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(As You Like It Pancake)

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Okonomi-yaki is very versatile, as it can serve as lunch, supper or a snack with a drink. These days it is very much a food of the people, unlike the dish from which it is thought to have originated. Today's okonomi-yaki may have stemmed from a grilled dish made with wheat gluten. A man called Senno Rikyu first served this as part of the tea ceremony meal (chakaiseki) in the Azuchi-Momoyama era (1568-1600). It was essentially a batter of flour and water spread on a grill, cooked through, brushed with miso and rolled up like a crepe.

From this a dish called "monji-yaki"* developed, which became popular in the Edo era (1600-1868), and in the Meiji era (1868-1912) "dondon-yaki"** appeared on the scene. The chakaiseki dish, monji-yaki and dondon-yaki have certain things in common. Firstly, they are all made from a batter of flour and water, and have become very popular. Secondly, cooking these dishes was also a form of play, which was so much fun that even children wanted to try it.

In about 1932, the sixth year of the Showa era, dondon-yaki became very popular in Tokyo's Geisha entertainment world. Dondon-yaki at that time was made on a 30 cm griddle placed over a charcoal fire. With the addition of more and more ingredients and seasonings, the present okonomi-yaki took shape.

Although it is often thought that okonomi-yaki originated in Osaka, it actually came to Osaka from Tokyo after World War II. And when okonomi-yaki hit Osaka, the people of Osaka welcomed it with open arms.
Osaka people began adding a rich variety of ingredients to okonomi-yaki, and created a special sweet sauce to spread on top of it. They began serving it at a counter where the guest could sit and watch the okonimi-yaki being made. As a result, okonomi-yaki shops took on a light-hearted, fun atmosphere. Okonomi-yaki turned into an inexpensive, great-tasting food with enough bulk to satisfy the appetite.

It seems that Osaka people are quite prepared to wait in line for good food. Certain okonomi-yaki shops in Osaka have lines of people waiting to get in every day.

Eventually okonomi-yaki reached Hiroshima and took on a new form as Hiroshima-yaki***. Things often change when other regions adopt them. But different characteristics developing in different regions make things more interesting.

*Monji-yaki: A very watery batter of flour and water was spread thinly on a grill and sakura shrimp, squid, agedama (fried drops of batter) and red pickled ginger were added while it was cooking. Unlike its predecessor, it targeted children and took root in working class neighbourhoods. Its name came from the practice of writing characters in the batter with a spatula. This was done to teach children characters while making the monji-yaki.

**Dondon-yaki: The batter was spread out to a 15 cm circle and bonito powder, kombu kelp flakes and scallions were put on top, over which more batter was poured. It was cooked on both sides, spread with sauce, folded in half, put on a thin piece of wood, wrapped in old newspaper and taken away to eat. Its name came from the practice of beating a drum outside the shop to attract children (the sound a drum makes is "don don").

***Hiroshima-yaki: This is different in that all ingredients are added to the batter once it has been spread on the griddle.

Kuidaore: To eat oneself bankrupt
A study of Osaka epicurism

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