One thing I’ve always wanted to try in Japan is to have a meal in one of those self cooked Okonomiyaki restaurants. Such restaurants and activity has been featured in Japanese drama so many times as one of their favourite hang out places with friends after school or work. The food looked delicious enough and the self cook part made it an interesting and fun meal.
Sakura Tei is one of the more well known ones in Tokyo, probably because of its location. It is located right smack in Harajuku where most Japanese youngsters and tourists love to hang out. This restaurant has been featured in tripadvisor and seems to comes up quite often if you search in google. I’m not sure how busy this place is during peak hours but we were there for a pretty late lunch (around 2pm) and it was quite empty, which, was great for us because we were starving!
So what is an Okonomiyaki? Okonomi means “how you like it” and yaki means “grill”. In a sense, the ingredients you use is pretty much up to your liking but in general, it’s a savoury pancake with a few variety of vegetables like shredded cabbages and corn with choices of mushrooms, bacon and a whole lot of other ingredients and it’s cooked on a flat grilling pan. It originated from the Kansai region (think Osaka) however, it’s a famous dish throughout Japan and the batter and ingredients varies according to the different regions of Japan. Some regions have noodles as well as part of the ingredient. In Sakura Tei, you can opt to have an “all you can eat” for a certain price, or, you can order ala carte. We opted for ala carte as it was our first time and we didn’t plan to stuff ourselves crazy.
We were given a menu full of different choices of Okonomiyaki ingredients. If you don’t feel like having Okonomiyaki, there’s also choice for different types of yakisoba, monjayaki and teppanyaki like meat stirfrys. We were spoilt for choices to be honest. For their full menu, click here! We decided to order some beef to stirfry, 2 varieties of okonomiyaki and a monjayaki. Similar to Okonomiyaki, Monjayaki is also a type of savoury pancake. However, the method of cooking is slightly different and there’s an addition of dashi stock making the batter slightly stickier and gooey compared to okonomiyaki. Monjayaki is also a Kanto region specialty and since we were in Tokyo (part of Kanto), we HAD to try it.
After ordering, the staffs came to prepare our flat top grill pan which pretty much consist 80% of our table. There’s also a small bottle of oil, some sauces and condiments for the cooking on the table. We were also given a step by step pictorial guide on how to cook the okonomiyaki and monjayaki. Don’t worry, they have english guides and the pictures are pretty self explanatory as well.
We started off with cooking our meat stirfrys because that seems to be the easiest. Like most stir fry you usually do, heat the girl and pour in some oil, add the meat and fry til fragrant before adding the vegetables. There’s soy sauce, salt and pepper on the table if you wish to add some. It was easy and, it was so good!
To cook okonomiyaki, first heat the pan with some oil. Stir the ingredients thoroughly in the bowl that was given to you. In it is a mixture of all ingredients and the batter. Once it’s mixed through, pour the ingredients on the pan and shape into a circle of about 2cm thick. Don’t make the circle too big as it might be difficult to flip later. After a few minutes, using the spatulas given, flip the pancake over to cook the other side. Flip again after a few minutes, top with the special brown sauce (kinda like a thicken sweeter version of worcesteshire sauce), some mayonnaise, sprinkles of seaweed and bonito flakes and voila! It’s done! We opted out the bonito flakes (thinly sliced grilled fish flakes) as my husband’s family are mostly vegetarian. The brown sauce and mayonnaise made the pancake really flavourful. Loved it! And it was so fun flipping the pancake, not knowing if you will fail miserably or not. Ahh the pressure when everyone is looking at you while you flip!
Next challenge: the monjayaki. I personally think this is slightly more challenging than the okonomiyaki because 1. it has the dashi sauce 2. you need to spread the batter out to create a thin batter on the grill and 3. not knowing how it’s supposed to be in general and not knowing if it’s done lol. Different from the okonomiyaki, you will need to stir fry the vegetables first. Next you have to spread the vegetables and make it into a ring shape. I find this the hardest because you need to make sure the ring in the middle is big enough and at the same time the vegetables that form the barrier is thick enough. Next, pour in the batter + dash sauce into the middle of the ring. Once it’s slightly firm, mix the vegetables with the batter and spread it out across the pan into a thin batter. Sprinkle some condiments and scrape the monjayaki with a tiny spatula to eat! My batter wasn’t spread enough I think and was probably slightly undercook when we ate our first bite. BUT, because it’s quite thin anyway, it was cooked quite quickly. What you get is a slightly gooey savoury peppery and burnt sensation. It was actually very delicious!
Gulp down the rest of the food with a bottle of Japanese beer or Japanese milk soda (like Calpis). SO GOOD! An experience that I highly recommend if you are in Japan. It’s a very different dining experience. We laughed ourselves silly so many times over funny mistakes, the uncertainty and expectations that comes with it. No wonder it’s a favourite hang out activity amongst youngsters in Japan. Very little social effort is needed to make it a fun social activity.
By the end of it though, we did smell like food and smoke from the griddle. But fret not, the restaurant provides a magical spray that removes all smell from your hair and clothes and leave you feeling fresh again! We were so in awe of that spray. We need one of those! Very handy for when we go for a BBQ meal. Couldn’t find it anywhere though and we had no idea what it is since the label on the bottle was all in Japanese. lols. Japan, why are you so awesome? XD
Anyways, hope you enjoy this post and until the next post, keep experimenting~!