If there’s one thing that Japanese people love to talk about it’s food. During my first year in Japan whenever I’d talk with teachers or friends about my travels around the country, I’d be met with recommendations on local cuisine rather than famous sights. I actually made this the theme of my Japanese speech in a local contest. I came third place, somehow. Anyway, while individual localities around Hiroshima Prefecture are known for local produce (oysters, lemons, oranges…etc), Hiroshima is widely know for okonomiyaki.
To put it simply, okonomiyaki is a pancake with a bunch of ingredients mixed in; cabbage, eggs, meat, spring onions. It’s then covered in a sweet sauce and mayonnaise. It’s usually served on a teppan, a grill/ hotplate built into the table, and you serve yourself using a small spatula. The dish is believed to have dated back to the late Edo Period (1603-1868), gaining popularity during World War II. Though it has substantially changed from it’s routes as a crepe-based confectionary, it still remains one of the most popular foods in the country, and even other parts of Asia.
There are a number of different variations and twists on the dish. But the two main versions are Kansai or Hiroshima. Kansai or Osakan-style okonomiyaki is more well-known throughout Japan, meaning Hiroshima’s is seen as a bit more special. Hiroshima style uses a lot more cabbage, adds soba noodles and is constructed in layers rather than mixing everything together. It’s hard to look sophisticated when eating Hiroshima okonomiyaki as the overwhelming amount of ingredients presents a logistical nightmare. But I guess that adds to the charm and character of the dish.
I remember the first time I tried it was actually the first time I came to Hiroshima during the Summer of 2011. My family and I sat in a heavily air-conditioned Micchan, a famous local chain, and we all really enjoyed it. In fact when I started living in Japan, every time I made the trip to Hiroshima I’d always go to the same restaurant. I’ve since been to a number of establishments varying from proper restaurants, to some old lady’s living room. In addition, it’s quite common to see Hiroshima’s baseball team Hiroshima Toyo Carp’s merchandise decorating the walls of okonomiyaki restaurants much to the dismay of visiting team supporters.
So…. “Which is okonomiyaki is better?”
When asked this common and touchy question from Hiroshima’s residents, I usually answer;“I like both”. Though if I’m being honest, I think I prefer Osaka’s version purely based on it’s ease and simplicity. Don’t tell my Hiroshima friends! That being said the best I’ve ever had was in Shobara city in Hiroshima Prefecture, where the noodles were replaced with kimchi-fried rice.