Please- Don`t Make Me Eat That- Monjayaki

As I slowly and deliberately eat my way through Japan, I`ve discovered two certainties regarding the food- first, Japanese food does not include chicken teriyaki, and second, sample even the most repulsive in appearance- it could rank as one of the best meals of your life. My latest favorite, monjayaki resides in the category labelled, “Looks nasty, tastes great,” as it closely resembles a myriad of substances one would only eat under the threat of torture or starvation.

Monjayaki Image via Wikipedia

Andretti-san, culture guide and sensei to the Clampitt clan, had been bragging, loudly and consistently,  about his culinary skills most effectively demonstrated in the creation of monjayaki. It was time to hold his feet to the fire, or hand to the griddle in this case. But how to highlight his culinary chops outside of his own kitchen?  An island in the middle of Tokyo, Tsukishima. Home to an entire street specializing in monjayaki with the creative name, “Monjayaki Street.”  Patrons were allowed to ruin the meal themselves by self cooking or assure a more savory product by engaging a server to conduct the official business.  The time had come for Andretti-san to roll up his sleeves.

Our restaurant choice was driven by creativity of the logo rather than reputation.

The ingredients were promptly delivered table side.

Several items caught my attention as the bowl was placed between us. First, the dried shrimp on the top, meat like substance Andretti-san identified as corned beef, bonito flakes (the olive oil of Japan) and the presence of a viscous, yellow soup at the bottom. Eating any one of these items would have been difficult but the thought of eating the mixture was appalling.

He started by stir frying the ingredients at the top. I lost hope of stomaching this meal as I watched the tiny shrimp melt on the grill.

Once the ingredients were cooked, he shaped them in a doughnut. Inside the hole, he poured the liquid. Apparently his doughnut hole was perfect since the soup did not leak out of its stir fried container.

Once the mass was gelatinous, Andretti-san stirred it all together. The color changed to dark yellow. He pronounced the putrid, yellow mash “Done.” Oh God. The time of reckoning. I`d seen more appetizing mud pies.

As if tasting it wasn`t enough of a challenge, there was also a particular method for devouring this goo. Not quite a liquid, not really a solid, a special tool called a “hagashi” is used to shovel this tasty delight in to one`s mouth. Right off the hot griddle. Too soupy for chopsticks, but very gluey, it stuck to the hagashi. Therefore, it was eaten like so:

Sakuratie Restaurant

Monja aficionados claim a special technique for proper eating- placed in one`s mouth with the food facing the tongue, versus the roof of the mouth, in order to deliver a more powerful piquant punch.

In some way, which I`m certain defies the natural order of the universe, this concoction was delicious earning a coveted top place spot on Ouisar-san`s “Must Learn to Make Before Leaving Japan” list. Tiny dried shrimp and all.

Andretti-san validated his claim as Master of the Monjayaki and the Nose claimed this to be the only form of cabbage she would eat.

High praise indeed.

Check out other “Best Of Japan” at Japingu`s J festa….here

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61 Responses to Please- Don`t Make Me Eat That- Monjayaki

  1. Lisa Wields Words says:

    Wow, that looks truly disgusting, but I’m sure it was indeed fabulous. Facing food bravely, one of the true challenges of living in Japan. Omedeto!


  2. That actually sounds pretty good…… Not that I got any chance at all of finding anyplace that would serve that here in rural N. Texas……. 🙂


  3. I was in Japan for three weeks many years ago, but never got the chance to sample that lovely dish. I did learn, as you have, though, to try it all, but maybe close my eyes at the same time.


  4. lisa jardine says:

    i’ve eaten it on that island. tastes better with beer.
    i’m doing an article for cnngo on tsukishima. can i use your photos? i’ll give you CNN credit. let me know. 🙂


  5. CSI Susie says:

    That is one of the best restaurant logos I’ve ever seen. It says chef, stop in the name of love, and spatula tomfoolery all in one. I’d have gone in as well.


  6. I have never seen anything look more disgusting in my life. But then I’ve never been what you might call an adventurous eater! And in this instance, I’m afraid that inclination might have served me well. Holy vomit, Bat Man!


  7. Oh my god!!!! That looks like the kind of thing I see on the pavements here in London, the morning after a Friday night!

    *covers mouth and looks away in nauseous awe*

    Okay, glad it tasted good but damn, what guts to even try it because just the looks put me off.



  8. Bob says:

    Wow you’re brave, I think I would stick with the pro cooked option.

    On the CFL front BC Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers have finished in first place in their divisions.

    Hamilton and Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton face each other today in the semi finals.


  9. holy nasty looking! but good for you for embracing it…! (I never could quite stomach the spiedo uccellini where we lived in n. italy, basically little bird kabob)


  10. jacquelincangro says:

    I have to say that Reggie ate something that looked like that this morning. But my hat’s off to you for trying it! You’re a brave woman.
    Why is it common to go to a restaurant and then cook it yourself? Is it not something you can prepare at home? (I ask cautiously)


    • amblerangel says:

      You can definitely prepare at home- this is the only place I know of where customers want to prepare on their own. Might be because you can make several types and customize the ingredients.


  11. Michi says:

    Looks a bit like odd scrambled eggs. I’m always very impressed with what you’ve eaten and tried in Japan! I wish I could taste some for myself. 🙂


  12. Dana says:

    I actually thought it looked a bit like scrambled eggs, too. Here I was, thinking “that’s not so bad!”, but then I read everybody else’s comments about it looking like vomit. I stand corrected.


  13. Lu says:

    Ok, so I can deal with how all the ingredients look pre-cooked – even the dougnut ring isn’t too terrible… but I guess I would need a blindfold to go much further! As for eating it the way I eat ice-cream – I’ll stick with ice cream, thanks!


  14. Tar-Buns says:

    Konbawa Emily-san,

    How’s life in Japan? I never did try this dish while there and I’m sure I wouldn’t have been brave enough once I saw it. Almost like manju and other stringy, glommy stuff.

    Still hope I will return to Japan one day and see those still around I used to know. What do you know about Ibaraki-ken, Kitasoma-gun, Moriya town (it changed from a town to a city, machi to ?)
    Keep writing.
    Gonbatte kudasai!


  15. aizo says:



  16. kenji says:

    im japanese.from hiroshima.
    monjyayaki is goo!
    next time you camebacke hiroshima.
    & get a hiroshimastayl okonomiyaki!


  17. Hiroko Sakai says:

    Awww! you made me craved for Monja-yaki!


  18. Tori Nelson says:

    I don’t operate by too many rules, but one of my most often followed ones is to avoid eating anything gelatinous and dark yellow at all costs. Ickkkk!


  19. Fidel says:

    I still can’t bring myself to eat, especially when I see the dried shrimp flakes moving around like they are alive. It smells good though. You might have convinced me to give it a try.


  20. The Nose says:

    Yes, It was curiously delicious And better with a beer! Not too many eateries make me run out and buy three t-shirts but that was one. And it obviously made quite a subconscious impression because I bought an “accessory” for my phone at Hibaru Market in Lexington, Ky. I thought it was the Daruma Buddha but it was your little t-shirt guy (sans spatula)!!!! And when you turn him on his side his eyes pop out! He must be cooking the food with his laser vision! You must take The Tourist there if you have time! I Miss Ya’ll!!!!


  21. Pingback: Dining in Japan | japingu

  22. wow, I’m like a kid and I eat with my eyes so this dish would indeed take an effort to try. Great post though


  23. Pingback: Hey from Japan – Notes on Moving – THE JAPAN BLOG DIRECTORY

  24. “Looks nasty, tastes great” . . . Mmmh, will have to take your word for that! I’m quite glad that Willie has settled on Thai food as his Far Eastern cuisine of choice. Their food just looks far more appealing. Although I try and avoid smelling the fish sauce.


  25. OMG I would eat lima beans before that stuff and I would rather die than eat lima beans.


  26. Rayknugget says:

    half cooked okonomiyaki? 😛


  27. Actually reminded me of Okonomiyaki, which I have tried. But I think I’ll have to try this at some point too, hagashi and all.


  28. tokyo5 says:

    Monjayaki is an original dish of Tokyo.

    Okonomiyaki is Osakan … Monja is from Tokyo .


  29. tokyobling says:

    Although I have photoblogged the okonomiyaki I have so far refrained from trying to take photos of monjayaki – so glad you have bitten the bullet for us on this one! (^-^) I was there only a couple of months ago myself. I totally agree with you, monjayaki is the best repulsing looking food you will ever have. The recipe is simple too, but getting that hot plate installed in your private kitchen might not be. My favorite monjayaki is the one with the pickled plum sauce, although this slightly sour taste can take it one step too close for comfort for most westerners. (^-^;)


  30. Doops says:

    “This” is supposed to be “nasty”? It just looks like scrambled eggs with veggies and stuff mixed in, still runny.


  31. I just saw this dish for the 1st time watching a drama! I told my friend that we have to find a “real” Japanese restaurant, not these American versions! I’ve seen too many dishes that I must try! The changes that I’ll get to Japan are far and few between!! Thanks for this post!


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