If the south of Japan is famous for being the mecca of comfort food, Tokyo is nothing less with its Monjayaki!
One of the reasons travel in Japan is a continuous discovery, it is not only thanks to its incredible landscapes. Part of the credit must also be given to the unforgettable experiences that can be lived, and between them, one of these is certainly the gastronomic one.
After eating delicious sushi, a steaming plate of ramen and a crispy portion of tempura, my advice is to throw you into the discovery of something unknown to your palate.. Nothing too complicated (no fermented foods or too spicy sauces), simply a new flavor or recipe, which you can bring home and share with your friends and family.
An example? Have you ever tried Monjayaki?
The most popular dish in Tokyo
If Hiroshima is famous for the Hiroshimayaki, Osaka for the Takoyaki, know that Tokyo is famous for its Monjayaki!
Born as a popular post-war dish, capable of ensuring families a meal able of filling their stomachs with poor ingredients, its popularity came with the opening of the first restaurants, which gave them a place of honor among the gastronomic Japanese comfort foods.
Describing its appearance without discrediting it is not simple. Is the kind of dish we can identify as “ugly but good”.
Imagine a similar omelette prepared with a liquid dough based on flour and dashi, to which are added cabbage, mochi and various other ingredients of your choice (fish, vegetables, cheese, bacon …). All cooked on a hot plate and seasoned with the sauces and spices of your preference (Yakitori sauce, nori, chili, dashi …).
The result is a dish with a slightly sticky consistency, rich in flavor, perfect to share with friends and family, as well as ideal if accompanied by a good glass of beer! But if that is not enough, a feature that makes Monjayaki really special is the fact that you will be the one who cooks it!
Cooking your Own Monjayaki
Once you arrive at the restaurant you will be accompanied to your table which, as you will see, will consist of a large cooking plate. Don’t worry, you don’t have to turn on or adjusts the temperature, your waiter will take care of that. What you have to do instead, is cook your Monjayaki on it!
Preparing them is really simple! On the menu you can order your ideal “dough”.
You can choose among the most classic, in which cabbage, mochi, and other vegetables are its protagonists or the more elaborate ones that include cheese, tomato paste, bacon, fish …
Once ordered, the waiter will turn on the cooking plate, and shortly thereafter, he will bring you a large bowl filled with the liquid dough at the base (made of flour, water, and dashi) and covered on the surface with the ingredients you have chosen (cheese, vegetables, cabbage, mochi …)
How to prepare your Monjayaki
Spread some oil on your cooking plate (generally the bottle is near the spices on the table) and, with the help of one of the two spatulas, grease the surface.
Pour on the cooking plate ONLY the solid ingredients, which are on the surface of your bowl ( the condiments you have chosen), leaving aside (for now) the dough.
Cook and chop the ingredients with the help of the two spatulas, moving them continuously so that they do not burn.
After 3-4 minutes (or even less) place the ingredients cooked in a circle with a hole inside (see photo). Is now time to put the dough!
Take your bowl and pour half the contents into the center of your circle. Mix with the help of your spatulas. After 1 minute, pour the remaining dough.
Spread your Monjayaki on the cooking plate and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Once the time has passed, it will finally be time to season it with the ingredients you prefer and devour it!
How to eat your Monjayaki
You will notice that on the table there are no chopstick or forks, but simple small pallets, often accompanied by a saucer, called Moji-bera. Their shape will not only serve to easily dirty small pieces of Monjayaki (imagine the disaster in doing so with chopsticks), but it will help you to cook it further before eating it.
With your Moji-bera, grab a piece of Monjayaki from top to bottom so that the dough is between the plate and your scoop. Press down and let it lightly scorch in contact with the plate for a few seconds before eating it. It will help you make the cooking more homogeneous and accentuate the taste!
Warning: for delicate palates, I advise you to place your piece of Monjayaki first on the saucer so that it cools slightly and then eat it! It’s a great way to avoid getting your tongue burned!
In case you need more help, the various steps are usually shown step by step at the bottom or at the start of each menu!
Where to eat Monjayaki in Tokyo?
Did you know that in Tokyo there is an entire street with 75 restaurants entirely dedicated to Monjayaki?
It takes the name of Tsukishima Monja Street and is located on an artificial island of Tokyo Bay 200 m from the station of the same name (Tsukishima station) which can be reached by Yurakucho Line or Oedo Line.
A paradise for the eyes and the palate.
At the entrance of the street, you will be able to observe a billboard showing all the names of the restaurants together with their location.
There is even an information office where you can buy original souvenirs to take home!
Monja street is a piece of tradition that tries to survive surrounded by the modern buildings of Tokyo. It is not only worth going to visit and stop in one of its many restaurants, but also to go through it and being struck by the contrast between tradition and modernity.