During my 2-day stay in Hiroshima, I found that the city was not only rich in history, but also had its own unique modern culture which included some delicious food.
Andersen Bakery, Hondori Shopping Arcade
Our culinary adventure in Hiroshima began with a quick lunch stop at the Hondori Shotengai shopping arcade in the downtown area. Like the arcade mall I had my katsu meal at in Kyoto, this one was also lined with shops and eating places galore.
My tour guide Hiro recommended a small lunch spot called Andersen Bakery — which he claimed served up everything from pastries to sandwiches and pizza. Hiro is the kind of guy whose mere presence commands a great deal of respect, so when he suggests a place to eat, you take him up on his recommendation.
The restaurant’s posh interior was designed almost like an upscale cafeteria where customers could choose from a wide variety of nicely presented food items. Scanning the shelves of neatly organized sandwiches, pastries and other baked goods, I was completely overwhelmed with the myriad of options in front of me.
After several minutes of wavering, I finally ended up choosing a ham and spinach pie, dark cherry pastry (Hiro raved about this one) and lemon and yuzu honey drink. My mom picked out a flatbread pizza and hotdog in a roll.
The verdict: all simple yet incredibly tasty — and completely affordable I might add. I still have cravings for Andersen dark cherry pastries now and then — the moist dark cherries laid on a bed of sweet custard surrounded by a flaky croissant make for a blissful treat.
Apparently, Andersen is a Japanese chain with only four locations in the world: Hiroshima, Tokyo, Copenhagen and San Francisco. I’ll be going to San Francisco in October and am putting this place down on my itinerary for sure.
In retrospect, I have fond memories of my last night in Hiroshima mostly because I got my first taste of authentic Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki, loosely translated as “pancake to your liking,” is a popular Japanese dish cooked on an iron griddle (teppan). It usually consists of batter, cabbage, some type of meat or seafood, and is garnished with chopped green onions and Worcestershire-like sauce. Because of its shape and consistency, it’s commonly referred to as the pizza or pancake of Japan.
Okonomiyaki can be found all over Japan, but is most prominent in the western regions of Hiroshima and Osaka, each having their own unique styles. In general, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki distinguishes itself from other styles by its yakisoba noodles as a prime ingredient as well as layers of ingredients packed on each other.
After a long walk down the stretch of Hondori, it was time to check out Hiroshima’s famed Okonomimura — a building with entire floors taken up by various okonomiyaki joints. Nearly 15 of us struggled to squeeze into the elevators with what seemed like the rest of the entire city.
The elevator doors opened to a narrow room with several open eateries on both sides of us. My mom, dad, our friend Howard and I managed to snag four seats at a corner restaurant as we pushed through a crowd of hungry people. The tiny restaurant was configured with only about eight chairs that faced a teppan grill where a man and woman were cooking up some delicious looking okonomiyaki.
The menu was quite simple, offering a few different okonomiyaki dishes with an assortment of ingredients. I ordered the okonomiyaki with oysters.
I observed the duo as they poured six equal-sized circles of batter on the teppan grill in front of us. While the batter cooked, the woman fried up some yakisoba noodles and the oysters to add later. As soon as the batter was ready, they dumped on some beansprouts as well as the noodles, then flipped it over to cook.
The okonomiyaki was then flattened with a spatula and basted with the restaurant’s unique Worcestershire-like sauce.
After it was topped off with the oysters and a generous amount of green onions and seaweed flakes, it was time to eat! Itadakimasu!
After wolfing down my hearty dinner, I was pretty sure that I would never be able to eat okonomiyaki in the states ever again. Needless to say, it was that good.