Good cuisine is found throughout Japan, and Miyajima is no exception. Since I took an early train from Hiroshima to Miyajima, I decided to have an early lunch at Home Sweet Home and try okonomiyaki for the first time. This dish, which is similar to a savory crêpe, is famous in the Hiroshima area.
After selecting a simple version of okonomiyaki consisting of cabbage, meat, noodles, egg and a few other items, the order was given to the cook who fired up the grill. She placed two ladles of batter on a flat metal grill (reminded me of a U.S. burger joint where the cook has 10-15 burgers cooking at once). When the batter has solidified a bit, the cook added layers of ingredients and placed a second layer of cooked batter on top. To flatten the okonomiyaki, the cook pressed down on the mountain of food with two metal spatulas. It came out looking like an omelet.
As I understand it, the layering technique of ingredients is common in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki made in other regions pre-mix the ingredients before placing them on the thin batter. As the ingredients finished cooking, the cook doused the top with a special sauce, which was thick and brown and turned out to be sweet. Last, but not least, a liberal sprinkling of shredded nori garnished the top.
Another interesting fact about Miyajima and food is that a monk invented the first rice scooper here. The shamoji is wooden and doesn’t alter or impair the taste of the rice. You can find souvenir rice scoopers throughout Miyajima and an extremely large version of one on display.
Miyajima is also famous for its momiji manjū, cake-like sweets that are shaped like the maple leaves found all over the island and filled with a variety of flavors. Traditionally, the filling is an, a sweetened paste made of azuki beans, or custard. However, as I’m not a huge fan of azuki beans, I opted for the chocolate-flavored manjū and couldn’t have been happier. It tasted like a small piece of heaven.
Because the manjū is popular with visitors, there are several shops that sell them. I’m not sure if there’s a difference in taste between the vendors, but the prices were about the same. Many of the shops had a small factory set up in the front window so you could watch them make it for you fresh from batter to finished product. It was a bit like watching Krispy Kreme donuts being made, especially because I had to refrain from drooling in both instances.