A Reuters story published today reported, “Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hosts leaders of the Group of Seven richest nations in Hiroshima this week, restaurants in the city hope to put a local speciality on the map, with a choice of fillings to cater for foreign tastes.”
The ‘local speciality’ is a crepe-like pancake named okonomiyaki loaded with a variety of toppings; from cabbage to pork belly slices and noodles. The mouthful of a name translates to ‘cooked as you like’, which implies the toppings can be customised to one’s preference. A typical Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is flavoured with bonito which is powdered fermented tuna, and slathered with an umami-ish okonomiyaki sauce that contains soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, vinegar and more.
The Reuters story pointed out that there are more than 800 restaurants specialising in okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. The dish is so iconic that there is an Okonomiyaki Academy, a trade group, that has planned a menu with variations of this pancake for G7 delegates. “They include German sauerkraut, as well as a maple syrup-infused Canadian version, and a carbonara style to honour Italy. For American tastes there will be burger meat, while the French version contains cabbage, bean sprouts, bacon, cheese, okonomiyaki sauce and a fried egg, all wrapped in a crepe,” reports the story.
Foods like okonomiyaki have the potential to gain global fame, because they are easy to adapt. Think dosas or parathas which can lend themselves to a remarkable variety of stuffing; from potatoes to bacon and broccoli. They can be easily tweaked to suit local flavours and individual preferences, although certain variations—remember, ice cream dosa?—could ruffle a few feathers. As long as the final outcome isn’t entirely ridiculous, versatile dishes, like okonomiyaki, have an enduring appeal and can be positioned for global take-over.
To know how to make it, watch this recipe video: