Thursday, August 16, 2007

Otafuku

The first of my New York posts, and what better way to start than with one of my favorite Japanese snacks? I read about the takoyaki at Otafuku on Chef Eats, and I tracked the place down when I hit the Big Apple. Otafuku is just this small shack in the East Village with a cheerful old Japanese guy cooking. It's a take-out place, so there's nowhere to sit inside, although there is a single bench right outside the shop. And they only have four items on their menu - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and edamame. Not really a problem for me, since I love all four of those dishes!

Takoyaki is a fried Japanese dumpling ball made of batter and octopus, topped with okonomiyaki sauce (which has a tangy, sweet taste), Japanese mayonnaise (which is thicker and sweeter than normal mayo), and dried fish shavings. The batter is poured into cast iron hemispherical molds so that the batter is shaped into actual balls. If made properly, the takoyaki is just slightly cripsy on the outside but soft on the inside. Of course, I always think the sauce and mayo on top make all the difference for this dish.

Takoyaki

The takoyaki at Otafuku was quite good, but what I left raving about was their okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a fried pancake made from a batter consisting of flour, yam, eggs, shredded cabbage or other veggies, and some kind of meat (I had beef on mine). The word "okonomiyaki" literally means "cook what you like," which I always took to mean that you could throw all sorts of things into the batter to get an endless variation of pancakes. Anyway, the batter and ingredients are mixed together, and the entire mixture is cooked on a hot plate. Once finished, the pancake is topped with that special okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and fish flakes.

Okonomiyaki (top) and takoyaki (bottom)

The reason I loved Otafuku's okonomiyaki was that is tasted exactly like the ones I had in Japan when I was studying there in 2003. Finally, I have found a place in the States that is able to capture the textures and flavors of that simple little pancake.

I really wish there was an Otafuku equivalent in San Francisco. I'd probably go there religiously.

Stay tuned for more NYC posts!

Otafuku
236 E 9th Street (between 2nd Avenue and Stuyvesant Street)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 353-8503

3 comments:

henrychan said...

Nice! Did ya actually cook it yourself at the restaurant?

If you're ever down in LA, you should try this place out:

http://biggestmenu.com/rdr/CA/Lomita/Gaja-Japanese-Restaurant-1592758/1-Modern-Mix-Okonomiyaki-29758

You'll love it!

foodhoe said...

mmmm, i'm hungry and that looks really good! i'm looking forward to reading about your eating adventures in ny!

Chubbypanda said...

I like how the sauce manufacturer sells the food their sauces are designed to adorn. There's a nice bit of symbolism there.