Sunday, June 26, 2005

Japanese pancakes?

No, they're not sushi rolled in crepes.

One of our favorite moments in Amsterdam was the long evening we spent eating at Japanese Pancake World in the Jordaan neighborhood. We found the place quite by accident, just doing what we love best: wandering down side streets and looking at local life. Our eye was caught by the nice plastic model (giving Becca a moment of nostalgia for Japan) of a luscious looking pancake. So what exactly are these pancakes? I'll quote from their website:


Japanese Pancakes, or Okonomiyaki, are savory pancakes with a variety of fresh toppings ranging from sweet corn, beef strips to king prawn. The word Okonomiyaki means 'cook as you like' which also explains the accommodating nature of these pancakes: just choose your favorite toppings and indulge
yourself in your personalized pancake, Japanese-style. Apart from the usual ingredients such as flour and egg, the pancake dough also uses pureed mountain potato. This special ingredient keeps the dough light and crispy. Shredded cabbage as well as other ingredients is then added to the dough before
being spread onto the teppan. Before being served hot off the grill, mouth-watering sauces are spread on top of the pancake ready to host the finale of dramatic "dancing" fish flakes. With plenty of vegetables and a variety of toppings, Japanese Pancakes make a complete nutritious meal. While they are
quite filling, the use of cabbage keeps the calorie surprisingly low.

Now I don't know whether that description makes your mouth water, but believe me, it should. Check out their website above for more descriptions of the different kinds of okonmiyake (there are 3 major types) and examples of the types of toppings that they offer.

We were convinced to stay and try by Mark, waiter and culinary-guide extraordinare who was very helpful at describing the items and helping us make our way through the huge menu. On a backpacker's budget splurging has to be kept to a minimum, but he helped us figure out that instead of each getting one of the more basic and smaller choices, we could split one of the more deluxe versions (we chose the one in the display case, because it included yaki soba, one of Becca's absolute favorite street foods from Japan, in the pancake) for less money.

One of the best parts of the meal is watching the pancakes being made. Joachim is the owner and chef of the restaurant. You can go up to the bar around the teppan grill and watch him as he works his artistry. (If the day isn't too warm, you can eat your meal there and watch and talk the whole time..but beware: the grill puts out a lot of heat. Or you can go up while he's cooking your food and otherwise sit outside and watch Amsterdam walk by). And they really are works of art. (I'm bummed that I didn't take any pictures of him at work) Joachim is great to talk to and a wonderful source of information on the culture around and history of okonomiyake. He went to Japan to study how to properly make them and imported all of the equipment and ingredients to make it an authentic experience.

We ended up closing down the place, and finished our delicious okonomiyake sharing a drink with Joachim and Mark at our table. It was one of our favorite nights of the trip so far.

In short...to anybody planning on visiting Amsterdam, check the place out. It's delicious, healthy, totally different, and reasonably priced food (and for those on a budget, we shared one pancakes and were more than satisfied and didn't feel hungry again until lunch the next day) with even better company. It's the only authentic okonomiyake place in all of Europe (and I can't remember ever seeing one in the States either). Tell them you heard about it from us and that we say 'cheers and thanks for the meal'.

(For those who want to know, we ordered the Deluxe Noodle Osaka-style. It was a pancake with cabbage, egg, scallion, marinated ginger, and crispy deep-fry-bits, then with a layer of yaki soba (which has noodles, vegetables, and pork strips), then a paper thin layer of egg served with special worcester sauce, mayonnaise, aonori and dancing fish flakes. Almostimpossiblee to picture from the description, but trust us....Yummy.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

That looks so.........good! It's fun finding out of the way places like that, that turn out to be some of the best! We look forward to finding some of those places with you in Italy.