I had my first opportunity to try okonomiyaki or Japanese pancakes in Hiroshima. Although these pancakes are served all over Japan, the chefs in Hiroshima are famous for the number of layers their okonomiyaki have -and their ability to keep their many-layered pancakes intact till they serve them. We went to a place called Okonomi- Mura which literally translated means Pancake- Village and that’s what it was- a tall building with floor after floor of restaurants- each one serving okonomiyaki.
Our tiny- kerchiefed chef was a true artist. She created the base shape of our pancakes on her piping hot grill with her spatula- fashioning each dollop of batter into a perfect circle. After the batter had cooked she added layers of crisp shredded cabbage, crunchy bean sprouts, baked fish croutons and meaty bacon. She was cooking noodles in a wok at the same time and when they were done she added them as layer number six. She broke eggs onto the griddle and twirled and swirled them creating a scrambled egg mixture. Shrimp were dumped on the grill next and after they were sizzling our chef chopped them deftly with a razor sharp knife and then attacked an onion and green pepper with the same blade. The shrimp, onion and pepper bits were mixed together with the egg and placed on top of the pancake to form layer number seven.
Our imminently skilled chef then took that seven -layer pancake and flipped the entire thing upside down intact and after it had cooked for a few minutes she flipped it once again. What talent!
The pancakes were huge and I wish my husband and I had shared one. We could only eat about half of our enormous meal.
We purchased another memorable meal at Andersons Bakery. Established in 1948 in a bank building that had been only slightly damaged by the 1945 bombing Andersons was named after Danish story teller Hans Christian Anderson and was the first bakery in Japan to feature Danish pastry. I discovered that bakers who work for Andersons spend two years living on a farm just north of Hiroshima and learn how the wheat for Andersons’ breads is grown and harvested and how the flour is milled. The trainees are taught how to bake bread. They live together and eat together until they know everything there is to know about bread making from the field to the table.
Andersons doesn’t just have every kind of bread and pastry imaginable for sale but many other things as well. The place is really more like a deli. We purchased pickles, cheese, sliced meat, wine and fruit filled pastry. Of course we also had some of Anderson’s famous sour dough bread that has the word Hiroshima baked into the top of each loaf. We had a little picnic in the dining area of our Hiroshima hostel with all our delicacies from Andersons.
There are many good reasons to spend time in Hiroshima when you visit Japan. The excellent food is definitely one of them.
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