Food History: The History of Japanese Pancakes

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As the Olympics get set to kick-off in Tokyo, we thought it’d be really fun to encourage our readers to try something new in the kitchen to celebrate the games! While likely best known for sushi, Japanese cuisine is storied, unique, and incredibly delicious. Here is a particular cultural dish that has been eaten in Japan for hundreds of years. These Japanese pancakes would be a blast to try your hand at if you have friends and family coming over to watch the Olympic Games on TV!

The History of Japanese Pancakes (Okonomiyaki)

Japanese pancakes date back to the 16th century when they were used as a part of a tea ceremony. The savory delicacies were made with flour, water, and sake and char-grilled. Sweet miso was then spread on the relatively thin creation and then rolled up to be eaten in a bite-sized portion. 

During the early 20th century, as Western customs (and foods!) began to influence Japanese culture, the biggest change of all came to the Japanese pancake; worcester sauce. With this new trend, Japan’s take on the humble pancake contrasted completely with the Western world, which preferred its cakes drenched in maple syrup and butter, or jellies and peanut butter. 

Today, Japanese pancakes are decidedly more fluffy thanks to Western influence, although not quite as thick as what most Americans would be used to. Toppings for Japanese pancakes, which as the recipe would indicate, are more savory than sweet. The most popular topping is mayonnaise, but the literal translation for Okonomoyaki is “cook-as-you-like” which is the attitude for these cakes - eat them however you choose! 

Get the recipe for Japanese pancakes here and read up on the history of Japanese pancakes for yourself here. If you want to see a fluffier take on this recipe, check out this really great Youtube video from Emma’s Goodies

Thanks for reading! Let us know if there are any dishes out there you’d like to learn more about - we’d love to write about them sometime soon. 



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