Monja Yaki

Last week I was guiding my brother around Kappabashi st. in downtown Tokyo. Kappabashi st. is a chefs Disneyland. In Japan, if you want to open a restaurant, this is were you go. There are everything you need to open a restaurant. If you are just an amateur cook, I would still recommend you to drop by to check all those gadgets! Kappabashi st. is located in between Ueno and Asakusa. You can approach the area by subway (Ginza line), local bus or by taxi.

As we were walking the street checking the goods, it was just about lunch time and came across a VERY downtown-Tokyo vibe restaurant. I asked the guest if they want to try something local and of course they said yes so I popped in the store. The lady told me that the seat was all reserved but if you can leave by 1:30pm we can get you one table. We had other things todo so said yes and managed to get a seat at a very popular place.

Monja Yaki is a thin pancake like food. In the watery starchy liquid you add bit and pieces of veggies, meat, seafood etc, according to your order. Monja Yaki used to be more of a junk food. The bit and pieces added to the watery batter are usually instant noodle, sausage, leftover veggies etc. It was like a kids after school snack. Kids would drop by after school for further socializing and in the store front there will be this grilling pan and kids will go wild adding crazy things (but by experiment they know what combo is good) and the store lady will grill it for you. As time passed it became a Tokyo downtown food and upgraded the ingredient for everyone else to enjoy not just a snack but more for a meal.

How Monjya Yaki are made. First you order what kind of Monja Yaki. These stores usually have their own special combo so just order that for the first time. It usually some bits of noodle, cabbage, meats, seafoods and some pickled ginger. Once you ordered it you will be served with a medium size bowl of the ingredients mixed in with a very watered down batter. The staff will then start to cook it by first pouring only the ingredients on the grill and stir fry them until they are 80% cooked. Then they make a big hole in the center and pour the batter in the center. You let this liquid boil off a bit and when it starts to thicken, you mix it all up. As you mix the batter and the ingredients together, holding the scraper in both hand, you chop the ingredients up in to small pieces. (You can hear the sound of the scraper chopping the grill rhythmically and this sound symbolize Monjya Yaki.) The staff will lay this gooey, thin, bubbling pancake on the heated grill and say, the food is ready. Each of you will have a tiny scraper to scrape this food off the pan. The point is to eat the burnt part. It is dense in umami and crispy, so start slow and let those Monja dries out.

We also order Tokyo style Okonomiyaki (pancake) with pork. They used a really good quality pork, the cabbage were roughly chopped (not to big or small), the ingredient was simple but the Okonomiyaki was thick and scrumptious with Okonomiyaki sauce (soy sauce based sauce), bonito and seaweed flakes and mayo!

Of course we had to order yakisoba too to finish our lunch for 3. To my taste, it was a tad salty but would be just right if you’re eating with a glass of cold beer.

This meal wasn’t planned at all but I was glad that my brother enjoyed the downtown Tokyo kind of meal. The restaurant was very small, I think there were about 8 tables and 2 tables were foreigner just like us. The down to earth kind of atmosphere, everybody all relaxed and enjoying their time. In Tokyo people may seem to be very polite and “cold” but when you come to places like this, your image of Japanese might change for good.

    七五三 (Shichi go san)

    Monja Yaki, Okonomi Yaki, Teppan Yaki

    For reservation: 03-3847-5753

    [Mon] 16:30〜22:30 
    [Tue~Sun] 11:00〜22:30 (L.O 21:15)


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