I can’t say this enough: this Japanese “fast food” is perfection. Imagine the fluffiest pancake you’ve had. Now imagine it combined with all the deliciousness that is okonomiyaki and put in a fun-sized, fish-shaped vessel.
This is okonomi-tai-yaki from Omede-taiyaki, which also gets extra points from me for being a punny and yet completely honest name–a blend of “omedetai” (which literally means something like “blissful” and is a part the native way to say the “and they lived happily ever after” ending for stories) and of course tai-yaki, the fish-shaped pastry which typically has a creme or sweet red bean filling instead of savory okonomiyaki.
I first had this okonomi-tai-yaki while on a business trip to Haneda Airport at a rest stop in Hanyuu, Saitama. Not packing my lunch when I was pretty stripped for cash at that point was one of the best bad financial decisions I’ve ever made, because this brought me to my first okonomi-tai-yaki. Unfortunately, when we stopped for another rest stop on the other side of the street on the way back from the airport, Omede-taiyaki was not represented for a potential mid-afternoon snack. While my wallet celebrated (not that one of these will put you back much–only about 170 yen a pop), part of me died inside. Luckily, I happened to find a Omede-taiyaki corner hidden in the corner of a bakery inside of a rest stop on the way to Narita Airport the next week. It had only been a week, but my okonomi-tai-yaki and I might as well have been Hikoboshi and Orihime or Romeo and Juliet.
The okonomi-tai-yaki is warm–a sensual weight in your hand, if you will. The balance with the flavor of the batter is perfect–it adds a little sweetness, but nothing overpowering. The filling is a bit of bacon-like pork stomach, cabbage, ginger, okonomi sauce, and mayonnaise. I never ate much mayo in America, but as most of us here can agree to, anything covered in Japanese mayonnaise is, by rule, automatically delicious. Disagreeing with this statement is next in severity to high treason. I’m pretty sure eating this little fish makes your brain release boatloads of oxytocin (some psychologists might want to get cracking on some studies here). It doesn’t look like much from the outside (and looks like a sloppy mess when you try and take a picture of the inside), but believe me, tasting this should be on the top of the chain for food porn.
I’ve also had their special yummy custard-filled taiyaki, as well as their pancake bowl (a bunch of little filling-less taiyakis in a bowl that you pour syrup over), and they’re delicious too. However, as good as they are, they are overshadowed, and just can’t match the sexiness of the little okonomi fish–and I normally go for sweet over savory.
Imagine my bliss when I happened to find this shop in Bell Mall in Utsunomiya! I can theoretically eat this whenever I want as long as I bike a while or take a bus, and no longer need to wait in high hope for business trips with rest stops in Saitama. In a way, I’m actually slightly disappointed–the availability of it makes it slightly less special, less of a tease, and less exciting of a chase. Oh well. Sex appeal slightly down, all the flavor still packed in.
Now excuse me as I go get my bike.