Osaka’s Social Cuisine

I'm back in Tokyo now. When I'm not busy getting ready for the second semester, I tend to spend my time fantasizing about some of the food I had while on vacation. Of all the dishes I tried, I was most impressed with the ones I had in Osaka, which is known across Japan for its cuisine. In this post, there are two dishes in particular that I'd like to share: takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Both dishes taste delicious and are great for socializing. Takoyaki Takoyaki is perhaps Osaka's most famous dish.
This image shows six takoyaki balls presented neatly on a white dish. They are topped with Bonito flakes, mayonnaise, and a green garnish.
Takoyaki [source]
It consists of octopus (tako in Japanese) contained in balls of wheat-based flour topped with Japanese Worcester sauce and mayonnaise (it's infinitely better than it's North American counterpart). It's cooked in a special takoyaki pan:
This image shows twelve takoyaki balls being cooked in a metal pan.
Pans are available for cheap, making takoyaki a popular social dish for student gatherings. Takopa, or 'takoyaki parties,' consist of a number of people gathered around a table and a takoyaki pan in someone's dorm room or apartment. Each person takes a turn making her or his signature takoyaki recipe, until everyone at the table has made a batch. With the last of the batter, the host sometimes introduces a round of takoyaki roulette, wherein each ball contains a mystery ingredient - wasabi and pickled ginger are fair game. I've dodged all of the nasty ingredients so far. Okonomiyaki I've discussed Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki in a previous post. Osaka has it's own version of the dish that's slightly easier to make. Unlike Hiroshima's version, which requires a delicate layering of ingredients, Osaka's involves mixing a number of ingredients in a bowl, and pouring the result onto a teppan. It's more like an omelette.
This image shows an okonomiyaki grilling on a teppan. It is topped with a brown sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and a green garnish.
Osaka-style okonomiyaki [source]
It primarily consists of flour, egg, cabbage, and meat. However, many people take liberties with it, and make their own version of the dish. Personally, I like to add natto, or fermented soy beans, to mine. Many restaurants have tables featuring a teppan in their centre, allowing people to gather around the table and each cook their own dish. Similar to takoyaki, okonomiyaki encourages people to have fun with their food. Cooking can be a great activity for both breaking the ice with new acquaintances, and for catching up with old friends. Apart from seeing friends, food was easily the best part of my vacation. Fortunately, a family from Osaka runs an okonomiyaki shop a few minutes away from my dorm in Tokyo. It and its sweet aroma test my self-control on a daily basis.

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