As much as people are closed-minded about trying other culture's cuisines, there sure seem to be as many similarities between the foods of different cultures as there are differences. I've met Mexican people that don't eat Chinese food 'cause it's strange and vice versa. My friend's Korean mom won't eat Italian food, why? Not because she's ever had it, but just because. But have any of these people ever stopped to notice the common denominators in our cooking? There's the obvious, like the fact that most everyone uses rice and noodles. And there's the not-so-obvious dishes that strike an uncanny resemblance to each other. Like the Chinese "joong," sticky rice and meat wrapped in a lotus leaf, which resembles the Mexican tamal--the same concept, only made with masa and wrapped in either a corn husk or banana leaf. Also similar are Puerto Rican pasteles, consisting of mashed plantains and bananas wrapped in a banana leaf. Different, but the same, and yet different enough for people to be closed minded!
I thought of all this when I ordered okonomiyaki for the first time tonight at Izakaya Haru Ulala because they had a little quip on the menu board advertising it as "Japanese Pizza!" Does it make okonomiyaki more appealing? No, not for me, only because I already knew what okonomiyaki is and have been wanting to try it for a while now. But to anyone else less open-minded, maybe a Japanese pizza is a little less intimidating. Kinda like: "If you can eat Dominos, you can eat this too!"
Can't get this at Domino's!
I think it may have been because Haru Ulala was a bit short staffed because service seemed slower than usual, but my okonomiyaki certainly took just as long as a pizza to cook. About 30 minutes, and my mixed "pie" of squid, shrimp and chicken finally came to the table. It was round like a pizza and it was sliced like a pizza. But boy, this thing ain't no pizza. Shavings of dried bonito adorned the top, writhing and squirming with the heat like they were alive. Underneath, sprinklings of dried seaweed were scattered between squirts of mayonnaise and a slathering of okonomiyaki sauce over a piping hot battered filling of squid, shrimp, chicken and cabbage, grilled to a golden brown perfection on the bottom. Delicious.
If anything, it's really more comparable to an Italian fritatta or the Korean seafood pancake Hae Mul Pa Jeon. But I bet if I tried to sell this okonomiyaki as such (it's a Japanese fritatta/it's a Japanese Hae Mul Pa Jeon!) to try to lure in more people like Haru Ulala did with the pizza reference, they still wouldn't bite. People are people and will always have their preconceived notions no matter how hard we try. Oh well, just leaves more food for me.
Izakaya Haru Ulala (for Japanese pizza and more!)
368 E. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012