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KONAMON CULTURE

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Written by Life in Kansai

Born almost a century before the start of the Edo era, Sen no Rikyū is generally recognised as the father of Japanese green tea culture, or chanoyu . Every now and then, though, people welcome a tasty contrast to the bitterness of green tea, so the story goes that Kansai native Rikyū founded another long-running Japanese custom: konamon . Loosely translated as ‘flour things’, the best-known dishes in this tempting selection of batter-based foods are the griddled cabbage pancake known as okonomiyaki (‘something you like, cooked’), and takoyaki (cooked octopus balls). Originally, the recipe for okonomiyaki consisted simply of flour (kona) and miso, then gradually developed into mojiyaki (now known as monjayaki ), the raw mixture for today’s okonomiyaki and a popular dish in its own right. After World War Two, meriken-ko (‘American powder’) became an important staple ingredient of okonomiyaki, as flour began to be imported into Japan from the USA. Though yam flour is often used in konamon cooking, it can be substituted for wheat flour. Well known throughout Japan for its konamon culture, the Kansai area boasts a wide range of traditional, mouth-watering okonomiyaki restaurants, the famous Osaka Botejyu chain, where the modern conception of okonomiyaki evolved.

Osaka Botejyu: 3-7-20, Namba, Chuo-ku, Osaka City; Tel.: 06-6643-4410.

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Here’s how to make okonomiyaki the Osaka Botejyu way. Why not try it yourself?

Ingredients Serves 1

Basic recipe
100 g yam flour or plain flour
100 ml chicken or vegetable stock
150 g cabbage, finely chopped
1 egg

Fillings (use them all, choose your favourites or try alternatives)
1 tsp pickled ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp shredded nori (dried seaweed)
2 tsp tenkasu (tempura crumbs)
3–5 pieces of raw squid, each approx. 3 cm long
2 raw pork rashers
1–2 raw shrimp, butterflied

To serve
okonomi sauce
mayonnaise
katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
aonori (powdered seaweed)

Method
① Mix flour and stock together in a large bowl, using a whisk to get rid of the lumps, until a smooth, viscous mixture remains.
② Place flour and stock mixture with cabbage and egg in a smaller bowl, along with pickled ginger, tempura crumbs, nori and squid (if using). Stir until thoroughly combined.
③ Heat up a hot plate or non-stick frying pan. Spread a few drops of vegetable oil around the pan using kitchen paper held between chopsticks. Place roughly two thirds of the mixture on the heated surface and turn the temperature right down. Shape into a round pancake about the size of a small plate or saucer. Place any remaining fillings, such as shrimp and pork, on top of the pancake and leave to cook for 5 minutes.
④ Add the remaining mixture to the top of the pancake and smooth over, ensuring all fillings are covered. If using shrimp, leave the tail sticking out on one side. Leave to cook for 5–10 minutes.
⑤ Flip the okonomiyaki and leave to cook for another 5–10 minutes, then flip back to the original side for a final 5 minutes until cooked through.
⑥ Cover the surface with a layer of okonomi sauce, then drizzle mayonnaise in thin lines across the whole pancake.
⑦ In the opposite direction to the mayonnaise, draw lines in the sauce with a spatula or knife. Sprinkle bonito flakes and powdered seaweed on top and serve, either by itself or with rice crackers.
Alternative toppings
・soy sauce and lemon
・ponzu (sauce made from citrus juice, vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar)
・grated or sliced cheese

International konamon
● In France, sweet crêpes are made with wheat flour and often served with fruit and whipped cream, while savoury galettes made from buckwheat flour are filled with cheese, meat, egg or vegetables.
● In Canada and the USA, thick pancakes are served in a stack for breakfast and may contain berries, banana or spices. They often come topped with maple syrup and accompanied by bacon, eggs or sausage.
● Korean savoury jeon contain meat, seafood and vegetables mixed with flour batter and are eaten as a snack or appetizer.
● In Pakistan, rishiki, made from wholewheat flour, water and eggs, are customarily served with honey and cottage cheese.
● Russian blini are paper-thin pancakes usually made with wheat or rye flour and filled with meat, caviar and sour cream.


by Life in Kansai


 

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