Okonomiyaki is a delicious, savory pancake that is stuffed full of belly-filling and soul-satisfying ingredients! Out of two distinct styles, which is best?
What is Okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki is a type of Japanese pancake, filled with ingredients like pork, cabbage, yams, eggs and more. There is a large variety with regional specialties all over the country!
If you break down the word, okonomi means “how you like” and yaki means “cooked”. Although it’s a popular soul food dish that they serve throughout Japan, it is most popular in Hiroshima and Osaka.
The first time I tried 0konomiyaki was in Miyajima (near Hiroshima), just a couple of weeks after moving to Japan. The restaurant wasn’t the best, and let’s just say it left me wondering how I would ever learn to eat Japanese food. It didn’t take long and I’m happy to say I have developed a love for Japanese food and often crave it!
The second time I ate okonomiyaki was on a trip to Osaka. We went to Mizuno in Dotonbori and I couldn’t believe how good it was. From then on I have loved it!
Calling okonomiyaki “popular” in Hiroshima is a major understatement. There are over 2,000 shops in Hiroshima that make this famous dish, so it should be easy to find one!
Hiroshima made okonomiyaki famous; during and after World War II, normal ingredients (like rice) were hard to get, and okonomiyaki became a popular way to fill a stomach while using up whatever ingredients were around the house.
The major difference of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is that its ingredients are layered, but it is also taller and larger than Osaka style. There are 10 main ingredients that make up okonomiyaki. The base is a wheat and sometimes yam batter, followed by dried bonito shavings, cabbage, tenkasu (tempura scraps), green onions, bean sprouts, sliced pork belly, noodles, egg, sauce and aonori (dried green seaweed).
Condiments – including Japanese mayonnaise and authentic okonomiyaki sauce made from Worcestershire sauce and dates – are often on the table for you to use at your discretion. This is my favorite part because I love Japanese mayonnaise!
Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the most common style in Japan, and its ingredients are chopped up and mixed together, then grilled all at once. The ingredients are basically the same, but you can find an incredible variety, from the very basic to versions filled with squid, shellfish, and noodles! They prepare it on a large grill, some restaurants will have you grill it yourself!
Osaka is believed to be where okonomiyaki originated, and that gives some authority to their declaration that Osaka-style is the best…but how can you decide without trying them first?
Our favorite restaurants always have lines out the doors and long waits! It’s best to go when it’s not peak dinner or lunch time, but it is worth it even if you have to wait. Don’t settle for average okonomiyaki when you it can be amazing!
Tip: If you have a group, take turns standing in line and exploring the surrounding area!
Nagata-ya in Hiroshima has delicious food backed up by a fun, homey, 1960’s ambiance. You can sit at the massive grill where they make all of the food, or take a booth. Booth tables have teppan grills built into them, keeping the food hot when it’s brought out to you. Nagata-ya received 4.5 stars out of 924 reviews from tripadvisor.com!
Nagata-ya is very close to the Hiroshima Peace Park, and eating a World War II favorite food will add even more depth to the special experience of visiting the area.
Mizuno in Osaka is in the wonderful Dotonbori district. The area is vibrantly lit by neon lights, and Mizuno’s subdued modern exterior would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the line stretching out the front door!
Mizuno has received 4 stars out of 439 reviews from tripadvisor.com, and they have been mentioned numerous times in the Michelin Guide “Bib Gourmand” list that highlights excellent cuisine with a maximum price of ~$50.00. Most dishes at Mizuno are less than $15!
My vote for favorite style of okonomiyaki is Hiroshima style. Matt’s vote is Osaka style, but now you need to try them both, too!
Have you tried okonomiyaki? Was it Hiroshima style or Osaka style? Let us know your favorite!
Plan your trip
These are our two favorite okonomiyaki restaurants!