Tuesday 13 January 2015

Tokyo's answer to Okonomiyaki - Monjayaki!

Most regular readers will be familiar with my love of Okonomiyaki (the Hiroshima variety especially).  Tokyo, not to be outdone has it's own version that is called Monjayaki.

Monjayaki (or monja as it is commonly known) started life as a kids snack in the early 19th century, but it looked a lot different to how it looks today.  In the beginning it resembled a rolled up crepe with some simple toppings.  In the 20th century, the current day monjayaki was developed around the Tsukishima area of Tokyo.  There is a street near Tsukishima station nicknamed Monja Dori or Monja Street (it's real name is Nishinaka Dori) that is lined with over 70 monjayaki restaurants.  There is even a  monjayaki souvenir and tourist office located at one end of the street.

So, how does monjayaki differ from okonomiyaki?  Mostly in appearance.  A lot of the ingredients are the same, but okonomiyaki is more like a pancake whereas monjayaki looks like.........well, maybe the nicest way to put it is it looks like a sloppy pancake.  Others are not so kind when describing what it looks like..........

I have a friend, Masa (who introduced me to sumo food, chanko nabe last year) who lives at Kachidoki, right next to Tsukishima, and I had been meaning to catch up with him for monjayaki for quite a while.  Last weekend we finally organised to do it, so myself and two other friends from work caught the train to Tsukishima to meet Masa.

We set off down Monja Dori to the restaurant Masa had chosen (owned by the father of a friend of Masa's son).

Monjayaki restaurants, like most Osaka style okonomiyaki restaurants, have a hotplate in the middle of your table to cook your food.  We let the experts (the restaurant staff) cook ours for us.  The ingredients come to your table piled up in a bowl.

At first the meat is put onto the hotplate and cooked.

Next, the rest of the dry ingredients are added.

They are tossed around on the hotplate until partially cooked.

After that, a hole is created in the middle of it all,

into which the wet ingredients are poured.

This is then mixed around until the liquid starts to thicken.

At this point, it is then all mixed together.

The final product looks like this.......

You then scrape up a small bit of the monjayaki with small spatulas and enjoy!  As the monjayaki stays on the hotplate, it thickens even more and the last part is the part that has stuck to the hotplate.  It is nice and crispy and crunchy!


goes very well with this!

This night we also had some regular Osaka style okonomiyaki.

Tokyo is the gourmet capital of the world with 267 Michelin star restaurants (more than any other country), but monjayaki proves that gourmet doesn't have to look gourmet.  While there may be no monjayaki restaurants with Michelin stars and it might not look the most appetising, it is truly unpretentious and delicious!  I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants a unique and different dining experience!

Thanks again for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading about monjayaki, and I hope you do try it when you have the chance!  See you next time.


  1. Konnichiwa Jason,Like you,I fell on love with this kind of food,whilst in Nihon.Unfortunately,no one specializes in this kind of food here.When I think of Okonomiyaki I think of the word "eccomomy yaki",as this dish is at the cheaper end of the food chain.A few days back,tried out The Crane sushi bar(train),which also has a nice sake bar and teppanyaki tables.The sushi was much the same as that in the Gouger St.Sushi Train.About the same quality and price.It was good enough to return.Most of the staff were Chinese,although the chief sushi chef,was a well spoken young man from Nagoya.I checked the menu for the Monjayaki/Okonomiyaki as well as Udon...surprisingly neither was on the menu..what a pity.It is quite a swish looking place,close to Moseley Square.They have green tea bags called Harada Yabukita Blend,which actually looks and tastes like real green tea from Japan.Then again it may come from China.Anyway,it smells and tastes pretty good,like the real thing.I really like the taste of "sencha" an according to the experts,it is really good for you.I have just completed drinking a bottle of Tateyama Shuzo,Junmai Ginjo and it is excellent Nihonshu.It was obtained online from Sake Aust.It is a little too expensive for my liking at $55 a bottle + $15 postage.If you get 3 bottles at a time ,there is no postage.Here in Adelaide,there is no one that stocks Sake,except for one Kyoto Brand, which I have tried,but wasn't all that keen on.A bottle of Sake does not last very long,even if you just have a medicine glass full every night.I imagine the same bottle of Sake ,would be perhaps no more than $40 in Japan?Well Jason,that is about all from now from the land downunder...cheers/kanpai...Noel.

    1. Hi Noel,
      good to hear from you again. I have tried okonomiyaki at Sato on Melbourne Street in Adelaide but it didn't taste like it does here. It tastes deep fried, whereas here it is fried on a hotplate or teppan.
      It is good to hear that more and more Japanese places are appearing around Adelaide. I just hope that they are serving up as authentic Japanese food as possible. With a chef from Nagoya, hopefully that is true of "the Crane suchi bar".
      What taste sake do you prefer? Dry, sweet, fruity? I don't know the sake that you spoke of. What taste does it have?
      I am planning another short trip away from Tokyo toward the end of this month, so keep an eye out for another update late January or early February.
      Take care Noel.

  2. Jason,the taste is somewhat fruity(say apple/pearish) and slightly sweet.Nice aroma and I tried it at room temp. and also with a block of ice in a medicine glass...that I preferred.If you want to pretty it up,place a slice of strawberry in the glass..it will soon sink to the bottom;so once you have had the last sip,you can get the nice taste of strawberry at the end.I think it would be one of the popular sakes,around Japan.The symbol on the label is a bit like a royal crown on the top over the "yama/kanji mountain symbol" underneath.I know that it comes in the standard size bottle as well a s the sumo/jumbo size bottle.If you see it in a restaurant window.,I think it is worth a try.I suspect it may also be available in the tiny bottle as well.I would have to say this sake would be ideal with sushi,but I was drinking it as a night cap and this way you appreciate it's unique taste better I feel and of course,perhaps you will sleep better as well.Kanpai...Noel.