Monjayaki is a Tokyo-based Japanese dish that, despite being delicious and diverse, doesn’t seem to be as well-known as other foods such as sushi, ramen, tempura, and sashimi.
Maybe it’s because it doesn’t look as good as the others. To be fair, while it’s cooking, it looks like mush at best. Don’t let it deter you, though; the flavour makes up for it. There are plenty of monjayaki places in and around Tokyo. It’s the capital’s answer to the better-known okonomiyaki, a cabbage-based dish that came about in west Japan when there was a shortage of rice.
What can be intimidating about monjayaki is that you’re expected to cook it yourself. Sometimes, during quieter times in a restaurant, a waiter will do it for you, but this isn’t always guaranteed.
There are various monjayaki restaurants dotted around Tokyo and beyond, but a great place to try different kinds is Tsukishima’s Monja Street.
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of monja you’d like to eat. The dish consists of cabbage, various vegetables, and flour, but the possibilities for fillings are virtually endless. Here are some fillings you might find.
- Mochi (small, chewy lumps of pounded rice)
- Kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage)
- Spring onion
- Corned beef
- Curry (very weird, never tried it)
- Mentaiko (salted pollock roe; one of my favourites)
The types of available fillings depend on the restaurant, but pork, kimchi, and prawns wherever you go.
The waiting staff will bring a bowl of raw ingredients to your teppan, or table with a hotplate. They should also switch the hotplate on for you. After spreading some oil onto the hotplate, mix all of the ingredients together in the bowl.
When it’s all mixed together, pour the ingredients onto the hotplate, leaving the liquid in the bowl. Make a sort of crater or circle in the middle like in the photo below.
Pour the liquid in the middle.
Let it bubble!
When it’s ready (a couple of minutes of bubbling until the ingredients are cooked), use a moji-bera, or small metal spatula provided, to scrape bits of the delicious mix onto your plate. From your plate, you can eat it with chopsticks.
This rich and flavoursome dish doesn’t look all that great, but it’s soooo good. One serving is about enough for one person, so if you’re sharing, be sure to order more than one. Most monja places also serve okonomiyaki, so an ideal meal for two is one serving of monja and one serving of okonomiyaki.
That’s how you cook your own monjayaki! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.