Tokyobling's Blog

Okonomimura – Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on June 24, 2014

One of the many famous Japanese dishes that might not have made it abroad yet is the okonomiyaki, a dish whose name translates roughly as “cook it as you like it”. It is basically batter, vegetabels, eggs and anything you like to put on it, mixed and fried as a huge pancake on a hotplate or in a frying pan. The most classic okonomiyaki is the style championed in Osaka and western Japan but there is one big local contender up there: the Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki. The main differences is the that they fry up a pancake first, then add noodles. In Hiroshima they are also very particular about their sauce, and the most well known classic Hiroshima style sauce is the one made by Mitsuwa Foods.

The Okonomimura is a premier tourist location in Hiroshima visited by almost everyone that comes to Hiroshima. It is a four story building crammed with okonomiyaki restaurants, most seating only between 6-15 people. The origin of the building dedicated to okonomiyaki can be traced back to a street of food vendors that put up their stalls there in 1950, only five years after the atomic bomb blast. It is not very far from the epicenter either. In 1967 the street vendors were moved into a building on the initiative of okonomiyaki entrepenur Mr. Yoshida. The present building dates back to 1992 but it already looks much older.

There are 27 restaurants to chose from inside, and I picked the Kaeruttei (かえるっ亭) on the 4th floor. The name means Frog Palace and the owner explained to me that he was stumped for a good name when he was opening the shop many years ago. In his home he had a large frog statue that he was planning to move to the restaurant and someone suggested they name it after that. The frog statue can still be seen in the shop. The word for frog in Japanese, Kaeru, is also the same as the word “to return”, which in this case might be good for business. I certainly will return the next time I visit Hiroshima!

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ABC Cooking Studio

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on January 13, 2012

Here’s an idea for the entrepreneurs among you! In the late 80’s a newspaper company started up a small chain of cooking schools called “ABC Cooking Studio”. It is basically a a place where you take short classes in cooking in small groups of students. The school doesn’t train you to be professional, just to enable you to learn new dishes or kitchen skills in a comfortable, fashionable, clean and well lit environment. Three quarters of the students are females between 20-34 and most schools are for female only but a +m sign after the name shows that this school is also open for couples and men. In Tokyo millions of young men and women from all over the country come to find jobs and start their careers and with the famously long hours of Japanese corporations and the fact that there are few large, airy and well lit kitchens in affordable apartments in Tokyo mean that people can have a chance to enjoy cooking for the first time since they left home. Personally I think it is a great idea and many department stores and shopping malls have these cooking studios here in Tokyo. In Tokyo jobs are easy to find but time and space is at a premium, which opens the market for clever companies like this. The one studio I snapped a picture of is in Nihonbashi’s Coredo building.

Soba, Tempura and Ashitaba

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 27, 2010

If there is one thing that Oshima is famous for it’s the Ashitaba (Angelica keiskei) which is a famous Japanese relative of the common parsley, a herb. The name literally means “Tomorrow Leaf” and it got its name for it’s extraordinarily fast growth rate. If you harvest a leaf for your breakfast, it will have grown out again by next morning. Or so my botanically inclined friends tell me, I will have to try a planter of this in my garden some day soon. It is delicious both an ingredient in regular cooking or as a salad on its own, recommended!


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