Eastern Tokyo, Shitamachi soul food
Japanese foods are famous around the world, but Monjayaki is relatively less popular than Sushi, Ramen and others. I visited the Tsukishima shitamachi area for Monjayaki, and would like to introduce this special dish.
It’s difficult to describe Monjayaki. I would say that this food is something between a pizza and a crape. The basic ingredients are batter and shredded cabbage, fried together on a hot iron plate and eaten directly from the plate. This was originally a snack for children, sold and eaten at family-run sweet shops. Nowadays, it’s much improved and is considered a main dish.
Delicious toppings on a set of Monjayaki.
A variety of Monjayaki
Monjayaki is exciting to eat, because you can pick from a variety of ingredients. The flavours’ and tastes are all different. For example, Rice Cake and Seasoned Cod Roe (もち明太) tastes very much like typical Japanese food. The Curry and Baby Star Crispy Noodle Snack (a famous Japanese snack) tastes much like Indian food, and the Tomato and Cheese has an Italian flavour.
In the Tsukishima districts, there are more than 50 Monjayaki restaurants. Each shop prepares their own, unique ingredients. I recommend exploring the area and visiting a shop to find your favorites.
My love of Shrimp took me to the Monjayaki shop “ Kurumi (来る実) ” (Japanese text only), located on a narrow back street in Tsukishima.
I will show you how to cook Monjayaki!
This is Sweet Shrimp Monja, a specialty of Kurumi.
Let’s see how it’s cooked.
First, put the cabbage and the shrimp (ingredients) on the iron hot plate. (Keep the batter in the bowl)
Use the short metal spatulas to chop up and fry the cabbage and shrimp.
Make a ring out of the fried ingredients.
This is the most important step, because if you don’t, the batter leak out of the ring during the next step.
Pour half of the batter in and cook it halfway, after which pouring the rest in.
The restaurant staff had another, ‘secret step’ to keep the sweet shrimp juicy.
Lastly, flatten it out to bake it. Done!
Eat it directly from the iron plate with a tiny iron spatula, but be careful not to burn your tongue!
If cooking Monjayaki looks difficult, don’t worry, the restaurant staff will also cook it for you. I suggest you observe and learn from the staff for your first cup of Monjayaki, and then try cooking the next one yourself.
Sharing a plate of Monjayaki while drinking beer will leave you with many memorable conversations!