Okonomiyaki are large, savory pancakes made with diced seafood, meat and vegetables. Okonomiyaki means "grilled what you like," and customers get to choose their own favorite ingredients and then cook right at the iron plate.
The okonomiyaki style of cooking originated in Osaka and continues to be most popular there, although okonomiyaki-ya (restaurant) can be found throughout the country. The restaurants are popular with students on a budget, since the food is inexpensive, tasty, filling and fun to prepare. The menu will list the main ingredients available; an order of okonomiyaki consists of a bowl of pancake-like batter, plus a dish of diced vegetables and the main ingredient. This main ingredient decides what your okonomiyaki will be ? some to choose from are:
In some restaurants your okonomiyaki will be cooked for you, but in others, you cook it yourself on the hotplate in your table. The waiter or waitress will come by to turn on the hotplate, brush the surface with oil - after that you're on your own.
First mix together all the ingredients, then pour the mixture onto the grill when it's hot enough. You use spatulas for flattening the pancake, pushing it into shape and turning it over. After turning, brush the top of the pancake with okonomiyaki sauce, then sprinkle it with aonori (green seaweed powder) and katsuo (dried bonito shavings). It takes a bit of experience to figure out when to flip the pancake and when to take it off the grill. Okonomiyaki takes longer to cook than you might expect, and the finished product doesn't hold together nearly as well as a pancake. You might ask your waiter for advice, or else pay close attention to the technique of the people at the next table.