Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Welcome to Japan!

Nothing says “Welcome to Japan” quite as well as the Osaka train signage in kanji. Okay, they do (briefly) switch to English for a few seconds. It’s similar with the announcements: 30 seconds straight of talking in Japanese, then one sentence of English. So far I am completely satisfied with that small percentage of English… after all, I am in Japan!

Osaka JR Train Signage

For lunch I visited this place, Ponpocotei near the Tsuruhashi station.

Ponpocotei Restaurant

First meal in Japan for this trip was Okonomiyaki! This is a thick, savory pancake about 6″ in diameter. I tried octopus & pork as my fillings. Those are fish flakes on top of the bbq sauce and mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

The chef cooks it at a grill behind the counter, then serves it on your own personal in-table grill to keep it warm while you eat. Delicious!

Ponpocotei Okonomiyaki Closeup

I may have mentioned at some point: I love my Nikon 35mm f/2 for food closeups. :-)

Posted 8 years, 12 months ago at 11:06 am.

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Waikiki: Playground of the Rich

This surf-obsessed beach lined with expensive shops (and probably Hawaii’s most expensive restaurants) is definitely a haven for lovers of posh hotels and convertibles. When I arrived on May 18th I saw a lot of Mustangs, so I guess that’s the preferred rental cabrio of Oahu.

As I’d been traveling for 24 hours, I didn’t do much upon my late-afternoon arrival. But I did head to Waikiki Beach, five minutes’ walk from my hostel, to take in the sunset:

Sunset at Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Hawaii

There was a free hula show going on with native Hawaiian music, but I’ll have more about that in two days.

For dinner I checked out a delicious Japanese restaurant, which has branches in Waikiki and Tokyo: Jinroku Pacific, a Teppan Grill & Bar (2427 Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki). My longtime readers might remember another post about okonomiyaki, a large Japanese savory pancake:

Okonomyaki being cooked at Jinroku Pacific

And the tasty final product, topped with an egg, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, seaweed flakes, and fish flakes:

Okonomyaki at Jinroku Pacific in Waikiki

Here’s another Japanese “fast food” specialty, takoyaki. I tried the takoyaki for lunch another day. Mine was a little undercooked, but still good. There’s truly an art form to shaping these round octopus dumplings.

Cooking takoyaki at Jinroku Pacific in Waikiki

Let’s just say I slept well this night, after 24h of travel and a good Japanese meal. Though I did wake up early the next day due to 5h of jet lag. Tune in tomorrow to see Diamond Head crater and Honolulu!

Posted 10 years, 9 months ago at 3:17 pm.

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Japanese Okonomiyaki

I’ve long wanted to visit Japan, but haven’t made it there yet (unless you could a connection at Narita, where I bought some Suntory Japanese whiskey).  So, when a friend needed a place to host a Japanese party to cook traditional okonomiyaki, I happily volunteered.

Wikipedia says okonomiyaki is made of two Japanese words, meaning “what you like” and “grilled.”  It’s a bit like a giant pancake, where the batter is mixed with various ingredients: cabbage, pork, bacon, octopus… whatever you like!

Here’s a shot of the batter, just beginning to cook:

Okonomiyaki batter, freshly poured in the pan

Okonomiyaki batter, freshly poured in the pan

That’s a variant with octopus chunks.  It was very tasty.  Thanks to the German gentlemen who sliced the octopus.  This is not easy, as it’s quite slippery.  Another tip if you are looking to buy octopus or squid in Germany: they are both often called Tintenfisch (inky fish).  So, make sure you know which one you’re getting.  Long, tubular body with small tentacles = squid, small body with long tentacles replete with big suckers = octopus.

Slicing the octopus for okonomiyaki

Slicing the octopus for okonomiyaki

Here’s a shot of the whole process:

All the stages, from batter to finished product

All the stages, from batter to finished product

I couldn’t decide if the octopus or bacon okonomiyaki was better.  Then I remembered how much I love bacon…

Bacon okonomiyaki, halfway cooked

Bacon okonomiyaki, halfway cooked

At last, the finished and garnished okonomiyaki.  It’s traditionally doused with barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and fish flakes, as I understand.

The finished product: okonomiyaki with bbq sauce, seaweed, and fish flakes!

The finished product: okonomiyaki with bbq sauce, seaweed, and fish flakes!

We sliced it into pieces before devouring it with chopsticks. I’m curious how it’s eaten in Japan: with the fingers? Or, is it broken into bits with chopsticks? It doesn’t seem possible to pick up the whole thing at once with the sticks, though I’m only a Western chopstick expert, not a native user.

Here’s the recipe from our Japanese master cook, Nina:

  • At first, we need to prepare wheat flour (405), water, egg, cabbage, and oil. In addition, add some favorite cooking ingredients such as cheese, pork, Dashi-no-moto, etc. It may be a good idea to customize your okonomi-yaki with octopus and squid, beef, or garlic.
  • Important: have to mix flour and water before adding other ingredients.
  • Don’t forget to add some oil in the frying pan!
  • Cook with a very low heat. Put sliced meat on top of the okonomiyaki. If you don’t use any sliced meat, it’s a good idea to put a lid over the pan to aid in cooking.
  • Flip it over (with 2 spatulas if needed). It’s finished when the second side is cooked through. Try it with your favorite sauce!

And here’s a recipe with proportions (though mine was made by an authentic Japanese expert, so I cannot vouch for this recipe 100%): Okonomiyaki recipe

If you’re a Japanese food & culture lover, you’ve got to try this dish!  Even though I’ve never yet been there, I felt as if I were in Hiroshima at a traditional restaurant eating this famous Japanese food.  Enjoy!

Posted 11 years, 4 months ago at 11:17 pm.

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