The first time I had okonomiyaki was in a tiny restaurant on a cold January night in Osaka, Japan. I was 20 years old and about halfway through a trip that stretched from Tokyo to Fukuoka. I sat down in a cozy booth in front of what looked like a giant griddle. Fortunately, the people that I was travelling with knew what they were doing because the next several minutes were a blur of activity. Batter and vegetables were poured onto the hot griddle with a hiss, and quickly spread into the shape of a pancake. Halfway through, thin strips of pork were added and the okonomiyaki was flipped and left to cook until the pork was crispy. After one last turn a generous coating of okonomiyaki sauce was applied to one side along with mayonnaise, bonito flakes and aonori. It only took one bite to know that it was one of the best things I’d ever eaten.
Once I was back in the U.S. I had a problem. I was able to find pretty good versions of most of my favorite Japanese food in various restaurants around Philadelphia, but none of them carried okonomiyaki. Several years later I found myself travelling to Portland Oregon regularly for work, often for a week at a time. This gave me a chance to check out a lot of local restaurants. After a little searching online, I found a restaurant in downtown Portland that served okonomiyaki. As soon as work was over, I headed straight there and was quickly seated at a small table facing the kitchen. I ordered a cold beer and snacked on a bowlful of edamame until my meal arrived. At last, I had my first bite of okonomiyaki in nearly ten years and it was …pretty good, but nothing like what I remembered eating in Osaka!
Now that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can enjoy okonokmiyaki whenever I go into the city. Better yet, there’s a Mitsuwa Japanese Market close by that has everything needed to make it at home, although mine usually turn out a little big…
While I was in Vancouver, I stopped for dinner at a Japanese restaurant and saw that they had okonomiyaki on the menu. The staff all spoke to each other in Japanese, so I thought it would be a good idea to get in a little practice. I was doing ok until my waitress brought out my okonomiyaki. I had never seen one so thick before. It was almost as tall as a single layer cake. In my surprise I exclaimed, “こんなに高いお好み焼きを見たことがない！”. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I had just told her that I had never seen such an expensive okonomiyaki. I probably should have said 厚い, or thick. After correcting myself, I spent the rest of the night speaking English and made sure to leave a good tip.