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Oh me, oh my, Okonomiyaki - Eating in Japan

O-ko-no-mi-ya-ki: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of six steps down the palate... O. Ko. No. Mee. Ya. Kee.

I may not be Nabakov, but okonomiyaki is definitely my Lolita, my gastronomical catnip, my culinary raison d'etre.  I'd  cross the country for a seat at an okonomiyaki-ya.  Just the name alone makes me smile.  Those syncopated six syllables drum the perfect rhythm for a dish I'd consider the best comfort food I've ever eaten.  And in one week, I ate it 9 times.  Dinner and Lunch. Lunch. Dinner. Lunch and Dinner. Lunch and Dinner and Dinner.  Nope, I was never bored because every single time, that savoury pancake (to conceptualize it for the Western mind) was a completely new creation.

There is nothing pretty about okonomikyaki. And it's not meant to be.  It is an "everything-but-the-kitchen sink" dish of flour batter , cabbage, pork, egg, bean sprouts and noodles, plus whatever else you choose-- depending on where you are from when in Japan, or what you like.  It's like the Wild West of recipes with a murky backstory, quick draws and no rules.

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Getting my okonomiyaki on - Kansai-style: Okonomiyaki is DIY at its very finest.  Personally, I think it should be a first date meal beause it is essentially a personality assessment.  The dish is hands out, which means cell phones down.  Within five minutes you'll figure out who is collaborative, encouraging, adventuresome and a food-dynamo or perfectionist, selfish and all around food afraid.

Where:  My first and favorite is Poppoya in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture.  Vibe is charming, rustic, no frills and beer or umeshu (plum wine).  Seating is bar side and table.

MORE:  My Food Traveller piece on okonomiyaki for The Guardian, July 2016