Monja-yaki, also called monja, is a traditional Japanese dish made from cabbage, that is super fun to cook, and tastes awesome. It is generally cooked on a hot iron plate, and is a perfect food to have when you have a group of people eating together, as it can be quite a big meal, for a single person. People often confuse Monja-yaki with Okonomiyaki, the popular Japanese pancake. This is mainly because both dishes use similar ingredients – flour, cabbage, and eggs. So first, let’s understand what exactly is the difference between the two dishes.
1.Monjayaki vs Okonomiyaki : What’s the difference?
The difference between Monja-yaki and Okonomiyaki is like the the difference between an authentic thin crust pizza and a Chicago-style deep dish pizza pie. Both are pizzas and both are amazingly delicious, but in their own way both are distinctly unique. One is an authentic Italian style of pizza making, the other is a completely American creation. In a similar way, the main distinctions between Monjayaki and Okonomiyaki is how they are cooked, the type of seasoning used and the texture of the two dishes. Also, while Okonomiyaki is usually associated with Osaka and Hiroshima, Monjayaki is associated with the Kanto region of Japan. But, both items are generally available all across Japan, in several bars or restaurants dedicated to these dishes.
So, now that we know the difference between the two, let’s get on with how to cook the Monja-yaki…
2.Ingredients required for Cooking Monjayaki
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup soft shredded cabbage
1/2 cup dried shrimp
1 cup diced beef
1/2 cup Dashi stock
1 cup cubed tofu
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup Tenkasu (little bits of fried tempura batter)
Other fillings as per your choice (kimchi, noodles, spicy cod roe, cheese, mushrooms, chicken pieces, etc.)
- Mix the flour, water, Dashi stock and Worchestershire sauce together in a bowl. Dissolve the flour, and ensure there are no lumps.
- Place the cabbage on top of the batter / sauce, and partially soak it in the sauce for a minute or so. Place other ingredients on top of the cabbage.
- Heat the pan and put some oil on the pan.
- From the bowl, add the cabbage and other solid ingredients on to the hot pan. Stiry fry the cabbage, vegetables & meat, and cook them partially.
- Once the cabbage has cooked partially, make a ring of the cabbage mix, with a hole in the centre, like a doughnut. Make sure there are no leaks in the walls of the cabbage ring.
- Pour the batter / sauce from the bowl into the doughnut, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Allow the batter / sauce to boil, and once it begins to boil, mix the ingredients from the cabbage ring into the sauce.
- Spread the batter out thin, on the pan, and allow to continue cooking. Remember that as compared to the Okonomiyaki, the consistency of Monjayaki is more runny.
- Once it has cooked more than halfway, you can start scooping out small portions of the batter from the pan itself, using small individual spoons, and eat directly from the pan.
Enjoy your custom made monjayaki!
4.How to Eat Monjayaki
Monjayaki is great fun to eat with friends and family, or in large group settings, as everybody can eat at the same time. Monjayaki tastes best when its piping hot, so remember to eat it straight from the pan. Generally, you will need plates only if the monja has been cooking for too long on the pan, and you need to take it off the grill to stop it from burning. However, here’s a secret tip. The okuge or the burnt caramelised part of the monjayaki, that sticks to the pan, also tastes great with beer. So, make sure you don’t waste any part of that monjayaki.
Like with okonomiyaki, you can always experiment with new ingredients, and come up with unique and more interesting combinations of monjayaki. If you would like to eat monja in a restaurant, you can do that too. Most restaurants that serve Okonomiyaki also serve Monja. So, next time you are in Japan and craving some authentic Japanese cuisine, give the rames, sushi and udon noodles a skip, and head straight for the nearest monjayaki bar.
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