My quest to recreate one of the best things I've ever tasted: omusoba

By Mark Frauenfelder

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(Click all photos to embiggen)

Behind the gate of this shrine in Kyoto, I ate something delicious.

There was a festival going on at the time. Girls were dressed in traditional yukata, with paper fans sticking out of their belts in the back. People were walking up the steps to the orange shrine, and we followed them. There was a little bit of praying going on, but mostly people were buying food from the dozens of vendors, or playing carnival games (like cork guns and goldfish scooping).

I smelled lots of good things being cooked by the vendors. Something especially mouth-watering was beckoning me to follow it to its source. It was frying noodles. Yakisoba (yaki = fried, soba = noodle). But it was more than that. The woman running the grill was also wrapping the noodles in omelets, squirting a dark reddish brown sauce on top, and sprinkling it with flakes of something. I placed my order (500 yen, I think) and she prepared a giant yakisoba omelet, handing it to me on a paper plate along with a pair of wooden chopsticks. I took it into the tent set up behind the grill and sat down at one of the tables. I already knew it was going to be tasty, but after one bite, I went into a sharklike feeding frenzy. My God it was good. The noodles were salty and peppery, with a bit of sweetness, and the flakes were some kind of dried fish that enhanced the flavor. I didn't bother slowing down to savor it, as my reptile brain had taken over, commanding me to devour the irresistible concoction that had been set before me. Before I had a chance to think of taking a picture of it, it was gone.

Since returning home, my thoughts have often returned to that omelet. I wanted another one. Yes, I know that it is impossible to step into the same river twice, and that the combination of my hunger level, my mental state, the ingredients and preparation that went into making the omelet, and the festival environment on that day could not be replicated. Still, I wanted to se if I could make a reasonable copy here in Los Angeles.

More photos and a recipe after the jump.

It took me just a few minutes to find the name of the dish: omusoba (omelet soba). I saved an omusoba recipe to Evernote and was about to head to Little Tokyo to buy yakisoba noodles, tonkatsu sauce, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes, but Mister Jalopy told me to try 99 Ranch, a pan-Asian supermarket in Van Nuys instead, as it was closer and cheaper than the Marukai supermarket. So I went there instead. While marveling at the large variety of exotic fruits and vegetables in the produce section, and admiring the many types of live fish swimming in tanks behind the meat counter, I bought the omusoba ingredients (along with a pound of lychees and bunch of other products that looked too interesting to pass up).

Back home, I got busy making omusoba.

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⇑  I chopped up some carrots, ginger, and cabbage (I used regular cabbage because I couldn't find any "Chinese cabbage.")

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⇑  I fried the ginger in canola oil for a little while, then added the cabbage and carrots.

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⇑ While it was frying, I chopped up a pork loin cutlet that was left over from the dinner we had the night before and tossed it in the non-stick made-in-China wok that I bought for $10 at 99 Ranch (I hope it's not too toxic).

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⇑ Next came the yakisoba noodles. The bag came with a foil pouch of yakisoba seasoning, but I didn't use it because it had MSG in the list of ingredients.

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⇑ Instead I used this yakisoba sauce. It, too, probably had MSG in it (under a stealth ingredient name), but it makes me feel better not to know for sure.

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⇑ I added the noodles with a bit more oil, and fried them for a few minutes, then added about a half cup of yakisoba sauce.

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⇑ I made an omelet in a pan, and added a portion of the noodles to it. I overcooked the eggs, but I didn't stop to make a new omelet. I was getting shaky from hunger at this point.

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⇑ Here's what the tonkatsu sauce and bonito flakes look like.

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⇑ And here is my omusoba (with seaweed flakes, bonito flakes, and tonkatsu sauce on top). Even though I didn't have all right ingredients, and the egg was overcooked, it was still delicious.

I had a lot of leftover noodles, and my wife and daughter loved them. Omusoba is going to be a regular part of our diets. I think I'll ask Mark Allen of Machine Project if he'd be willing to host an omusoba festival at the gallery. Would you be interested in coming? let me know in the comments.

Below, some photos of the festival and a sign for a restaurant in a little alley in Kyoto. I wish I could have eaten there, but it wasn't open when I went by.

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Published 2:52 pm Tue, Aug 31, 2010

About the Author

Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the founding editor-in-chief of MAKE. He is editor-in-chief of Cool Tools and co-founder of Wink Books. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects


90 Responses to “My quest to recreate one of the best things I've ever tasted: omusoba”

  1. Anonymous says:

    soba means buckwheat?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t spend a lot of time in Kyoto when I was over there, but I’d look at that and say it was Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, not omusoba. If you like the latter, you owe it to yourself to try the former.

    http://japanesefood.about.com/od/holidaytraditionalfood/r/hirookonomiyaki.htm

    • Bandanna.Almanac says:

      It’s omusoba Hiroshima-yaki uses a batter of egg and flour.

      Mark; one of the most challenging things is to make a good omlet the Japanese way. Good luck.

  3. seyo says:

    There’s is nothing wrong with MSG! Don’t believe the disinformation.

    Otherwise, well done, great article, great recipe, and makes me pine for Japan.

  4. Irene Delse says:

    “Instead I used this yakisoba sauce. It, too, probably had MSG in it (under a stealth ingredient name), but it makes me feel better not to know for sure.”

    Thus providing a helpful exemple of why the MSG intolerance fears are probably cause by a simple nocebo effect.

  5. seyo says:

    Oh, and it’s bonito, not bonita.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You left out the finely chopped clove of garlic.

  7. heyitsdi4n4 says:

    No doubt I would go to an omusoba party at Machine Project.

  8. Vnend says:

    Great, now my son is drooling…

  9. grimc says:

    For future reference, depending on where you live: Nijiya on Sawtelle in WLA, and Mitsuwa on Centinela in Mar Vista.

  10. Anonymous says:

    You can get excellent Okonomiyaki at Ebisu on Brookhurst, best I have had in L.A.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The bonito flake, sesame seed & seaweed concoction can be had in a number of different mixtures and are sold in jars. It is called “Furikake”. If you live in greater LA, you can go to Mitsuwa, Nijiya or 99 Ranch markets (among others).

  12. dhalgren says:

    Okay tomorrow I had already planned on going grocery shopping but now I just added a few things to my list. This will definitely go down on my must make to eat list.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Why the MSG hate? You write like MSG killed your puppy. It’s DELICIOUS. I keep a little salt shaker full of MSG crystals in my kitchen.

  14. Mark Slutsky says:

    What #3 and #4 said. That ineffable deliciousness you experienced the first time was mostly likely caused by… MSG.

  15. Otana says:

    This Western fear of MSG just baffles me.

    Hey, so you know MSG is a naturally occurring ingredient in things like dashi, bonito, kombu and tomatoes, right? Just checking. The highest natural concentration of it shows up in Parmesan cheese, actually. Your pizza has far more MSG loaded onto it than that little packet of yakisoba sauce ever will.

    Use it like salt, it’s delicious sprinkled over eggs. It won’t kill you, I promise. It’s not killing anyone in Asia and they eat it all the time.

  16. Anonymous says:

    An omusoba party in LA sounds pretty delightful! i would love to try this dish without having to go through the trouble of making it.

    and, i don’t want to turn this into an MSG forum, but if there’s nothing wrong with it, why did I get a horrible headache after eating Doritos and other really savory processed foods for years, well before I connected the dots that they all had MSG in them? I’m not the only person I know who gets MSG-related headaches, either. i’m not saying it’s going to kill me, but certainly something’s not right there.

  17. krawll3r says:

    MSG is a HUGE migraine trigger… if nothing else. And, yes, so are other “naturally occurring ingredients.” Personally, I have to avoid MSG (as so many people) because of the side-effects.
    On another note… I love the recipe and pics and can’t wait to make my own version!

    • Anonymous says:

      People who were _sure_ that they were sensitive to MSG did not have their suspicions verified by double blind studies.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid_(flavor)#Research_into_health_effects

      If you cared to _really_ find out if you were sensitive, you could arrange to do a double blind study on yourself pretty easily…

      Also, not that many people actually suffer from migranes, anecdotal stories not withstanding.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you have an actual MSG sensitivity, well, stranger things have happened — and anyway it doesn’t matter whether you’re right or not, if I’m making food for you I’ll obey your food restrictions as near as I can because that’s just basic politeness.

      However: don’t tell me it’s something most people should avoid. There’s no good evidence for this. There’s natural glutamate in lots of things that nobody complains about; but when those three magic letters go in the ingredients list, they’re suddenly to blame for anything unpleasant that happens after dinner.

  18. maoinhibitor says:

    Regarding the yakisoba sauce:

    These guys seem like they’re ultra-hardcore about food safety and natural ingredients:

    http://www.otafukufoods.com/randd/

    And there are a whole bunch of recipes on their web site that are tempting me…

  19. Lady Katey says:

    MSG sensitivities do exist, though they don’t cause the symptoms most people assume. For me, MSG causes insomnia. It happens without fail if I eat something like Lime Tostitos. (They put it in everything! Under many names…) It seems like a cheap way of making things ‘taste good’ without actually having to use good ingredients.

  20. Spencer Cross says:

    Not to harp on the MSG thing, but, despite a few fringe types who hang to the myth, it’s been pretty widely acknowledged that MSG is not the boogeyman it’s been made out to be. Here’s an interesting Guardian article about it:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3

    “Other scientists were testing MSG and finding no evidence of harm – in one 1970 study 11 humans ate up to 147 grams of the stuff every day for six weeks without any adverse reactions.”

    Food Detectives also did an interesting test where they split a room full of people in half and fed one half food with MSG but didn’t tell them and one half food without MSG but told them it did contain it. Unsurprisingly, the half that didn’t eat any but were told they did manifested more symptoms than the half that received it. Not that that will stop the commenters who swear up and down that it gives them migraines and diziness, but as Cory loves to say “The plural of anecdote is not fact.”

  21. Anonymous says:

    I love MSG. They don’t use it much in Western China, interestingly enough – I got lectured by a few Uighurs about how it was “bad” for me. I use it in my homemade dumpling sauce, though.

    Even if I did have sensitivities to it, I doubt I would stop eating it.

  22. Otana says:

    “and, i don’t want to turn this into an MSG forum, but if there’s nothing wrong with it, why did I get a horrible headache after eating Doritos and other really savory processed foods for years, well before I connected the dots that they all had MSG in them?”

    So I’m guessing you avoid pizza, tomato sauce, most Japanese food, etc as well? Considering there’s far more MSG in those than you’ll find sprinkled on Doritos, I would imagine you’d find it incredibly difficult to find good savory food to eat.

    Far be it from me to tell anyone whether their apparent MSG reaction is valid or not (I’m not a doctor, I’m not even a scientist, so I can’t say either way!) but there IS a lot of hysteria and panic about MSG being evil, and people are very quick to blame the slightest hint of a headache on it, which is why I tend to take such accusations with a pinch of MS– I mean salt.

  23. krawll3r says:

    MSG is processed – about as natural as cocaine. It is a neurotoxin. Those with neuro-sensitivities cannot take easily. That is not a myth.

    • elix says:

      MSG is processed – about as natural as cocaine. It is a neurotoxin. Those with neuro-sensitivities cannot take easily. That is not a myth.

      [CITATION NEEDED]

      Rather than cite the FDA or any one of the many agenda-pushing or conspiracy-theory sites (like MSGTruth, which claims a link between glutamate and autism! Heyoooo!), here’s a PDF of the 2003 report by Food Standards Australia New Zealand:

      http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/msg%20technical%20report.pdf

      For the purposes of brevity, allow me to excerpt (in unfortunate defiance of the claimed copyright protection) the summary’s conclusion from the report. The detailed report is available in full at the above URL.

      There is no convincing evidence that MSG is a significant factor in causing systemic reactions resulting in severe illness or mortality. The studies conducted to date on CRS have largely failed to demonstrate a causal association with MSG. Symptoms resembling those of CRS may be provoked in a clinical setting in small numbers of individuals by the administration of large doses of MSG without food. However, such affects are neither persistent nor serious and are likely to be attenuated when MSG is consumed with food. In terms of more serious adverse effects such as the triggering of bronchospasm in asthmatic individuals, the evidence does not indicate that MSG is a significant trigger factor.

      • elix says:

        I need to amend my own comment. MSGTruth did not claim that glutamate causes autism. MSGTruth actually linked to an article on some other site that was reporting an Ohio State research project to investigate the effects of limiting glutamate as a way of treating symptoms of autism (and Alzheimer’s).

        That being said, there’s still plenty of crazy, such as how in the same block of text she rehashes the “mercury in children’s vaccines causes autism” bullshit that’s already been well debunked, and tries to claim a link to glutamate by claiming a statistic that more vaccine-created autistic kids were given Tylenol instead of Ibuprofen (because Ibuprofen apparently is a glutamate “BLOCKER”!!!!!!!!!).

        Someone needs to take this lady out for a nice Italian dinner and try and talk her down from some of the crazy. And tell her to stop listening to former Playboy bunnies for medical advice.

        Also, I’m not giving the URL because I’m not giving this lady the courtesy of a link and associated google juice. If you want to see, the site is only a quick search away.

  24. Bob K says:

    Sounds great, Mark!

    When I was in Kyoto, we stumbled into a tiny restaurant which seated only six people around the the grill. The friendly chefs were whipping up all kinds of great treats, including fried yakisoba, and, yes, okonomiyaki (meaning “grilled what you like”)–it’s listed on the menu in your picture above. Sure that’s not what you had? A grilled omelet/pancake of eggy batter with sprouts, cabbage, onion, and topped with what ever you like and served with generous squiggle squeezes of tonkatsu and mayonnaise.

    The coolest part– the shaved bonito (dried tuna) is sprinkled on top and it actually shivers and waves at you from the rising heat.

    See it here–look very closely near the end to see it wave!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di2ajDRmBbs

    One order or fried yakisoba–comin’ up!:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7p2GayNPqY

    • Bandanna.Almanac says:

      Except bonito is a species if mackerel not tuna. It’s called katsuobushi in Japanese.

      If you walk around in nishiki koji-dori in Kyoto you can see it being shaved off for the flakes. Looks like wood.

    • Bandanna.Almanac says:

      Except bonito is a species if mackerel not tuna. It’s called katsuobushi in Japanese.

      If you walk around in nishiki koji-dori in Kyoto you can see it being shaved off for the flakes. Looks like wood.

  25. W. James Au says:

    Noodles look rocking, Mark!

    My main beef with MSG is the horrible aftertaste. I like it fine going down but shortly afterward there’s some fucked up acrid taste in the back of my mouth.

  26. nic says:

    Omusoba is nothing like okonomiyaki. It is a variation on omurice, which is…. rice and omelette. Usually, the omelette is wrapped around the rice or soba and sealed off, and ketchup is more common a topping than brown sauces. The dish is, I suspect, far from traditional, and is instead a weird fusion.

    There is an omurice variation made in near real time during a scene in the movie Tampopo:
    http://youtu.be/a-GFimGcYJw

    They make a wicked good omusoba in the basement food hall of the Takashimaya department store here in Singapore. I had one for lunch just this Sunday :)

  27. Anonymous says:

    For what it’s worth, “Chinese cabbage” usually just refers to Napa cabbage. Or– apparently– bok choy. (Thanks Wikipedia…?) In any case, either of those are easily obtainable at all of the fine Asian markets thus far mentioned in the comments. You may all now resume with the MSG punditry.

  28. Otana says:

    krawll3r, MSG naturally occurs in many, many foods, as I’ve said before. You are not eating processed MSG when you chow down on a slice of pepperoni from Pizza Hut.

    Even when sold as a seasoning, it is not “processed” anymore than salt is.

    I recommend reading the article that Spencer Cross linked, it’s very informative and contains actual facts.

    • Lobster says:

      And bananas are naturally radioactive. Uranium occurs naturally in the ground. A black widow spider’s venom is all-natural and organic. Just because something occurs naturally doesn’t make it good for you.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just because something occurs naturally doesn’t make it good for you.

        And conversely, just because something is processed, it doesn’t mean it is bad for you.

  29. jdixon says:

    Omusoba looks great, I’ll have to try it, thanks! What’s up with the “manboyaki” at the Japanese Junkfood stand?

  30. Aloisius says:

    MSG in sufficient quantities makes my lips, mouth and throat numb. It wasn’t until I bought some MSG and decided to start putting it on everything I consumed that I figured that out. I still use it though. I just use less of it.

    Some Indian/Pakistani restaurants I go to use it in large enough quantities that my lips will go numb. It doesn’t really stop me from going though. :)

    Also, Napa cabbage is often what is called for when something says “Chinese cabbage” and should be pretty easy to find. Bok choy is another kind of Chinese cabbage that’s easy to find.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Dude, MSG did kill my puppy! It also ate my dingo!

  32. Anonymous says:

    @Bandanna.Almanac:

    Except bonito is a species if mackerel not tuna. It’s called katsuobushi in Japanese.

    It’s true that bonito can refer to a species of mackerel, but it also can refer to skipjack tuna. And in regard to bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, it does refer to skipjack tuna.

  33. Blue says:

    If you’re sensitive to MSG, you’re sensitive to Glutamate – the naturally occurring form not bound to a molecule of sodium.

    Avoid Itallian food as well as Japanese/Chinese: parmesan, tomatoes, mushrooms…

    • Wormman says:

      “If you’re sensitive to MSG, you’re sensitive to Glutamate – the naturally occurring form not bound to a molecule of sodium.”

      Glutamate with sodium is no different to glutamate with just about anything else once they’ve dissolved. The bond is an ionic one, which means that MSG dissociates to give glutamate and sodium ions in water. There’s nothing magical about the “naturally occurring” glutamate – this is just something that the health food folks say to explain away why people can eat food naturally high in glutamate (so long as they don’t know about it) but have a reaction to foods they know have had MSG added.

      And there’s no such thing as a “molecule” of sodium – it’s either atoms or ions.

  34. KeithIrwin says:

    You might also sometimes want baby bok choi when it calls for Chinese cabbage (which is exactly what it sounds like, just bok choi which hasn’t been allowed to grow for as long). I’ve also, very rarely, seen it used to refer to mustard greens from the brown mustard plant, but that’s probably not what’s called for in this case. My guess for this case would be napa cabbage, which you can easily find at most any grocery store.

    Soba means buckwheat, but in Japanese cuisine usually refers to noodles made from buckwheat.

  35. Aloisius says:

    If you’re sensitive to MSG, you’re sensitive to Glutamate – the naturally occurring form not bound to a molecule of sodium.

    Avoid Itallian food as well as Japanese/Chinese: parmesan, tomatoes, mushrooms…

    You know, even in Roquefort cheese which has the highest amount of naturally occurring glutamate – 1.28% – I’d have to eat like nearly a pound of cheese before I hit the level where my lips go numb.

    Naturally occurring sources of glutamate in food simply aren’t enough to trigger my sensitivities.

  36. McLuhanesque says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake! Some people have glutamate sensitivity, and some people don’t. It’s a gene thing boys and girls.

    My wife, for example, has glutamate sensitivity and is affected by all of the “naturally occurring” glutamates, even before she knew they were glutamates. She even became ill after drinking certain brands of hot chocolate mix and not others before finding out (many years later) that there is a whey protein that, when processed a certain way (no pun intended) produces “natural” glutamates. So we read labels and avoid any hydrolyzed or autolyzed proteins, and she is careful about certain types of cooking processes with certain types of foods (contrary to the MSG boosters, it’s not simple tomatoes or mushrooms that are problematic, or traditionally prepared tomato sauces).

    On the other hand, I’m not sensitive to it at all. Our kids are evenly split for sensitivity.

    Like I said, it’s a gene thing, so small sample sizes in pseudo-scientific studies (whether they’re double blind or not) aren’t really useful.

  37. wetware says:

    “…What’s up with the “manboyaki” at the Japanese Junkfood stand?”

    Must be their version of namblayaki…

  38. Anonymous says:

    If you are in NYC you can get this stuff on 9th Street between Second and Third avenue at Otafuku.

  39. Itsumishi says:

    Salt occurs naturally in plenty of foods. However whenever I eat hot chips with plenty of salt on them or salt and vinegar chips/crisps/*whatever you call them in your country* I start sweating extensively. I don’t avoid food because of this because sweating a little bit for 5 minutes doesn’t really phase me. Nor do I need a scientific study to tell me that salt is causing this.

    MSG on the other hand… I head to restaurant that uses lots of MSG and I can almost bet that by the time I’m halfway through the mains (and I tend to eat lots and fast, whatever I’m eating) then I will be sitting on the toilet, feeling sick, dizzy and sweating for a good while, then I’ll be sleepy for ages too. Now maybe it’s something else in the food, but it’s odd that it happens so frequently with a whole range of different Asian dishes, and only tends to happen at the places that clearly use plenty of MSG (which you can taste).

    There is a tipping point where your body says it’s had too much and reacts aversely. People’s tipping points are different.

  40. jeligula says:

    Best served with Pocari Sweat and a lit Seven afterward.

  41. dghenke says:

    To Anon@#11 re: Furikake: seconded. Cheap, shelf-stable and yummy on so, so many things.

    The “flakes of something” that were “peppery” may well have been Shichimi Tōgarashi (a red pepper-and-citrus spice mix). It is totally unlike (and combines very well with, in some dishes) Furikake.

    Japanese grocery stores in the states will probably stock both.

    Go forth, ye happy mutants, and buy some food you can’t read! Your new favorite treat is out there waiting for you to discover it.

  42. Hamsterdam says:

    MSG stands for Man that Shit is Good. Just sayin’.

  43. radixe says:

    I was hungry when I read the first description. Then looking at the end results, not so much.. Anyway, good for you for being able to re-experience a favourite food. I have some cravings from 2003 that still goes unfulfilled.

  44. Anonymous says:

    For okonomiyaki and other disgustingly heavy and greasy Japanese food, try Gaja Moc in Lomita. It’s good if you like that kind of stuff.

  45. Anonymous says:

    The name of the shrine is Yasaka Jinja, or “Gion-san” in Kyoto dialect. It’s one of the most famous shrines in Japan. My son had his shrine blessing ceremony there when he was born. I can confirm that’s omusoba and not Hiroshima-yaki, and I’m very relieved you didn’t get food poisoning, since that festival food can spend long hours in the sun. Too bad I didn’t know you were coming and couldn’t give you a tour, though.

  46. Joe says:

    “Chinese cabbage” is bok choy, which at least in California is easy to find.

  47. OsakaBen says:

    Omusoba is great! As other posters have mentioned, you should also try Omurice: similar concept, with rice fried with ketchup and veg instead of yakisoba. I like mine with a layer of cheese over the rice!

    Also, as Bandanna.Almanac mentioned, making the egg just right for omurice (or omusoba) is quite hard. I recommend really whipping it up like scrambled eggs as soon as it hits the hot pan to get it fluffy and then roll the pan around until you have a nice even layer. Add the contents while the egg is still a bit loose and eat immediately!

    • Bandanna.Almanac says:

      When it’s done perfectly it’s quite beautiful. The quality of American eggs usually aren’t up to par. Pale yellow isn’t a good color for eggs.

      Using butter instead of oil helps you judge the temperature better because it burns at a lower temperature, this will give you a better idea of when your eggs are going up in smoke.

      Mark, soba is the easy part, master your omelets first.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I recommend to through in some chopped onion in the pan. And you may not want to use ginger but benishoga which is pickled ginger in red vinegar.

  49. gmoke says:

    For Japanese food fetishists the must see movie is “Tampopo,” the first (and only?) noodle Eastern. It is all about food and soba is a big part of it.

  50. russ3llr says:

    For UK people, there’s an okonomi yaki restaurant in London – Abeno has two branches, one near the British Museum and one near the intersection of Charing Cross road and Shaftesbury Avenue. It’s delicious :D

  51. Ernst Gruengast says:

    The okonamiyaki I had in Osaka was without noodles, but since its about grilling whatever you like, the one seems to me to be a subset of the other.
    When I was taught to make Japanese omelette in those little square pans in thin layers folded over, it was with Soy sauce and a dash of Mirin added to the egg mix – makes it delicious. This is the kind of omelette you get on an tamago nigiri and its a delicious omelette with or without the square pan. You basically pour just enough mix in the pan to cover the bottom thinly, fold it in half almost immediately. Then fill the empty half with another ultra-thin layer and fold over the doubled up half on top of this new egg (so you see the pan bottom on the other side). Then make another thin layer on the empty pan half, fold and so on, continuing till the egg mix is used up. Do it in a small pan, and you get a thick, layered light and fluffy omelette with incredible texture. It’s also incredibly quick, constant pouring and folding.
    Of course, the improv begins here, as between the layers you can sprinkle all sorts of goodies to liven up the dish, japanese and otherwise.

    Give it a go – once you get into it, there’s no going back!

    Best,

    Ernst

  52. heydn says:

    I had a similar experience with okonomiyaki. The first thing I did the moment I got home from there was make okonomiyaki for my friends at home. That was several years ago, and I still make it. This weekend, I made three for a group of nerdy friends. Most couldn’t get over its appearance. Those who actually tried it loved it. If only I could have had Yebisu to go along with it….

  53. HajimeOwari says:

    According to my wife (who is Japanese) Chinese Cabbage likely refers to Napa Cabbage and not bok choy in this case.

    “omu”, like many Japanese “words”, is just omuretto (omelette) shortened. So, omu + soba = A soba omelette.

  54. DeadCow says:

    I’m going to disagree with the other commentators who said that Chinese cabbage refers to napa cabbage. I’ve had a fair amount of yakisoba (I am kind of a noodle fanatic) and it’s usually made with what’s called “Japanese cabbage” at my local Japanese and Korean supermarkets. It’s flatter looking than American cabbage and, when cooked, it’s softer and much sweeter. American cabbage is similar enough to work in a pinch, but I personally think Japanese cabbage is must tastier since I grew up eating it in Taiwan.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Are you sure the vendor used napa (“Chinese”) cabbage? In Hokkaido, at least, regular-old cabbage is super popular.

    And in Japanese, MSG is called “ajinomoto” (味の素). That’s technically a brand name, so sometimes it’ll be printed with a logo and the name written in roman characters. Maybe that’ll help anyone find if it’s secretly in something. ;) However, I agree that MSG is not nearly as harmful as it is believed to be in the US.

    I never had omusoba. It looks great!

  56. michaelbuhrley says:

    Love omusoba and omurice. Lets get something going @ machine project.

  57. dMc says:

    Sounds a bit like a spaghetti frittata. Funny how similar ideas will come up in different places.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Omusoba and omuraisu – omelettes filled with buckwheat noodles or rice – are a great synthesis of East and West. “Spaghetti frittata” ain’t a bad description.

    As for me, I can do without all the extra starch. I just whip up some scrambled eggs with hanakatsuo (shaved bonito flakes) and a dash of shiro dashi… then top with a dusting of aonori and nanami togarashi for an extra kick.

    Not enough starch or protein? Okonomiyaki is the way to go.

  59. Jenn says:

    Even more so than omusoba, I love omurice. Make rice, add chopped meat and veggies of your choice, mix with ketchup or sauce of your choice, wrap in a thin omelet, cover with sauce/ketchup. The perfect food for any meal!

  60. hbl says:

    I would hate to have a food intolerance. The only that does me in are processed sandwiches, really crappy ones, but I’d put that down to the minimal nutritional benefits of massively overprocessed carbs, proteins and fat. My understanding of the MSG issue is that the body makes no physical or chemical distinction between MSG or naturally occurring glutamines. The comparison to salt made above is probably apt. Too much salt certainly has negative effects and processed food is far more reliant on added salt to make things taste good.

    There’s an interesting show on the BBC right now called adventures in e-numbers or suchlike, exploring the food additives used in processed manufacture of food. Facinsting stuff for amateur food geeks like me.

    My lips, throat and Tongue go numb when I eat Asian food too, but only the really spicy stuff. Weird.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Hello. What you cooked looks very much like Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, not omusoba.

  62. Lezl0r says:

    Yes to omusoba festival!

  63. Elmo Gearloose says:

    In tests they found that babies actually prefer soups with MSG than soups without. Can’t argue with that unami, dude,

  64. holtt says:

    I suppose for a quick & dirty version you could just scramble the eggs into the fried up contents at the end. At least if you’re alter-eggnabled like I am and have a hard time getting them right.

    PS
    The number of nitpicky detail posts in the comments is rather amusing…

  65. 9ofdiscs says:

    ok, now i am *hungry*

    where can i get this in Seattle?

    Boom Noodle, can you help me?

  66. namnezia says:

    YUM! We made this for dinner and it was delicious! We used tofu instead of pork because that’s what we had lying around. I’d never had tonkatsu sauce before – it’s awesome, what else does it go with? I’m also totally hooked on the bonito flakes.

    Also – you mentioned in your post that the eggs were overcooked, but they don’t look particularly overcooked. In Japan, were the noodles embedded in the eggs like in a fritatta or was it more that they were runny in the middle and coated the noodles?

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Cynical says:

      What else goes with Tonkatsu sauce? Tonkatsu, of course! Get a pork cutlet, fry in breadcrumbs, slice into strips and put on top of a bowl of white rice. Squirt on a lattice of tonkatsu sauce, and you’re away. Cheap, easy and so damn good.

      Dammit, now I have a hankering for Japanese stodge food.

  67. teapot says:

    I’d say #2 hit the nail on the head… I believe what you ate was possibly Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. Apart from gettign extra points for containing the word “nom”, it is also possibly the tastiest Japanese food in existence (well, it solved my gaijin craving for oily goodness, anyway)!

    If anyone is visiting Tokyo I have 2 okonomiyaki osusume (recommendations):

    This place is in Shimokitazawa, which you should visit anyway. Best Okonomiyaki in town. Resonably priced, great atmosphere (the place only seats soemthing like 14 people in total), hotplate right in front of you so you can watch the chefs’ skills.
    http://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&cbll=35.659394,139.667415&panoid=9Sxz1jCE0PNx8YSddZZM7Q&cbp=11,45.7,,0,16.79&ie=UTF8&ll=35.659395,139.666904&spn=0.000534,0.002803&z=19

    This place is in Takadanobaba (famously, the home suburb of Atom Boy’s creator [aka Astro Boy] Osamu Tezuka – the JR train station theme song is the Astro Boy theme) and is awesome for two reasons: 1) Tasty food, nice staff
    2) Tabehodai & Nomihodai for less than 30 bucks…. that’s right, all you can eat & all you can drink (including alcohol) for 2 hours!
    The only catch is that you have to cook it yourself, which is mad fun anyway (be prepared to screw up the first few).
    http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=35.712672,139.706483&spn=0.001067,0.003562&z=18&layer=c&cbll=35.71267,139.706481&panoid=bd_LvSbUiKXYWaxk6Sm6ng&cbp=11,38.97,,0,4.5

    You get to the store by going up the staircase the woman is standing in front of in the street view…. 4th floor if my memory serves me right.

  68. teapot says:

    PS: MSG is a perfectly cromulent food additive.

    Also, I deplore those gold fish-catching games at festivals… but I would have to play at the shrine you went to! Damn!

  69. Anonymous says:

    I lived in Japan for well over a decade, cooked this all the time at home there, and cook it here in Toronto fairly frequently. Here are my picky details to add to the noise:
    1. As other posters have said, this is definitely not okonomi yaki, which uses a batter as the base, not eggs.
    2. While it’s called yaki soba, the noodles are not soba noodles. I think the name comes from the fact that the sauce colours the noodles brown, like soba. In big North American cities you can probably save a lot of money by buying the bottle of sauce featured in the post and fresh chow mein noodles instead of the whole yaki soba noodle package with the little foil bags of powdered sauce. At least in Toronto, these Chinese noodles are much cheaper, and easier to find.

  70. Anonymous says:

    MSG = tasty.

    Don;t be scared of it, it’s perfectly safe and dare I say it naturally occurring (probably to some extent in the seaweed you used ironically enough0.

  71. sybaritical says:

    Try making it with sweet red pickled ginger. Instead of frying it first, add it last & flash fry it. Tasty.

  72. Anonymous says:

    Minor pedantic comment – are you sure the girls at the festival were in Yukata, or were they in Kimono? A Yukata is a light bathrobe, while the Kimono is more formal wear.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Everything has a toxic dosage level, even everyday fruits and veges. Its just often so high in comparison to our usual consumption, that we think things are safe or harmless. From reading the above posts, it looks like the jury is still out.

  74. Crashproof says:

    I just had okonomiyaki for the first time this weekend. Pretty good I thought, but to me it doesn’t begin approach the level of awesomeness that is Middle Eastern fast food.

  75. Alfred says:

    Just made three batches with the ingredients listed for the family and it was perfect, thanks for the tip… Alfred

  76. Anonymous says:

    wow, i didn’t realize how many japanese food snobs were on boing boing!

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