What is Okonomiyaki? Sharing Our Okonomiyaki Experience

Jun 11, 2024

Imagine a bustling street in Osaka, the air filled with the irresistible aroma of sizzling savoury Japanese pancakes. This is the magical allure of Okonomiyaki, a dish that has captured the hearts of many people across Japan.

Okonomiyaki uses simple, tasty ingredients. At its core is a batter of flour, eggs and cabbage. Additional ingredients can also be added. Popular choices include okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, seafood and meats.

In this blog post, we'll explore what Okonomiyaki is, its origins, and how to cook it. We'll also share our unforgettable experience of enjoying this iconic dish in Osaka.

What is Okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki is a popular pan-fried savoury pancake from Japan. Due to its taste and appearance, it is sometimes referred to as "Japanese pizza" or "Japanese pancake."

The term "Okonomiyaki" is derived from two Japanese words: "okonomi," which means "what you like," and "yaki," which means "cooked over direct heat." This name reflects the dish's customisable nature. This allows for a variety of tasty Japanese ingredients to be added on based on personal preference. It also reflects the fact that it's cooked on a metal plate called a teppan.

The core ingredients of Okonomiyaki are a batter made from flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage. From there, additional ingredients can be added. Common add-ons include prawns, squid, pork, vegetables, and cheese. Okonomiyaki's versatility means that no two pancakes are ever quite the same.

Cooking Okonomiyaki on teppan

Origins of Okonomiyaki

The term "Okonomiyaki" can be traced back to a shop in 1930's Osaka, where it was a popular, crepe-like snack. Originating as a street food to provide a quick, satisfying meal, Okonomiyaki exploded in popularity in the early 20th century. This was accelerated by crises such as the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the Second World War which created shortages in staples such as rice.

While Osaka-style (or Kansai-style) Okonomiyaki is the best known, there are several regional variations. A key regional variant is the Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki which includes a layer of noodles and is typically topped with a fried egg. Other regions bring their unique twist to the dish, showcasing the regional tastes of Japan.

Cooking Method Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Prepare the Batter: Mix flour, water, eggs, and shredded cabbage to create the base batter.
  2. Add Ingredients: Incorporate your choice of add-ins, such as prawns, squid, pork, or vegetables and mix thoroughly.
  3. Heat the Teppan: Preheat a hot plate or pan (teppan) to medium-high heat and add cooking oil.
  4. Cook the Pancake: Pour the batter onto the teppan and shape it into a round pancake using a metal spatula.
    Cooking Okonomiyaki with bacon
  5. Flip and Cook: Once the bottom is golden brown, carefully flip the pancake with the metal spatula to cook the other side. This is the hardest stage to get right as the okonomiyaki must be cooked enough to hold together.
  6. Add Toppings: Once both sides are cooked, add Okonomiyaki sauce with a brush, followed by Japanese mayonnaise. Depending on your taste, add other toppings such as bonito flakes (katsuobushi) and dried seaweed (aonori).
Cooking Okonomiyaki

Traditional Hot Plate (Teppan) Cooking

The traditional method of cooking on a teppan enhances the interactive and communal dining experience. This method not only ensures even cooking but also allows diners to engage in the fun and social aspect of making their own Okonomiyaki at the table.

Cultural Significance and Popularity

Okonomiyaki holds a special place in Japanese cuisine and culture. It is not just a great-tasting meal but a fun, communal activity that brings people together. Whether enjoyed at home or in a restaurant, making and eating Okonomiyaki is a social event. In our experience, it fosters connection and enjoyment.

While Okonomiyaki is particularly popular in Osaka, it is enjoyed throughout Japan. Each region may have its variants, but the core elements remain largely the same.

In recent years, Okonomiyaki's global recognition has grown, becoming a favourite in more restaurants. You will now see international chefs adding their twists while staying true to the dish's authentic roots.

Our Okonomiyaki Experience in Osaka

During a recent trip to Osaka, we were fortunate enough to visit Okonomiyaki Okaru. This is a renowned Okonomiyaki restaurant known for its authentic and delicious dishes. The restaurant is located in the popular Minami area which is loved for its neon lights, shops and some of the most exciting food in the city.

We had to rush there for 5 pm from Osaka Castle as seats were limited and queues were known to build up quickly. Thankfully we got there just in time to get the last table on the first seating. The tantalising smell of cooking Okonomiyaki filled the air, making us even more excited.

The restaurant exuded a warm and welcoming ambience, with traditional Japanese decor and friendly staff. The sight of diners around teppans, enjoying their own Okonomiyaki, added to the inviting atmosphere.

We ordered a selection of Okonomiyaki with toppings such as squid, prawns, octopus and bacon. We also mixed it up a bit by trying one of their yakisoba with bacon and akashi-yaki which are dumplings made from egg-rich batter filled with octopus.


The highlight of our visit was the interactive experience of making Okonomiyaki at our table. The skilled staff brought our ingredients to the table and mixed them into the batter. The process of cooking on the teppan in front of us was both fun and engaging to watch, allowing us to appreciate the craft that goes into making this dish.

Cooking a variety of Cooking Okonomiyaki

The cook wrapped it up by drawing pictures of some of our favourite Japanese characters using Kewpie for some of the most fun Japanese mayonnaise recipes.

Okonomiyaki with Japanese characters

The freshly made Okonomiyaki was a joy to eat, with its perfect blend of flavours and textures. The yakisoba was a great twist and the akashi-yaki were delicious - we found them softer and richer than the more famous takoyaki. Overall it was an unforgettable dining experience.

Final Word

Okonomiyaki is a fun and authentic Japanese dining experience. Our Okonomiyaki adventure in Osaka was a testament to this. It deepened our appreciation for Japanese cuisine and the communal joy of cooking and eating together.

We encourage you to try Okonomiyaki yourself, whether by visiting a local Japanese restaurant or making it at home. This versatile dish is not only delicious but also a fun and interactive way to enjoy a taste of Japan's rich culinary heritage.

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