AS YOU LIKE IT

Photography by Yoshiyuki Matsumura.
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Favored by impoverished students and late night drinkers alike, okonomiyaki and takoyaki—savory pancakes and octopus balls—are Osaka's superlative soul foods.

Photographer Yoshiyuki Matsumura has long had a yen for his hometown’s humble battered specialties—okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Of the former, Enraku restaurant in the Sakai section of the city gets top billing. ”It’s been my favorite place since I was in high school,” Matsumura explains. “Their okonomiyaki are big and cheap, something that is very important!”

The word Okonomiyaki is itself a composite, comprised of two Japanese words—okonomi meaning “what you like” and yaki which means grilled (perennial drunk favorites yakisoba and teppanyaki share a grill in common as well). It generally consists of a yam-based pancake batter that binds shrimp, squid, pork belly, cabbage and often fried noodles. It is then, naturally, topped with a slick of mayonnaise, a gloopy cousin of Worcestershire sauce referred to as ‘sauce,’ pickled ginger, bonito flakes, and a fine layer of seaweed dust.

Takoyaki, is okonomiyaki’s minimalist spherical cousin. Consisting of grilled battered spheres crammed with chewy chopped octopi, it too is subjected to heavy dose of the Double Dare-esque sludge combo. At Sa-chan, in the same Sakai neighborhood, Matsumura often gets his fill. ”There are thousands of takoyaki places in Osaka,” says Matsumura before revealing perhaps the universal truth concerning all fast foods. “But to be honest, the taste is fairly uniform so the best places are usually the cheapest ones.”

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