Representatives of Konamon gourmet! Okonomiyaki & Monjayaki...What's the difference?

Okonomiyaki is one of Japan's representative "konamon (flour-based) gourmet". Okonomiyaki is a type of teppanyaki (food grilled on iron plate) that uses a mixture of wheat flour and water as a base plus vegetables (such as cabbage), pork, and seafood as ingredients. Kansai-style okonomiyaki and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki are two of the most popular okonomiyaki that have taken root as comfort food for the locals.

When it comes to Tokyo's "konamon gourmet", it's monjayaki! It is a dish in which ingredients are mixed in a soup-like liquid made by dissolving flour in water and grilled on an iron plate. This time, we will introduce how to make okonomiyaki and monjayaki - two major Japanese konamon gourmet foods!

Okonomiyaki originated as a snack for children!?

Although there are various theories, it is said that konamon gourmet was born in Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It is said to have started when a Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty brought Chinese rice crackers* (煎餅 / senbin) back to Japan. Afterward, Sen no Rikyu (千利休), who was famous for his tea ceremony, made tea confectionary called "funoyaki" (ふの焼き) made from wheat flour and popularized them. This funoyaki is said to be the original form of Japanese okonomiyaki.

FromEdo period to Meiji period, this "funoyaki'' spreaded among the common people, and "monjayaki" and "dondonyaki" were born. Partly due to the influence of the Western food boom, snacks with sauce spread throughout the country and were favored by children as "Issen Yoshoku" (一銭洋食 - one cent western food).

Okonomiyaki became popular as a dish during the food shortage after World War II. The batter (a mixture of flour and water) is thickened with cheap and voluminous cabbage, grilled, and then served with sauce. Through this, okonomiyaki, which was seen only as a snack for children before the war, became popular as a staple food. Around 1955, various ingredients were used depending on each restaurant and region. By the way, it is said that the name of the dish "okonomiyaki" came from "grilling the customer's favorite ingredients" (好み / konomi means 'prefer' or 'favorite' while 焼き / yaki means 'grill' or 'bake').

*A snack similar to crepes made by dissolving wheat flour in water and then grilling it

Which do you prefer? Layered-grilled Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki vs mixed-grilled Kansai-style okonomiyaki

There are two types of okonomiyaki: Kansai-style okonomiyaki and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. The Hiroshima-style is called “kasane-yaki” (かさね焼き - layered-grilled), in which the batter is spread thinly like a crepe on an iron plate or frying pan, and the ingredients are placed one by one on top. Ingredients such as cabbage, shrimp, and pork are not mixed with the batter. On the other hand, the Kansai-style “maze-yaki” (まぜ焼き) is a “maze-yaki” (mixed-grilled) in which the ingredients are mixed with the batter before being baked. Its appearance and texture are completely different from Hiroshima-style.

Tips of how to make and how to grill Kansai-style and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki

From here, we will introduce how to make Kansai-style okonomiyaki, and the tips of Kansai-style okonomiyaki and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Both are easy enough to be made at home!

Kansai-style okonomiyaki recipe

Okonomiyaki is one Japanese comfort food. It's easy to make with just mix and grill. Feel free to use whatever ingredients you like.

Ingredients for okonomiyaki

  • Wheat flour...100g
  • Tempura flour...15g
  • Egg...1 egg
  • Dashi granules...3 tsp
  • lukewarm water...120ml
  • Cabbage...150g
  • Red pickled ginger...appropriate amount
  • Salad oil...appropriate amount
  • *If you like, you can add seafood mix, cheese, mentaiko, mochi, or top it with aonori dried seaweed or bonito flakes to make it even more delicious.

How to make Kansai-style okonomiyaki

  1. Put wheat flour, egg, dashi granules, and lukewarm water in a bowl and mix lightly.
  2. Add cabbage, tempura flour, red pickled ginger and other ingredients. Mix them well.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add mixture from step#2, spread the dough and grill for about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the okonomiyaki over, add 1 tablespoon of water, cover with a lid. Steam for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, turn over the okonomiyaki again, and grill for about 2 minutes.
  6. Arrange on a plate, top with sauce, mayonnaise, aonori dried seaweed, bonito flakes, etc. Then it's done!

Tips for making delicious Kansai-style okonomiyaki

If you want to make delicious okonomiyaki, sift the flour used in the batter beforehand to prevent lumps. Also, in Osaka, the home of this dish, many families add grated Chinese yam to make the dough fluffy.

Also, when turning the dough over on the iron plate, the trick is to turn it over toward you so that the dough doesn't lose its shape! The key is not to press the dough while grilling to make it soft. When grilling the dough, it is important not to press it down so it is soft when done!

Tips for making delicious Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki

If you want to make delicious layered-grilled Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, the key is to bake the batter thinly like a crepe. To spread the dough evenly and thinly, put the dough on the iron plate, then roll the ladle around the center about 5 times while slowly spreading the dough outward. Put cabbage, bean sprouts, tempura bits, green onions, and meat on top of the thinly stretched dough, turn it over, and place it on top of the yakisoba and thin egg that you made separately, top with sauce, mayonnaise and etc., and it is done. 

"Mojiyaki" is the origin? What kind of dish is "Monjayaki", a specialty of Tsukishima, Tokyo?

Monjayaki is a dish in which the ingredients are grilled, then a mixture of flour and water is poured onto the iron plate and grilled together. The ingredients are similar to okonomiyaki, but since it contains a lot of water, it turns into a paste when grilled on an iron plate. People usually scoop it off the iron plate with a special small spatula and savour it.

The origin of the name "monjayaki" comes from a time when supplies were scarce. Children who could not obtain paper were taught and played by writing letters on an iron plate using dough made from water and flour. It is believed that the name monjayaki is derived from the fact that it was originally called "mojiyaki" (文字焼き - grilled alphabet), and this "moji" changed to "monji" and eventually changed to "monja". Nowadays, you can find many monjayaki restaurants in Tsukishima, Tokyo.

How to make delicious monjayaki

Mix flour and water in a ratio of 1:17, add Worcestershire sauce and mix again to make a dough liquid. Arrange ingredients such as cabbage and tempura on the iron plate like a donut shape (while hole at the center), and pour the batter into the center of the donut shape. When the dough is boiled, mix it with the ingredients, stretch them out, and eat the grilled part with a small spatula. You can season it to your liking, while we recommend eating it with sauce, shichimi, soy sauce, pepper and/or etc.

The best part about eating monjayaki is eating it while making the “okoge” (お焦げ - scorched dish)! The okoge is the portion that is slightly burnt and turns brown or black when cooked in a pot or iron plate. The fragrant aroma of the ingredients and the sauce of this scorched portion will surely whet your appetite. At monjayaki restaurants, there are even people who intentionally rub the batter liquid on the iron plate while eating in order to make the delicious okoge.

However, if you burn it too much, it will become charred, so be careful with the heat while enjoying one!

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