Subscribe to RSS feed subscribe by email twitter stumble this page  
Food For Thought Okonomiyaki vs. Monjayaki
(Entered Mar. 11, 2007)
  Recent Food For Thought:

If you've ever had an urge to add vegetables or meat to your pancakes then perhaps you were Japanese in a past life. Personally I'd never considered what a cabbage and onion pancake might taste like, but all it took was one bite and I knew that I should be opening up my own shop back in Canada. I've heard that you can now find okonomiyaki in Vancouver, (where it goes by the politically incorrect name of 'Japcake'), so maybe I'm too late. Okonomiyaki translates to 'grill what you like' and depending on who you talk to, either originated in Hiroshima or Osaka. Both styles are distinct, but in my book, Osaka okonomiyaki is the clear winner. In fact the Hiroshima version is so much less popular, you might have to go to Hiroshima to eat it, which in fact I have done.
Here we are with a fresh bowl of okonomiyaki at the Tsukishima restaurant 'Bambi'. Bambi's head (the deer, not some porn star) adorned napkins, the menu, etc., though somehow I doubt they have a special licence from Disney.
Basic okonomiyaki comes with batter, cabbage, grated yam, onions and an egg, but these days there are tons of extra flavour options such as different kinds of meat, fish, cheese, etc. Kumi and I decided to try the mentaiko (spicy pollock roe) okonomiyaki. Most okonomiyaki restaurants have grills set in the tables so you can make it yourself, which is half the fun of okonomiyaki.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

Okonomiyaki can be found all over Tokyo, but Tsukishima has become known as THE place to go to eat both okonomiyaki and monjayaki. (I'll get to monjayaki in a bit.) Tsukishima is one of those reclaimed islands that Tokyoites built in order to get a few more inches of space. Unlike the famous 'Dream Island' however, it isn't made of garbage. Still, the fact remains that the next big earthquake that comes along will most likely sweep Tsukishima back into the sea, but in the meantime, let's enjoy okonomiyaki!
After a good mixing, you grease up the grill and pour the whole mess over it. Kumi left me in charge of things knowing that my pancake skills were unmatchable.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

A flip and a few more minutes later the okonomiyaki was sizzled to perfection. Now you add the secret ingredients: fish flakes, seaweed powder, mayonaise and brown sauce! Yum! Asking for maple syrup is bound to get you some strange looks.

okonomiyaki vs monjayaki

Kumi knows good okonomiyaki when she tastes it.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

You never know who you're going to see at an okonomiyaki restaurant. You might even run into a guy wearing bunny ears. Some people were born to be fashion leaders.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

Monjayaki is okonomiyaki's less popular cousin. Most people, including myself, prefer okonomiyaki. However, while okonomiyaki started in Osaka (and some say Hiroshima), monjayaki began right here in Tokyo. Tsukishima is actually more famous for monjayaki, the main street with all the restaurants is even called Monja street. However the restaurant owners aren't stupid, and most shops offer both in order to keep business moving along.
We decided to be patriotic Tokyoites and ordered a big ol' monjayaki next. Neither Kumi or I knew how to cook a monja though, so we asked our server to give us a hand. Monjayaki is quite different from okonomiyaki. How? Well the simplest explanation is that while okonomiyaki batter is thick, monjayaki batter is thin and runny like soup.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

And tends to be steamy too. What's happening behind the clouds?

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

Ater things have settled down, you can see that monjayaki is bigger, flatter, and wetter than okonomiyaki, and unfortunately looks something like the aftereffects of drinking too much on a full stomach. Don't let its appearance turn you off though. Our particular monjayaki was a 'Gomoku' monja, which means that it came with about 5 kinds of fish plus some pork as well. Oh and cabbage, lots of cabbage.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

Monjayaki is scraped and eaten directly off the grill with a special shovel-like spoon, just remember that it's gonna be pretty hot. Monjayaki has the consistency and flavour of gruel, or porridge, so be sure to add some sauce and salt as well to liven things up.

okonomiyaki vs. monjayaki

All of Tsukishima's restaurants are small, crowded and tend to look a bit run down, but don't let this put you off if you're looking for the real experience. They also tend to be on the smoky side, so after you're done you might want to head to the dry cleaners to drop off your clothes. Costwise though, things are quite affordable. You'll only be out a couple thousand yen for a good meal. I can't vouch for the quality of the other restaurants on Monja street, but I can vouch for Bambi. Once you're inside, order a Gomoku Monjayaki and tell 'em Mike sent ya!




Pepsi Strong Shot
Zero Life
Green Cola
Pepsi Baobab
Tomato Cafe
Goya Champuru Candy
Cake Lighter Than Air
Coke Breath
Vinegar and Milk
Coke Plus Fiber
Pepsi Azuki - Red Bean Pepsi
Kit Kat's Flavour Fetish - Part 4
Sports Drink Conspiracy
Snapple Facts
Pepper Flavoured Gum
I Need Western Food, Stat!
Grilled Lamb Caramels
Free Beer
Pepsi Shiso (Beefsteak Plant)
Green Tea Coke
All Entries

Tripbase Blog Awards 2009
Tripbase Blog Awards 2009


Recent Comments...

Recent Artwork:
winter beauty

Blogroll - Friends:
Michael John Grist
Comicrocosmos by SZLIN
Jason Collin Photography
Philbuchan's Weblog
The Itinerant American

Blogroll - Japan:
Alive in Kyoto
An Englishman in Osaka
As I See Japan... From L.A.
Gaijin Tonic
i, cjw
Japan Probe
Japan Sugoi
Tokyo Times

Blogroll - Elsewhere:
Buy Absinthe
The Daily Kimchi
Travel Photo Blogging

Great Art Sites:
Red Bubble
Deviant Art



Blender Poll  
  Mike's Facts
sheep on the hunt