Sunday, September 23, 2018

Okonomiyaki: Japanese Pancakes at Gaja

by pleasurepalate (writer), Duarte, March 22, 2007


When my friend first mentioned the word "okonomiyaki" to me, I have to admit to giving her a blank stare. "What in the world is that?" I asked. So then she started talking about Japanese pancakes and cooking it at the restaurant and that shed some light, but it still was a bit confusing to me.

I think what threw me off was just the notion of Japanese pancakes in general. Like a lot of people, pancakes for me brought up a vision of a stack of sweet bready goodness topped with pats of butter and doused with maple syrup. Somehow I didn't think that Japanese pancakes or okonomiyaki as they are better known as would be the same thing and I was right.

So after doing a bit of online research, I found out that Okonomi means "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki means "grilled" or "cooked" (e.g.. yakitori and yakisoba); thus, the name of this dish means "cook what you like, the way you like". Okonomiyaki is a dish usually associated with the Kansai and Hiroshima areas of Japan. While the toppings and batters of this savory, not sweet, pancake vary from region to region, the primary base of the batter is made up of grated yam, shredded cabbage, flour, egg and water. Though the chefs will cook the okonomiyaki for you if you wish, most customers choose to cook their own at table side griddles found at most okonomiyaki restaurants.

After learning a little more, I went with a group to Gaja, a restaurant in Lomita, and experienced okonomiyaki for myself. Now I went the lazy way and just opted for my pork and kimchee pancake to be cooked in the kitchen and believe me, it was tasty. However, I sat between two grills where I actually got to see the differences between the Kansai-style and Hiroshima-style of cooking okonomiyaki.

To the left was the Kansai-style. First, the griddle was oiled, heated and then the shrimp was cooked. Than the batter which consisted of veggies, a raw egg and other items was mixed together and than shaped into pancakes and cooked on the griddle. While one side was cooking, the shrimp was added to the uncooked side. Than the pancakes were flipped over and topped with a sauce. Soon, they were ready for eating.

To the right of me was the Hiroshima-style. Instead of four mini pancakes, this was one large one. After the griddle was oiled and heated, the batter was added to form one large pancake. Soon the veggies, meat and noodles were layered on top and more batter added to the top of those layers. After the first side cooked a bit, the whole pancake was flipped over so that the other side would now cook. While the other side was cooking, okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter) was added as well as bonito flakes. After a bit, this pancake was also ready for eating.

It was really enjoyable watching the cooking, but it was also just as enjoyable savoring every bite of the pork and kimchee okonomiyaki that was cooked for me. Other than okonomiyaki, we also had a variety of delicious appetizers and desserts.

Overall, it was a great lunch. The service was wonderful. The food was excellent. I would definitely make my way back to Gaja again and maybe, I'll even cook next time. :)

2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 102
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 534-0153

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pleasurepalate is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on Okonomiyaki: Japanese Pancakes at Gaja

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By Steven Lane on March 22, 2007 at 11:47 pm
once again, you have put something out there that I have not experienced, going to have to try it. Wish you lived in the valley, lol.
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By pleasurepalate on March 23, 2007 at 11:38 am
Hey Steve. I run a dining group that eats out all over LA County and I post all my restaurant outings through a free to join group called MEETinLA ( So come join us! :)
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By you're an idiot on November 15, 2009 at 01:51 am

much of that is word for word from the wikipedia, are you trying to plageurise? or does it just come natural? you say its avory or good, but give little description to anything else, much like you read the wikipedia after eating there and thus your opinion was founded. I found this searching for a place in houston that had it, and here i am, a user doing california review. -50 points for you.   Only because after reading this i still have no real idea about the food your talking about. you explain how different styles are done frome sight but theres no tasting or what not....crappy generalizations.

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