Sad Boi Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki

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Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki

It has been a very long last couple of weeks. It happens to all of us (or at least I think it does), but every now and then sometimes things reach a boiling point. Pressure points start to build up: work, money, health, the future, the state of the world, and every other component of your life that doesn’t come easy. And everything just starts to swallow you whole a little bit. It feels like all of it is just crashing down on you, and you can’t breathe or move or even think straight. Even if life is going great, which it is for that matter

Whenever I start to feel this way, usually a large part of it is because I can’t stop myself from overthinking. My mind spirals out of control with those pressure points and it just creates this kind of negative feedback loop that goes round and round. But I’ve found there are a few things that can usually help reset myself a bit. They all excel at forcing me to focus on one singular task. Sometimes it’s exercise, other times it’s watching a good film, but most of the time it’s cooking a recipe. Everything else just fades away when I have to focus on this one thing I’m making.

I never really cared about cooking when I was growing up, and putting effort into the food I made really wasn’t something I started doing until probably a few years ago. Sure I always loved eating good food made by someone else, but who the hell doesn’t? I think like a lot of other things, I just mindlessly wandered through the culinary experience without giving any of it too much thought. But nowadays I can’t imagine life without a more attentive outlook on what I eat and drink.

Anyway, enough of the sad sap portion of this post and back to this week. Things reached a breaking point and I just needed to reset myself. So I took a mental health day, threw on some sad boi music, and took my sweet time making Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is essentially a noodle pancake, festooned with all manner of meat and toppings. The two main styles are Hiroshima and Osaka, the difference being that Osaka style puts all the ingredients together in a batter mixture while Hiroshima style layers everything on top of one another individually. Typically you will see noodles, eggs, your flour batter, scallions, cabbage, some kind of meat or seafood, and a variety of additions like seaweed varieties or tenkasu (tempura scraps) throw in as well.

A few of the ingredients are not those you would typically find in a grocery store, so you will probably end up needing to visit a specialty market or an Asian supermarket with Japanese offerings.The hardest thing for me to find was the okonomiyaki sauce, which I had to visit a second store to track down. But if needed you can make this sauce from scratch. Everything else should be readily available.

Overall the process is pretty simple, you just need a griddle which I’ve been hankering to buy for some time. Nothing like sadness as an excuse to treat yourself! But you throw on your batter, then add the cabbage and assorted fixings, followed by the meat of choice (I stuck with pork belly this time, a pretty typical ingredient). Add some batter to link it all together and then flip the darn thing. Cook the noodles, put the okonomiyaki on top of them, then create an egg pancake which you will throw all of that on top of shortly after it has cooked a little. Flip the okonomiyaki one last time so the egg is on top, then take it off the griddle and slather it in your sauces! Typically you will see okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise on top with a bit of powdered seaweed.

Okonomiyaki is definitely a heavier kind of food. Personally I rank it among the upper echelons of perfect hangover recovery meals, and for good reason. It’s a tasty meal, and large enough to fill your belly up something fierce. Plus you can mix and match ingredients to use in your okonomiyaki to your heart’s desire. The only limit is your imagination and possibly stomach.

I don’t have too many pictures of this recipe, what with the whole “focusing on a singular task” vibe going on. But it turned out to be a moderate success despite a few stumbling points. If you have a griddle I highly recommend trying it out.

P.S. If you’re also making this and feeling down, I highly recommend eating your Okonomiyaki while watching the Japanese animated film A Silent Voice like I did. It is admittedly a pretty sad and tough movie to watch, but at the end of it all provides a pretty cathartic watch experience if you need one (I know I did). And I think it has perhaps the most effective visual depiction of depression I’ve ever seen in a film.

Notes for Next Time:

  • The okonomiyaki sauce was a lot more ketchup-y than I remember it being, and I wasn’t crazy about that taste. I think next time I’ll make the sauce from scratch to give it a little more character and little less sweet tomato taste
  • I completely forgot to add in the tororo kombu, whoops!
  • The batter is supposed to be flattened to near-crepe thinness, but mine were a bit on the thicker side. I need a better ladle to spread the batter and also to dial down the griddle temp so it doesn’t cook too quickly
  • Use thinner pork belly slices