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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Makes Namu's Okonomiyaki at Ferry Plaza So Likable

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 11:03 AM

click to enlarge Namu's version of the homely Japanese snack skews Korean. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Namu's version of the homely Japanese snack skews Korean.
Okonomiyaki incorporates the Japanese words okonomi, which means "what you like," and yaki ("grilled"). We do like okonomiyaki a lot, grilled ― on a bus, on a train, in the sun, and in the rain, typically during or immediately following a visit to Namu's stand at the Ferry Plaza Thursday market. Osaka-style okonomiyaki pancakes are usually made with flour, yam, dashi, eggs, and shredded cabbage; toppings range from bacon to octopus to green onion and cheese, with limitations imposed only by the cravings of a giggly, puffy-eyed customer and an accommodating cook.

Whether you're stoned or just riddled with Blue Bottle, Namu's Korean-ified take on the fast food delicacy ($7) scratches an itch first thing in the morning: a soft expanse of pale pancake bristling with kimchi shreds, haunted by the smoky whisper of bacon mingling with bonito flakes, ribbons of Kewpie mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce hosed across its surface. The optional runny fried egg ($2 more) ties the whole mess together (and makes it breakfasty), but the dish really wouldn't work at all without the interplay between those humble sauces.

Remember the time you staggered home and crowned a 4 a.m. quesadilla with Srirachi and mayonnaise? Remember how the condiments swirled together, morphing into an unctuous, addictive salmon-hued glop? Remember how you woke up the next morning and applied the same combination to a breakfast sandwich? We hope you do too. Similarly, Kewpie is sweet, creamy, and thin enough to squirt; often served alongside fried pork cutlets, tonkatsu sauce is a rich, slightly bitter muddle heavy on Worchestershire and ketchup. At the end, when the paper plate is half-soggy, and the egg's golden yolk has vanished into the sauces, now indistinguishable, almost gray, you'll fight your friend for the last salty bite.

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