Monday, August 16, 2010

Kato-chan, where everybody knew our names

Kuni-kun and Shin-chan, our favorite okonomiyaki cooks

The past couple weeks have been filled with goodbyes for us. On Friday, after returning our apartment key to our landlord, we headed to our favorite Japanese restaurant, Kato-chan, for one final order of okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is Hiroshima's biggest specialty, and it's also my favorite Japanese food. How have I managed not to write about this yet? Okonomiyaki translates to something like "As-you-like-it-cooking" and basically consists of a paper thin flour pancake topped with a heap of shredded cabbage, noodles, meat, a layer of egg, some seasonings and a liberal dose of a barbecue-like sauce. There are a number of other ingredients you can add in as well; my usual included green onions, cheese and mochi (glutinous pounded rice cakes — they get warm and gooey on the stove). Top it all off with plenty of mayonnaise and you've got a very satisfying meal:

Joe and I were to Kato-chan what Norm was to Cheers. It was our neighborhood haunt, just a family-owned hole in the wall but a place where everyone knew our names and greeted us with a smile when we walked in the door. The okonomiyaki there was always delicious, and kept us coming back every week or two for three years. We had our own seats at the bar, right in front of the stove — in fact we ate right off the stove (can't do that in America!). That way we could chat up our okonomiyaki cooks, Kuni-kun and Shin-chan. Since they don't speak any English, it was always a good chance for us to practice our Japanese, and over time we became friends. Once, they even took us out to dinner in Iwakuni. Nice guys. Gonna miss them. A lot. And their okonomiyaki.

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