Poll: Is Okonomiyaki "Japanese Pizza"?


Namu's Okonomiyaki—kimchee, market vegetables and a free range egg. [Photograph: NIall Kennedy]

This week's poll revolves around a fairly contentious subject in the pizza community: okonomiyaki. Often casually described as "Japanese pizza," the nickname is a source of irritation to many a pizza enthusiast. First though, let's take a look at last week's results!

By far the smallest—but most intriguing—group of responders were those who had in fact done the deed, and proposed via pizza (five out of the total 294 voters). Most of you admitted to loving pizza, but not as a proposal mechanism, and there was an even split (27% on both sides) of those who were tempted by the idea, and those who were revolted by it. Check out the poll comments for some of the stories.

Now—okonomiyaki. A little exploration of what this pizza/pancake/omelette concoction actually is would probably be a good idea. Described by Wikipedia as a "savory pancake from Japan," with a name that translates (roughly) to "what you want, grilled." It varies regionally, but two main styles predominate: the Kansai, or Osaka-style, and the Hiroshima-style.

Both involve a batter of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eg,g and cabbage, that gets mixed with a combination of ingredients—some common ones include green onion, thinly sliced pork belly, octopus, shrimp, vegetables, mochi, and cheese. Both are slathered with Japanese mayonnaise, katsuoboshi, aonori, and okonomiyaki sauce (something like tonkatsu). The main difference is that the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki are layered, rather than mixed together: batter, cabbage, pork, and then toppings.

Occasionally, they'll be served on top of a layer of fried noodles, and called modan-yaki—which reminded me of this pizza-ramen hybrid. If you're interested in trying your hand at a homemade okonomiyaki, check out our recipe for Okonomiyaki with Trotters.

With a clear understanding of what it is, does okonomiyaki in any way deserve it's handy nickname, or is it nothing more than a misnomer? On the one hand, there are some similarities to be found: batter cooked quickly and at high heat, layers of ingredients, the general size and shape, a choice in toppings, and the overall classification of "comfort food." And on the other? As Adam aptly put it, "it's NOTHING LIKE PIZZA. That's like calling a Belgian waffle with strawberries and cream a 'pizza' simply because it's a round, flat thing topped with something."

So, Slicer's—what do you think? We could debate okonomiyaki's deliciousness (answer: IT IS), but I'm curious to hear from you: does okonomiyaki in any way deserve the name pizza?

Is It Fair to Call Okonomiyaki "Pizza"?