Japan is, of course, known for its unique cuisine. From sushi to takoyaki, there’s something for everyone! One domestic favorite is the cabbage-pancake okonomiyaki, which can include anything from squid to pork to cheese. The dish is beloved by both children and adults throughout the country and can be found in restaurants, festivals, and even hamburgers! However, if you live in Tokyo, you’d probably want to some monjayaki instead, a similar dish that is closer in consistency to scrambled eggs–but still incredibly delicious!
Last weekend, we headed out to Tsukishima, one of the most famous mojayaki destinations in Japan, to try the dish. Check out our report of the excellent monjayaki shop, Bambi, below!
Monjayaki uses a batter very similar to okonomiyaki, as well as a liberal helping of cabbage. Mixed in with the cabbage can be pretty much anything you want–from cheese to oysters to tomatoes. One big difference between monjayaki and okonomiyaki is how they’re cooked: Okonomiyaki is much thicker with both sides crispy like a pancake. Monjayaki, on the other hand, tends to be eaten while it’s still soft and is also usually spread very thin, allowing children to practice writing hiragana on the grill. With monjayaki, it’s completely fine to play with your food!
Being a Kanto dish, monjayaki isn’t always well-loved by folks from Osaka, but for the rest of us, it can be just as good (or maybe even better) than okonomiyaki.
Recently, we headed out to Tsukishima, an man-made island in Tokyo Bay and home to the famous monjayaki street, Nishinakadori, to try the real deal! But with dozens of monjayaki shops to choose from, we were initially at a loss–how could we decide?? But then an answer appeared: Bambi!
▼ Best restaurant mascot ever?
We had perfect timing and arrived around 11:50am while the shop was still mostly empty. By the time we left around an hour later, it was packed! But once we got some of that monjayaki in our mouths, we totally understood why. So delicious!
A waiter showed us to our table, which was basically a flat-top grill with a smoke exhaust fan overhead.
Once we got settled, we took a look at their menu. There were so many different dishes it almost made you dizzy!
After a few minutes of intense debate, we settled on three versions of monjayaki: Cheese, oyster, and one of Bambi’s specialty versions, Italian. The prices, in case you’re wondering, were about what you would expect for Tokyo: 910 yen (about US$9.20) for the cheese, 980 yen (about $9.90) for the oyster, and 1,320 yen (about $13.30) for the Italian. After we’d ordered, the waiter turned on the grill, slapped down some oil, and disappeared for a few minutes while it warmed up.
Reappearing later with two bowls–one of cheese and one with the batter and cabbage, the waiter offered to cook the first batch for us. We couldn’t pass up the chance to have a pro cook for us!
The process is relatively simple, but there are a few things you want to be careful of if you’re cooking for yourself. First, throw the seasoning on the grill.
Once your seasonings and whatever else is on top of the cabbage is warmed up, you can toss the cabbage on and mix it all together. At this point, you’re basically stir frying it all together.
Once you’re happy with your cabbage, you want to make a ring like in the picture below. No, this isn’t for summoning ancient spirits–this is where the batter goes!
▼ Try to keep the batter in the ring. It’s probably not necessary, but it looks cool!
After pouring the batter into the ring of cabbage and seasonings, you can add spices and sauces if you want. If you’re sharing, we recommend just adding a little bit to the main batch and then applying more to match your individual taste once you have it on your plate.
Finally, throw in whatever’s left, like the cheese, and scramble it all together!
▼ Sizzling goodness!
At this point, it will basically have the consistency of eggs mid-scramble, so just keep mixing and chopping.
Finally, spread it all out like in the picture below and just let it cook! Now you have to answer a very serious question: How crispy do you want your monjayaki? Some people prefer to eat it while it’s still slightly runny and others want it nice and crispy. The choice is yours! If you do prefer to wait for the batter to solidify a bit more, now’s your chance to practice writing.
▼ We ran out of room for the “24.”
Once you’re satisfied with the texture, you can pull off chunks as you please! This is the cheese monjayaki. Between the cheese, the tangy sauce, the rich batter, and the cabbage, it was literally the best thing I put in my mouth all week!
Here’s the sauce!
Once we’d finished the cheese monjayaki, it was time to try cooking for ourselves! Next up was the oysters, so first we got them sizzling and then we just copied the waiter.
Finally, out came the Italian monjayaki. This was a bit more elaborate, though cooking it was basically the same. While other monjayaki dishes only had one extra ingredient, this had three: Beef, cheese, and tomatoes. After getting the tomatoes and beef hot, it’s the same as cooking the cheese version. However, you’ll probably want to chop the tomatoes into smaller pieces to make it easier to pull your helpings off the grill with your tiny, adorable spatula.
After three dishes of monjayaki, we were too full to even ask for dessert. Which was too bad, because we spotted a specialty frozen treats store on the way home. Well, I guess we’ll just have to go back another day and eat some more. Oh, darn!
While you can find monjayaki in other parts of Japan, Tsukishima may have the best and widest selection. So if you’re in Tokyo looking for some great local food, jump on the Oedo or Yurakucho subway line and head to the island. Your mouth will thank you!
Bye, Bambi! We’ll see you again soon!
All images by RocketNews24