Hiroshima Pizza? I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the captain of the Japanese boat told us that’s what he would be making for the potluck with the American boat I was crewing on. When I tried the actual dish I immediately fell in love with the delicious dish.
A year later I was crewing on the same Japanese boat making okonomiyaki myself.
The captain, Sato San’s “Hiroshima Pizza,” is actually called okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese food, often described as “Japanese pizza.” He called it Hiroshima pizza because he hails from Hiroshima and makes Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is really more of a crepe than a pizza. To be totally fair it’s a unique dish. The crepe steams a mountain of vegetables and the other side is sealed with egg, seafood, and bacon. Well, really whatever you want. Okonomiyaki, means whatever you like baked or grilled a combination of the Japanese words okanomi, however you like and yaki, baked or grilled. Versions vary widely, I learned Hiroshima style, but I never use bacon or sliced pork for mine. Traditionally squid is used, but around the world we have substituted squid, conch, and on one special occasion lobster.
When writing this recipe I realized how complicated it seemed. It’s a lot of preparation but making okonomiyaki really isn’t difficult. You just have to follow the steps.
This is a video Globe Hackers made of an Okonomiyaki Party we had in Cuba
Makes 6 okonomiyaki
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- ½ head cabbage very thinly sliced
- ¾ cup spring onions, in 5 mm slices
- 1 cup squid
- 2 Tablespoons sake (optional)
- 4 packs ramen noodles
- 4 slices Bacon (or thin sliced pork if available)
- 4 slices cheese (I use individually wrapped Mozzarella or Swiss cheese slices)
- 12 eggs
- Squid chips (or crunchy tempura bits)
- Fish powder
- Aonori (ground seaweed)
- Kewpie mayonnaise
- 1 large, flat griddle. This is integral for making okonomiyaki. A pancake griddle can be used
- 2 spatulas
- 1 soup ladle
- Whisk flour and water together into a thin crepe-like batter and set aside
- Cut the cabbage into quarters. Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. Place in large bowl, set aside
- Chop spring onions into 5 mm sections. Place in bowl , set aside
- Cut squid or seafood into ⅛ strips, pour sake over to kill the smell, set aside
- Cut bacon slices into thirds, arrange on plate, set aside
- Boil ramen noodles in water with 1 T oil (to prevent sticking) for 2 minutes (slightly al dente) pour into colander and run cold water over to prevent cooking too long, and set aside
- Heat griddle over medium heat and oil
- Put ½ pack of ramen noodles on griddle. Let cook 30 seconds to release moisture
- Season with black pepper and okonomi sauce and mix together and move to side of griddle
- Oil griddle and pour 1 ladle-full of batter smoothing it into thin circle
- When edges of crepe start to lift, sprinkle with fish powder
- Using spatulas lift noodles onto top of crepe
- Place one slice of cheese over noodles
- Arrange large handful of cabbage over cheese
- Layer bean sprouts, spring onions, and squid (or tempura)chips on top
- Lay bacon on top of heap
- Drizzle ½ ladle full of batter over top
- Allow to cook about 2 minutes or until the bottom browns slightly
- Slide spatulas under either side of the crepe bottom and flip okonomiyaki quickly. Be sure to flip towards you.
- Cook for about 5 minutes allowing the inside to steam and until the bacon to cook to a golden brown. Slide okonomiyaki to one side of the griddle
- Oil center of griddle and place about ⅙ of squid in middle cooking for about 30 seconds
- Arrange squid into a barrier ring and crack 2 eggs inside.
- Mix eggs together and lift okonomiyaki on top
- Cook another 2 minutes, until eggs are golden brown
- Flip onto plate and squirt okonomiyaki sauce and kewpie mayonnaise on top in whatever pretty pattern you like
- Finally sprinkle aonori on top. Serve and enjoy!
Don’t be too upset of you can’t finish your okonomiyaki dinner. I love fresh okonomiyaki, but leftovers are almost as good. Better, some would say.
It was an overnight sail from Charleston. Smooth sailing all the way, unfortunately not fast, but smooth which was nice.
We had originally wanted to find a marina in Brunswick but all the marinas either didn’t have space for us or were extremely expensive. We opted for anchoring out a bit further South. Almost at the border between Florida and Georgia.
We anchored among a few other boats in the lee of an island.
“There are horses on the island.” Sato San told me.
Of course I had to go outside and see. He was right, there was a small herd of ponies in the woods down the beach. We dinghied out to the island and tied up at the dock. As soon as we got off the boat we could feel the grandeur of Southern
nature. A hush of the cathedral forest made it feel holy. The cool sweet air had a different texture than the ocean just feet away. We walked through the woods’ grand corridors gawking at the ancient trees with their elegant tresses of sphagnum moss.
We were in a completely different world. A doe sprang away from us as we startled her browsing by the pathway. But I had my heart set on seeing the feral ponies. Their droppings littered the pathways but nary a pony did we see.
We wound our way through the woods to the beach on the opposite side of the island without hide nor hair of a pony. Finally we happened upon some other people who told us that the ponies generally stayed near some grassy ruins a short dinghy ride away.
The three scrubby ponies we happened upon weren’t scared of us at all. In fact they were accustomed to people. Feral ponies are always fun to see, but I could easily see why Assateague’s feral ponies were more well-known than Cumberland Island’s. (okay, so Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague may have helped a little) Soon I was wowed by the enormous buck that crashed through the trees just ahead of us, pausing to look back at us. His antler crown made him seem like royalty of the forest.
But Sato San was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and so we headed back. After the night sail and exploring the island I was a little tired. I wasn’t really in the mood to make an involved dinner. I asked Sato San what he wanted to eat he suggested unagi. Not the simple unagi I was used to. He wanted to teach me how to make a special dish: Hitsumabushi Unagi.
This unagi-fest of a dish was invented in Nagoya but soon spread throughout Japan. I adore Unagi. Given the choice of a last meal I might have to choose unagi. Still, this dish is like the Japanese equivalent of an all-you-can-eat crab dinner. You know you shouldn’t eat more but you just can’t stop yourself.
Simple and delicious. The only problem is finding the unagi. You can usually find it in the frozen section at Asian supermarkets but unfortunately the price of unagi has gone up in the past year because eel has been overfished and they are increasingly hard to find. Still, I highly recommend trying this dish if you can find unagi. The tender meat practically melts in your mouth in a sweet-savory blend of deliciousness. Balanced by rice and a little wasabi I can’t think of many things more scrumptious.
Under the Lee Hitsumabushi Unagi
Under the Lee: Located in the calm area to the lee of an island or peninsula
– Sea Talk Nautical Dictionary
- 1 recipe unagi sauce
- 2 unagi steaks
- Short grained rice
- 1 c Japanese green tea
- Wasabi paste
- Green onions, finely sliced
Cook rice (I hate to admit it but the rice cooker really does cook rice better than I can and sadly the rice cooker is a shore-power only thing.)
- Make recipe of unagi sauce
- Bake eel about 15 minutes at 350◦ F (170◦ )
- Broil 5 minutes to cook top
- Cut unagi into thin strips
- Place unagi, unagi sauce, and rice pot in center of table and set table with bowls at everyone’s place
- Get Ready
- Spoon rice into bowl
- Place strips of unagi on top
- Spoon unagi sauce
- Spoon rice into bowl
- Place strips of unagi over rice
- Sprinkle green onions on top
- Squeeze wasabi onto the creation
- Drizzle unagi sauce around
- Round 2 + green tea (The green tea is wonderful to help clean the sticky rice and unagi sauce out of the bowl and adds an interesting flavor)
- You can do it! Just a little deliciousness left to go…
Branches scraped the side of Umineko’s hull as we motored down the narrow, winding canal. There was a line of boats inching along the ICW single file. How on earth boats passed one another when someone decided to go against the flow of traffic and head north for the winter was beyond me.
It was a completely different world from the well-manicured, wide Erie Canal. We had chosen to take the scenic Dismal Swamp route. A windy route fringed with lush foliage unlike anything we had seen along the Erie. The blue herons that followed us along the Erie Canal had become white water birds. Even the water was different; the peat growing in the water had dyed it a rusty shade that came up in our toilet bowls.
That morning we had been sure we could make it through two locks and to Elizabeth City but the languid pace that the bridges tenders and the first lock master operated on made us realize that there was no way we could make it even half that far. The second lock had its last opening at 2:30. No way could we make it there. Especially if we were stopping at the North Carolina welcome center.
And so we tied up at the North Carolina welcome center for lunch and ended up staying the night with a myriad of other boats all heading south for the winter. It was a short wall, but we all managed to squeeze in. 3 boats from Vermont rafted up (one boat ties up to the wall and the next boat ties up to the side of the boat, and so on) to one another in front of us. A lovely French Canadian couple rafted up to the side of Umineko, and a third boat rafted up to them.
Luckily no boats travel on the ICW at night because we certainly blocked even this wide part of the canal.
After a long day on the canal I decided to make something simple quick and tasty.
Everyone thinks of Japanese food as complicated and extremely involved. Some of it certainly is but I’m finding out that a surprising amount is unbelievably simple. Simple and delicious. You may have to pick up some katsuo dashi (stock) but it’s a great thing to have around. It is basically bonito soup stock. Flavorful and delicious, you can use it in a ton of quick, easy recipes that are ideal for galleys.
Ginger Chicken Udon
- 300 grams udon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 t ginger
- 1 t pepper
- ½ t 7 chili
- 2 T soy
- ½ c orange juice
- 1T butter
- ½ carrot julienned
- ¼ c onions chopped
- 1 can of chicken chunks (or one 6-oz package ginger chicken chunks)
- ¼ c katsuo stock
- Scallions for garnish
- Boil udon (about 8 minutes)
- While cooking udon:
- Fry garlic and onion in 2 t vegetable oil for about 2 minutes in medium skillet
- Add carrots and ginger and cook another 2 minutes
- Stir in butter until melted
- Pour in orange juice and soy sauce and cook stirring another minute
- Add seasonings (7 chili and pepper)
- Finally add chicken and simmer for 2 minutes
- Mix sauce and udon together and pour katsuo stock over mixture
- Serve and enjoy!
That’ll happen when pigs… swim?
That’s right, we made a pilgrimage to see the Big Major Spot in the Exuma Islands famous swimming pigs. They were Sato San’s #1 reason for coming to the Bahamas. After all, where else in the world can you see pigs take to the water? (Don’t worry, I’d never heard of them either before Sato San told me about them)
Before we had even dropped anchor three large hairy brown pigs with black spots were already paddling through the swimming pool blue water out to the boat. We had been fastidiously saving our organic waste, orange peels, wilted cabbage and that sort of thing for what we thought would be treats for these swimming garbage disposals.
We tossed some old papaya and cabbage leaves in the pigs’ direction. They stroked over to see what treats we were throwing them, their noses bent up out of the water like natural snorkels. To our shock, after a brief glance the pigs turned away from our offerings and started piggy-paddling over to the cruiser couple dinghying up. They wanted nothing to do with fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Get the bread!” Sato San cried: one pig still remained at the boat.
“You want to feed them my bread?!” I cried, appalled. I had baked two fresh loaves of bread that morning. I was loathe to sacrifice one to pigs, but if that was what worked. Heartlessly, I hacked into the fluffy loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, still warm from the oven, and brought a slab to the pig.
Tearing off a hunk, I threw it to the bristled boar (or possibly sow, I just like the alliteration). The vegetables may have not been tasty enough, but the swimming boar certainly slurped up the bread bits with gusto. After the slab was gone the pig paddled over to the other boaters in the dinghy nearby.
These were clearly a different breed than normal pigs. More than simply discriminating, the animals looked different from what I think of normal farm pigs. They were covered with a thick layer of coarse tan hair with black spots. Maybe they just had great tans or this environment wasn’t suited for pink pigs.
None of us had gotten our fill of pigs so we broke out the paddle-board. One slab of bead in my mouth I paddled over to the pigs and the dinghy. My ploy worked and I lured two pigs over. I was slightly nervous when they bumped into my board a few times but then I started throwing the bread further away from me. I would throw it to the pigs and it would land just out of the poor dear’s reach. Though the pig could swim, he still was about as aerodynamic as a brick and had to paddle an entire 360◦ circle before finally claiming the prize
Schools and schools of large (tasty-looking) fish had been gathering in the meantime. Soon it was a race to see who could snap up the bread the fastest. More often than not it was the fish. My forlorn little piggy friend swam up to the side of the paddle board, leaned his head back and opened his mouth for me to lob the bread in.
The whole clan of pigs was gathering on the beach to watch the action. The three we had met has apparently merely been the pig vanguard. More and more pigs joined the fun, some young spotted piglets who couldn’t have been more than a couple months old at most, and then several of the cutest tiny pink babies, no bigger than a small Chihuahua.
Sato San took the paddle board intent on luring the babies into the water and back to the boat. I’m pretty sure he was thinking of taking one with us for dinner. They’d made me promise to cook bacon for lunch after all.
That was it; the day was hot, the delphinium blue water beaconed. I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped in the water and swam to the beach to play with (and rescue) the piglets. The adorable little ones hadn’t quite taken the plunge, but they knew what humans were for and pushed their little snouts into my hand looking for food. I scratched a few behind the ears and watched the sows burrow down to make themselves beds in the cooler sand. I laughed as little pink baby buried his head all the way up to his shoulders digging.
It’s interesting; the characters for dolphin in Japanese are for “sea pig.” These sea pigs aren’t quite as graceful as dolphins, but they certainly are entertaining. True to my word I made traditional (bacon) yaki soba for lunch and the boys ate it while we watched the young pigs frolic in the waves.
Swimming Pig Yaki Soba
- 4 slices bacon each slice cut into 3
- 1 ½ c Cabbage sliced (about ½ ’ by 2’’)
- 3 scallions thinly sliced
- 2 pks ramen (1 pk per person)
- Yaki soba powder (1 pk per person)
- Fish powder
- Bonito flakes
- Aonori powder (seaweed powder)
- Shredded red ginger
- Boil ramen noodles for 2 minutes… not entirely done (1 pack per person)
- Drain noodles
- Slice cabbage into ½” in by 2” strips
- Put bacon in medium-sized skillet over medium heat
- Cook until crispy
- Add cabbage and cook stirring constantly until cabbage darker green, about 3 min
- Add ramen noodles to cabbage seafood mixture and stir until well-mixed
- Stir in yaki soba powder and fish powder until completely mixed
- Mix in spring onion
- Top with ginger, bonito flakes, and aonori powder
- Enjoy! (preferably not watching piglets romp in the surf)
Hauling out is an endeavor even when it’s just routine, but when it’s chilly outside and you really have to stay on your unheated boat hotpots are the only answer.
Umineko rested high above the Brewerton Boatyard. Her engine needed some work before the sea cat returned to her salty home.
Brisk would be an understatement for the chill air. Our breath billowed out in clouds of steam, not a terribly fun thing when you are on a boat “built to sail in warmer climates” (translation: no heater on board). And as the sun sank the temperature dropped.
“Hotpot” Sato San suggested. I was all for it.
Hot pots, or nabe, are normal “student” food in Japan. It’s easy to make, filling, and healthy. I didn’t believe Tanaka San, our crew-mate when he told me it was easy, it looked so complicated and involved but the more hot pots I make the easier it gets. I suppose everything is easy once you know how to do it. Hot pots are marvelous for but warming the stomach on a cold night.
This is a Kombu hot pot, with kombu soup stock, seaweed soup stock, as the star of the show.
- Portable burner*
- Large, deep skillet
- Ladle with holes
- 2 T sake
- 2 T kombu soup stock
- 1 t katsuo dashi (bonito fish powder)
- 6 c water
- 7 pepper seasoning
- Chinese Cabbage chopped into 3-4’ segments
- 3 Leeks chopped into 3-4’ segments
- 1 bunch Green onion (chopped into 3-4’ segments)
- Whatever other vegetables you have on hand
- 4 uncooked mochi squares
- ½ c Sliced squid
- ½ c Imitation crab
- ½ c Scallops
- ¼ c finely chopped scallions for garnish
- 2-3 packages of ramen noodles
- Place mochi squares and ½ of chopped vegetables in large deep skillet or pan, setting aside ½ of chopped veggies in a bowl on the table
- Pour in water, until vegetables covered
- Add kombu and katsuo dashi, and sake simmer (covered) 5 minutes.
- Add imitation crab, and scallops and simmer 2 minutes
- Add squid
- Ladle out 2 cups of broth into bowl and set aside
- Transfer to portable burner in the middle of table and turn to low flame.
- Every person at the table puts 1-2 T kombu soup stock, and/or ponzu, and 7 chili seasoning in his or her bowl (to taste)
- Ladle hot pot “soup” into bowls.
- Sprinkle scallions over bowls
- Enjoy, continuing to add ingredients to your bowl until skillet is almost emptied of ingredients and just delicious soup stock is left
- Add remainder of vegetables and allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes
- Continue eating until veggies are almost gone. By this time the broth has become unbelievably flavorful.
- Add remainder of stock set aside before round 1
- Bring to a boil
- Add ramen
- Allow to cook for 3 minutes
- Serve final broth and ramen
I rarely make it as far as round 3, filling up on all of the veggies and seafood is usually enough for me.
Alternately you can save the broth for breakfast or lunch the next day with rice or noodles.
*If you do not have a portable burner on your boat I highly recommend getting one. It is a great back-up in case your propane runs out in the middle of cooking dinner. This way you can continue cooking dinner without having to change the propane tank first. It is also great to take to the beach etc.