If asked about Hiroshima gourmet, the first thing to come to mind would be okonomiyaki. The unique combination of cabbage, bean sprouts and other ingredients placed on top of batter and cooked on a hotplate was first offered at the food stalls lined up at the park of the business district right after the war.
At some point, people started calling the area “Okonomimura” (‘Okonomi village’), and those food stalls have turned into shops that can now be found under the same roof, making it one of the best spots for guests to get their fill of the iconic Hiroshima.
Today, I’m going to indulge in some of this Hiroshima soul food at “Momotarou”, one of those stalls. Momotarou is among the oldest shops in Okonomimura. It was in business even before the current building was constructed.
Ms. Kayoko Tawara (left), the second generation owner, has been running the business for over 40 years. Retaining the flavor of the old-fashioned okonomiyaki in a way that makes you feel like “you could eat it every day without growing tired”, one of the shop’s characteristics is that it has many regular local customers. The friendly character of the owner is another reason people come again and again.
Although the way Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is made differs according to the shop, the most basic among the basic points is stacking all the fillings in a heap like in the above photo.
And then it’s time for this performance! Spatulas are slid under the batter and the heap is spun around with a single stroke. It looks easy, but it’s a skilful technique. Ms. Tawara, however, is a veteran and can do it like it’s nothing while chatting with customers.
After frying, an absolute must-have with Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is brushed-on okonomi sauce. Green laver is sprinkled on top to finish.
By the way, all the shops at Okonomimura use the same original sauce. Sold in convenient 420g bottles, it makes a great souvenir. Do try it out!
Well then, my okonomiyaki is ready. It’s an orthodox mix of noodles, meat and egg. At JPY810, it’s the standard price for all the shops within Okonomimura. At Momotarou you can add red pickled ginger as a topping, free of charge.
This is how it looks when halved. What do you think? The ensemble of layered ingredients just looks delicious, don’t you think? While the spilled sauce sizzles with a juicy sound on the hot plate, its savory fragrance whets the appetite even more.
The normal practice with Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is to cut bite-sized pieces with small spatulas and then use them as tools for eating. However, for ladies and those not used to using spatulas, the shop also offers small plates and wooden chopsticks.
Okonomimura is not only a delicious place; another good thing is that local regulars and tourists can gather around the same hotplate and have a good time together. “Where are you from?” “Did you already go to the Peace Memorial Park?” Friendly conversations start easily… It’s also fun to chat with the staff, which just might be the best seasoning for Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. However, be sure not to say anything bad about the Carps, Hiroshima’s prided baseball team. As doing so will immediately turn the mood sour, tourists beware!!
Location: 5-13 Shintenchi, Naka ward, Hiroshima city, Hiroshima prefecture
Business hours: Varies according to shop
Closed: No regular holidays
Tel: 082-241-2210 (Okonomimura office)
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