Friday, May 13, 2016

Hiroshima's Okonomiyaki

I guess not having Okonomiyaki while travelling in Hiroshima would be like going to Philadelphia without trying Phillies Cheese Steak. As soon as we hopped back to Hiroshima from the nearby Miyajima Island and checked in to our hotel there, first thing we did was to look for a place to try this symbolic street food famous in this town.

Of course, nowadays one can find places which served Okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancakes, anywhere in Japan or even around the world, but in Hiroshima, they serve a regional variation of that, layering in flour batter, cabbage, bean sprouts, bacon, a choice of other toppings one by one on a griddle, and finishing with a choice of soba or udon and topped with fried egg before serving and one would eat with a generous drizzle of special sauce on top. Hiroshima people insisted that this is the only correct way this was to be served, and were so crazy about the dish that they even have a theme park called Okonomi-mura dedicated to this dish in downtown, with more than 20 different stalls serving different versions of Okonomiyaki under one roof.

We didn't go to Okonomi-mura this time, but instead made a short walk across the train station to a shopping center on the south side where the one and only Reichan is located. Reichan began its life as a yatai stall some 60 years ago and now it's housed inside the mall connected to the JR train station. The restaurant is impossible to miss – they are the only one with a waiting line outside pretty much all day long, and particularly so during lunch hour, just about the time we arrived.

Seating was tight inside the restaurant with two-third of the floor area an open kitchen where scores of cooks preparing okonomiyaki on the large steel griddle for the customers and the counter seats in front of them, and a few long communal tables occupying the remaining one-third. We waited for a good 20 minute before we were seated at one of the tables towards the back of the restaurant.

Only Okonomiyai was served in the restaurant – but there were 30 different varieties, with or without the noodles and denoted by a number code. Don't worry - English menu is available, but still with that it can get quite confusing with so many choices. I ordered number 12, which was said to be the most popular choice, cooked with squid and shrimps (in addition to the vegetables, bacon and egg which came standard for all options) It only took about 10 minutes for our order to arrive and first thing that struck me was the huge portion. The pancake took up the entire plate with layers of ingredients piled on. Two types of sauces were offered – one mild and one spicy – which we can pour on top.

I wasn’t sure how it compared to other okonomiyaki places but the one I had was extremely satisfying. The random combination of ingredients somehow worked and I liked the vibe of this place - it's packed and loud when we were there but still comfortable. And the portion was definitely more than enough for one person as a regular meal – and cost only 1300 yen! That's the ultimate cheap and cheerful street food right there!

When? April 26 2016
Where? Reichan, 2/F Hiroshima Station Building, 2-37 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku, Hiroshima
麗ちゃん 広島県広島市南区松原町2-37 広島駅ビル アッセ2F
Menu Highlights? Okonomiyaki with Squid and Shrimps and Noodles

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