eating monjayaki with cheese is the best way to eat it since the gooey cheese and the half-cooked batter match well together. First, you mix and cook the cabbage and a little bit of batter on the hot plate. Then you make a hole with the cooked cabbage and batter. The rest of the batter goes into the hole to cook for about 15 seconds before you mix the batter inside with the wall of cabbage. You cook the final mix for about a minute before you can finally eat it! These take a lot of time and effort to make to be honest, but they’re yummy.
After eating for about an hour and a half, we also realized that we were soaked in the fried odors for an hour and a half. Sakuratei, however, thought of their customers and provided Febreze!
This meal brought that Wednesday to a wonderful end.