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Jul 31, 2014 10:42 PM

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Okonomiyaki is the August 2014 dish of the month!

Dish of the Month is an activity where we collectively try as many versions of okonomiyaki as we can, reporting back with details and photos.

Never heard of Okonomiyaki before? Great! Now's your chance to try it for the first time and tell us what you think! They're a Japanese type of pancake:

Know a lot about Okonomiyaki? Try some new versions and guide us how they differ from what you've eaten before.

This might be out dated, but this site has a listing of some places that had Okonomiyaki in the past.

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  1. With pic:

    Photo there of okonomiyaki variations at Bushido Izakaya, Mountain View -- where they were rather rich, and flamboyantly garnished with condiments and drizzles.

    Trivia note: Though Wikipedia's explanatory article cited in the original posting manages not to touch on this point (other than in its See-Also links), I'm struck by the overlap in concept and ingredients with the Korean "jeon" savory pancakes, to which I was introduced by a Korean restaurant in Berkeley 30-some years ago:

    1. the Namu Gaji version seems to be very highly regarded. what was your impression ?

      1. Namu Gaji (Corner of Dolores and 18th St) introduced me to Okonomiyaki and it is the only one I have had (so far). So, I can't say how authentic it is, but it is so good that it has kept us coming back to Namu Gaji many times. From what I learned in an earlier thread, this appears to be a dish that straddles the straits between SW Japan (Nagasaki) and Korea.

        The dish is not easy to describe. Namu Gaji's version comes in a very hot cast iron pan and is kind of a pancake with some oysters, kim chee, sprouts and I am not sure what else in it. On top are bonito flakes that persist in wiggling around sensuously, driven by the heat, for most of the time you are consuming the Oknomiyaki. At the end you get to scrape up the caramelized bits. Whole thing is delicious.

        One Namu Gaji Okonomiyaki is just fine for 2. We usually get there early enough (before 630) to order the "happy hour" Korean Beef tacos. With the pickles that is a fine meal polished off next door, if the lines are not too long, with a salted caramel and honey lavender cone at BiRite.

        Namu Gaji has lots of other very interesting items, including their Wednesday night KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), an interesting cured salmon and beans salad, a mushroom thingie, ... I was less impressed with the hamburger which is not up to Mission Bowling, for example.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Thomas Nash

          thanks much for the description. their menu lists the Korean sweet potato ('mountain yam' in other nomenclatures) as an ingredient, so the pancake itself is probably a form of sweet potato pancake, if that makes sense with your experience of it.

          1. re: moto

            I don't recall sweet potato in the dish at NG. Like ThomasNash, this is where I was introduced to the concept, so I have no basis of comparison except to say I've had it several times, with different dining partners,and each time was thoroughly enjoyed. My impression is that it's a medley that always has oysters, sprouts, bonita flakes. After that, it depends on what's in the kitchen.

            1. re: escargot3

              Grated mountain yam is gooey and bland and very different from the sweet potatoes commonly eaten in the US


            2. re: moto

              I have had this twice at the same place in Tokyo. I am pretty sure it could not have been considered a sweet potato pancake.We liked it so much the first time that we went back a second time. Not quite as good, but slightly different, whatever was in the kitchen as mentioned earlier.

              1. re: wally

                Okonomiyaki is, of course, an Osaka-area dish, imported to Tokyo at varying levels of authenticity. When I've had it in Osaka, it's been cooked on a grill in front of me, and one gets to call the ingredients (think burrito-line in CONCEPT, but the ingredients are in plastic tubs behind the grill, and you actually sit at the grill and eat, or carry away on a paper plate).

                It is valid to cook in the kitchen and serve on a steel plate like at Namu Gaiji, but also think of an upscale restaurant serving burritos. They can't have a line, so they do it in the kitchen and bring it out on a plate.

                The Tokyo-area equivalent is , which is apparently unavailable in the bay area and not yet "discovered".

                The key element is that funny bbq sauce. It's the same sauce as on takoyaki balls, which give the tart and sweet taste.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  I'm probably in the minority but I thought the okonomiyaki at Namu Gaji was awful. It may have been an off night, but it was the worst of a number of badly-executed dishes I had there - about a year ago. The okonomiyaki was way too saucy, too salty and had too much mayonnaise. Maybe because it had kim chee instead of unprepared cabbage, it lacked any sense of freshness.

                  1. re: calumin

                    Agreed. I've never had okonomiyaki in Japan but imo the Namu Gaji version was too sour, and I felt like the oysters didn't add anything. They really need to rebalance the flavors. I think kimchee can work in okonomiyaki (it certainly works in Korean pajeon) but you need fewer elements going on.

                    1. re: calumin

                      I agree. I thought it was terrible. The kimchee was nasty. Okonomiyaki is one of my favorite foods, but I will never have it at Namu Gaji again.

                      1. re: pauliface

                        I wouldn't go as far as to "terrible" and "nasty" but it didn't work for me.

                2. re: moto

                  i dn think mtn yam is that similar to swt potato in this use. a japanese friend who made my one and only taste of okonomy says it helps to bind and fluff the pancake. she sometimes uses baking powder if no yam. my recollection of korean oyster pancakes is that they're not as fluffy and light. plus there are sauces and the aforementioned wiggly fishflakes that keep okonomy distinct.

                  1. re: rubadubgdub

                    We make okonomiyaki every year with a Japanese club I belong to. Mountain yam or yamaimo is kind of the secret ingredient! You grate it on a fine rasp and it comes out sorta gluey, with a texture reminiscent of the "slime" from okra. It does seem to act as a binder but doesn't really seem to add taste.

                    I'm curious if any restaurants in the SFBA serve the Osaka variant of okonomiyaki nikudama soba or nikutama-soba which includes noodles and pork. I believe it is also referred to as modernyaki :-). That is my absolute favourite and I would love to try it on our next visit.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Several posts in this older thread recommend the modern yaki okonomiyaki at Izumiya in SF Japantown.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Thanks for the tip, Melanie. I had a look elsewhere on line and I think they do a modified Hiroshima style with yaki soba in the centre. Not quite what I'm after, alas. There's something about the crisping up of the pork slices and the noodles under the creamy pancake part... drat, now I want okonomiyaki with noodles!

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Walked thru Jtown this morning. Izumiya was closed today, but here's a shot of the plastic model on display. No idea how close to reality it might be.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Wow, thanks for doing that, Melanie! As I suspected, yaki soba a dentro, which I'm sure would be great but not precisely the ticket :-).

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              This photo of Modern-yaki looks a bit more vertical than the real thing, and likely models are made as caricatures of the real item in order to emphasise their features. Likely the model was made in Japan.

                3. They have it at Majikku Ramen in Daly City. I know we tried it but it wasn't memorable.

                  It's on the dinner menu at Iyasare in Berkeley: "black tiger shrimp / squid / scallop / shiitake / bonito flakes / mentaiko aioli / chili ponzu"

                  1. Be sure to make a distinction between Osaka style (the most prevalent) and Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki. Hiroshima style is thin and crispy, unlike Osaka style which is thick and doughy.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Tripeler

                      When I had it in Hiroshima, it was very different. No yamaimo (mountain potato), but it had noodles and an egg (almost like a thin omelet) on one side. Really good. Perhaps the Hiroshima-style is spreading, as it was also on the menu (along with the traditional Osaka style) at the two places we had okonomiyaki in Osaka.

                      I'd love to know if there is any of the Hiroshima style in the Bay Area.

                      1. re: jmarek

                        The Hiroshima style that Cooking with Dog demonstrates starts with a thin batter (flour, water, no eggs?), piles it high with shredded cabbage and seasoned with dashi granules, and pork belly slices.

                        Yakisoba noodles are fried, seasoned the okonomiyaki sauce, and formed into a cake. The main cake is turned, and then placed on top of the noodles.

                        Finally an egg is fried (more of a simple broken omelet), and the cake placed on top, completing the stack.

                        So while the batter is thin, the final product is a rather thick stack.

                        1. re: paulj

                          In most cases, the Hiroshima style uses a lot of finely chopped green onion (the fat ne-gi type) which is cooked down considerably. Overall, Hiroshima style is lighter and more vegetable heavy. Done well, it is breathtakingly good.