A History of the Japanese Monjayaki
When people think of Japanese food, mostly think of sushi, sashimi or even some of the more popular Japanese food like okonomiyaki or udon noodles which have been catching up in terms of popularity. Tourists visiting to Japan usually make a checklist of popular Japanese food to try, however, it is unfortunate that most of them never get to experience one of Tokyo’s most popular dishes: monjayaki.
Monjayaki, or all the more broadly known as 'monja', is a tasty Japanese dish with a very interesting history. Some stories claim that this dish was the creation of kids who used to buy whatever they could purchase from retail stores back in the early parts of the 20th century. On the other hand, some have claimed it was created around the period of the World War II. That was a time of depression and famine.
This meant that commodities like rice were rare. Making great utilization of the ration or whatever was accessible to them, the Japanese individuals started to join more flour into their eating routine to substitute the rice. The creation of the monjayaki was the answer to the famine that Japan was experiencing at the time. Whichever story is true, the main fact still remains that the Monjayaki is an original dish from Tokyo, and is also quite popular in the whole Kanto region.
Cooking monjayaki is pretty similar to the way okonomiyaki is cooked - using teppan barbecues are a fairly common instrument for cooking. On the other hand, some cooks like to show of their own skills and techniques by deviating and using their own preferred set of tools. Monja is normally eaten straight off the barbecue teppan grill, using any utensil that is not a chopstick. Hence, it could be eaten using a fork or a spoon..
Do It Yourself Recipe: Cook Monjayaki at Home
Those who are looking into dipping their feet into cooking monjayaki at home should fret not. While it is a tad complicated, it is still manageable. The “base recipe” has only a couple of simple ingredients that are not at all hard to acquire, and the process of cooking can be done in just a couple of minutes given that the person cooking has mastered cooking monja,
There is a particular system for cooking monjayaki, which is quite simple and does not require intensive kitchen knowledge. Below is a simple recipe which should be enough to guide anyone who is looking into cooking his or her version. Some of the ingredients below are standard, but some can be customized based from the person cooking’s liking.
First, it is important to differentiate how okonomiyaki differs from monjayaki in terms of appearance, ingredients and cooking style so as not to confuse one recipe from the other.
The very small difference between the two dishes is that the batter of Monjayaki is much more runny in consistency - like a thin liquid. On the other hand, the batter used for cooking Okonomiyaki is much thicker in consistency. Meanwhile, both dishes makes use of a sauce that is popularly affiliated with the Okonomiyaki.
With that said, it would be easy to asses that the uncooked form of the monjayaki would be a liquid mixture of flour, dashi stock, Okonomiyaki sauce, and vegetables - commonly used in Monjayaki are cabbages. Depending on personal preference, Worcestershire sauce can also be used. The other ingredients vary as well depending on personal preference.
A Monjayaki dish could be as simple or as extravagant as possible. For example, one can easily opt to add just cabbages. However others go as far as adding mushrooms, green vegetables, carrots and the like - making it a real party of tastes. Some even customize the Monjayaki to become a heavier dish by adding meat, fish or seafoods. Trendier variations of Monjayaki offered nowadays can even add nori or seaweed flakes, or cheese. The toppings used for Monjayaki may vary between mayonnaise and seaweed flakes.
In restaurants that serve Monjayaki, it is common practice to cook the batter in the middle of the table in a teppan grill. This is the same grill used to cook raw fish and meat dishes. Those who plan on making monjayaki at home can use the same teppan grill, though home-use teppan grills are usually much smaller in side. It is also understandable if one does not have a teppan grill to use at home for cooking monjayaki. If that’s the case, a good alternative to use for cooking monjayaki is a non-stick black pan where the cooked dish can be served directly afterwards.
To start the actual cooking process, the first step is rather easy. It would involve mixing the batter, comprised of dashi stock, flour and sauce (which could be Okonomiyaki or Worcestershire). This mixture is meant to be runny, hence it can be whisked easily with very little effort.
Once the batter is done, the ingredients comprised of the vegetables, and meat, if applicable placed within the same bowl that contains the batter. This allows the ingredients to soak up the batter. Afterwards, the pan or teppan grill must be heated. To do this, place the pan or grill on top of the stove at medium heat and add a small amount of cooking oil.
At this point, it is important to note that cooking monjayaki is not similar to cooking a simple pancake where the batter is poured to form a flat circle shape. The process to make the round shape of the monjayaki is a bit more complex than that.
First, place the vegetables and meat first into the pan. Do not pour the liquid batter first, but rather allow the ingredients to cook for a few minutes to fry. Once these ingredients have been fried slightly, form a hollow circle shape. Inside the hollow part of the circle, similar to a shallow well, is where the batter is supposed to go. Pour the batter into the well and allow it to cook until the batter is thicker and more solid.
The next step must be done quickly and precisely, which is to mix the vegetables and the batter together. This must be done right after the monjayaki batter has showed signs of becoming thicker in consistency, but not too late that it has completely solidified. Once this has been done succesfully, there is nothing left to do but to wait for the monjayaki to cook.
Aside from the slightly tricky method of cooking monjayaki, it is quite easy to make and enjoy at the comfort of one’s own home. Luckily, those who still have trouble comprehending this guide may easily opt to watch youtube videos for further learning.
Best Restaurants Serving Monjayaki in Japan
Monjayaki is a famous dish which has been eaten in the downtown areas of Tokyo since the olden days. At first glance, it is immediately noticeable how the quantity of authentic cuisine restaurants serving monjayaki is on the rise, as Tokyo is gaining more and more mentions earlier. There are numerous Monjayaki stalls and restaurants in Tokyo, particularly in Asakusa and Tsukishima, where you can see many styles of it. This is really well known among the voyagers in Tokyo.
The seating regions of most monjayaki eateries have one element that truly emerges - every one of the tables are outfitted with a hotplate to cook on. In these kinds of eateries, it is normal that the clients set up the dish independent from anyone else. However there are a few eateries who are still offering to cook the food for the customers.
One of the more popular food streets in Tokyo is Tsukishima Monjadori, a street with over 100 monjayaki restaurants. It ranks a part of the top five sight-seeing spots in the capital They also happen to serve great monjayaki, having streets dedicated to this obscure but delicious dish.