Posts Tagged ‘Okonomiyaki’

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December 01, 2015: “Rice Noodle Fish”

December 1, 2015

RNF_Cover_smOne of the joys I have these days is the occasional contact from some of my students from my old job that choose to stay in touch with me. Not only is it a pleasure to see these fine people as they progress through life, but it makes me think that I just may have done a few things right in my old position.

Sometimes it’s fielding Facebook posts from Sarah on her career as one of the finest wedding photographers in New England. Once and a while I’ll get a very entertaining Twitter from Regan’s son, Mason…or perhaps a spirited comment here from her mom. Sweet Emma will chime in on FB, from time-to-time, with news of weird weather patterns, and even weirder wildlife from “the land down-under.” True to form, Isaac may suddenly show up out of nowhere to “kidnap” me to go see a movie, or like his last contact: a phone call to announce the birth of his son!

A couple of weeks ago, Regan sent me a link to an article on okonomiyaki (the comfort food that Yoshio has published a book about, and where this blog gets its name) that she thought I would like…and she hit the proverbial nail on the head! The story was about everything I try to write about in the blog: making good Japanese food in the most authentic way possible, while trying to explore Japanese culture as best a Westerner may. RNF_insert_sm

The story was about a Guatemalan chef who emigrates to Hiroshima to make okonomiyaki…something almost unheard of, as the Japanese can be wary of gaijin (foreigners) and almost never would accept a gaijin cooking what is considered to be Japans’ most hallowed comfort food! The first thing I noticed was the article was very well written: a story/tapestry of  history, Japanese food, travel, cooking techniques, the pursuit of excellence, all wound around a personal story of daring and success! Needless to say, I loved the article, but towards the end of it, I had one of those, “Hey! Wait a minute!” feelings.

Back up to a week and a half before. I’m at my local library, checking out films and asking for help with research on a piece I’m working on. I’m striding to the checkout desk with my usual brisk pace, when a book practically leaps out from the shelf at me!

This has happened a few times in my life, and it always has served me well to follow the instinct: one time, it was a rare book from a former teacher of mine that did the “leaping” and I still cherish that book to this day. So, whenever this happens, I just roll with it.

The leaping book was “Rice Noodle Fish” (Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture) by Matt Goulding. “RNF” is published through Roads and Kingdoms (an independent journal of food, politics, travel, and culture.) The book seems to be strongly attached to Anthony Bourdain, who I gather is some sort of celebrity chef of some sort. I could not be less impressed by this part of it, but if this attachment got the book published… fine, but the writing (and some of the photography) is Matt’s.

My “Waitaminute!” moment was one of perfect synchronicity: Regan’s article to me was from a part of “Rice Noodle Fish” that I hadn’t gotten to read just yet. RNF Food Groups_smWhenever I pick up a new book, I look to the dedication. To my mind this sets the tone of the book, and Matt Goulding has nailed the right tone (and my interest and trust) with his:

“To the shokunin (artisans) of Japan, pursuers of perfection, for showing us the true meaning of devotion.”

With this measure of respect, one can continue, and the rest of the book is just pure fun: it is part travelogue (Matt divides the book into the separate regions of Japan); part etiquette book; and part history book. But the main focus is on the variety of the people and food of Japan. Best of all (for us) Matt’s perspective is from a Westerner, but one who is thoroughly open to Japan’s people and food. Like most of us, Matt freely admits he will never completely understand the myriad of subtleties of Japanese culture, but offers a handful of guidelines, tips, directions, and even some language, to smooth the road for the open adventurer who is looking for a taste of the unfamiliar.

Roads and Kingdoms have made portions of the book available online. It also offers some tips for those traveling to Japan: roadsandkingdoms.com/japan

[Much thanks to the Randall Library of Stow, Ma. for having stocked such wonderful leaping books and for my extension on my loan to complete my article.]

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November 12, 2010: Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

November 12, 2010

Yesterday, Yoshio and I shot the 20 step process to making Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. Shown above is the final step with Chef Saito finishing off the okonomiyaki with a sweet mayo on top of the okonomiyaki sauce (an apple-based Worcester sauce.)

These treats are very popular in Hiroshima, where on average, a person might have them twice a week. It’s considered “fast-food” in Hiroshima, but it is made fresh and to order with hundreds of combinations of meat, seafood, egg, cheese, fried noodle, cabbage, bean thread, and topped off with sauce/mayo over the okonomiyaki “crepe” made with fish stock and flour.

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September 07, 2010: Okonomiyaki, Panini-style

September 7, 2010

Today’s original okonomiyaki dish from Okonomy is Chef Yoshio Saito’s panini-style okonomiyaki. This is the traditional okonomiyaki recipe but made in a modern panini machine. Chef Saito has a variety of sauces and toppings for this style, but he devised this dish to show how okonomiyaki can be made with other, non-traditional cooking tools.

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May 03, 2010: Takoyaki

May 3, 2010

Today’s Japanese-fusion dish is Takoyaki and is a recipe that hails from the Osaka region of Japan. “Tako” is octopus and is the most popular version of these golf-ball sized appetizers made by Chef Saito of Okonomy. Similar to a smaller Okonomiyaki, each appetizer (other variations include chopped meat and cheese) is formed with a savory pancake batter, but differs from Oknomiyaki as the batter is flavored with Chef Saito’s soup stock. Each is then grilled and topped with a sauce and anori (a sea vegetable, see 0ur March 17, 2010 entry: Toppings for Okonomiyaki). Sometimes, instead of the savory batter, Chef Saito will substitute panko (Japanese bread crumbs.)

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March 17, 2010: Toppings for Okonomiyaki

March 17, 2010

Aonori (top) is a special sea vegetable that grows on rocks near the seashore. After drying in the sun, the resulting green powder is packaged. Aonori is sprinkled on Okonomiyaki just before serving.

Katsuobushi (bottom) is finely sliced bonito. The dried bonito is bought in speciality shops. When purchasing, the Okonomiyaki gourmet will strike the whole bonito against a hard surface and listen for the sound: the clearer and higher the pitch, the better the Katsuobushi. The bonito is then shaved with a special plane-like device to get the right thickness. Katsuobushi is also used for making stock, and might be the most important ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

You may find both these toppings for Okonomiyaki at any Asian Gourmet Store.

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March 14, 2010: Motoman vs Yoshio???

March 14, 2010

Motoman SDA-10 Robot making Ononomiyaki

Yeah…we would love to see Motoman just TRY to mix Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise, on the top of Okonomiyaki, with an edge of a spatula like Yoshio does! We think Yoshio is better looking too (…but, we bet that Yoshio would like to have Motomans’ burly shoulders!)

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March 11, 2010: Photo of Okonomy Staff

March 11, 2010
Photos of Okonomy Staff

Master Chef Yoshio Saito (right); Assistant Chef Stephen Vedder (left)

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