Okonomiyaki: Cook What You Like

One of the high points of dining out is watching the flourish of an Oriental chef cooking culinary delights right in front of you. This experience is called Teppenyaki, which originated in Japan. ‘Teppen’ means ‘iron hot plate’ while ‘yaki’ means ‘cooked’, which is an exquisite art form. In such occasions the chef appears like a Marvel superhero with the ability of tossing up spatulas, vegetables, meats and other delicacies high in the air only to land perfectly on your plate looking delicious. However, it has always been one’s dream to step into the shoes of a superhero or in this case under the chef’s hat and attempt to create something mouth-watering. Fortunately the Japanese with their initiative and efficiency have provided customers with their shot at the Teppen. This sporting chance is known as Okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki literally means ‘cook what you like’ and it is exactly what one does. Okonomiyaki is cooked in two styles, which are the Kansai Style (Osaka) and the Hiroshima Style. In the Kansai Region, Okonomiyaki to people not from Japan may appear like a Japanese pancake or pizza. In this particular style, the ingredients are mixed into a batter made of flour, grated yam, water, eggs and shredded cabbage. In the Hiroshima version, the batter and the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. The layers start off as a pile and get pushed down as they get cooked. The Okonomiyaki sauce provided in the Hiroshima Style is thin and lends itself more towards the spicy palette vis-à-vis in the Kansai Style the sauce is thicker and sweeter.

Many of the Okonomiyaki restaurants have a do-it-yourself grill on each table on which one cooks their meal. As soon as one enters the restaurant, the host lights up the Teppen so it can get heated up for your adventure in the world of Japanese culinary arts. The restaurant provides you with a spatula and a pair of chopsticks with which you brace yourself for a lifetime experience. The uninteresting part is to choose the meat and vegetables you want. Now for the fun part!!

All one has to do is dab some oil on the hot plate and place the meat and vegetables and let them simmer for a while. Then douse the food added with the batter provided and mix it up well ensuring that they are cooked well. Then add a generous dollop of the brown Okonomiyaki sauce and dig in. Just as you are about to eat, take a deep breath and tickle your odour receptors before digging in because for some reason Japanese food manages to appeal to all the senses; it tastes good, it is decorated in such a way to make it visually appealing and it smells divine. Vegetarians and Vegans needn’t shy away from this experience because the Japanese are very considerate and will ensure that you get a good meal. The thrill of cooking an Oriental meal beats anything and it leaves you wanting to have another go at the Teppen.

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