We know what you're wondering – did we steal this photo from Martha Stewart's recent Twitter stream of unappealing food pics? We can't blame you for wondering. Even Japanese locals admit to its aesthetic shortcomings. But first impressions aside, this traditional dish is likely to be one of the most delicious meals you eat in Tokyo. Plus, it's perfect comfort food for the chilly season.
Monja, or monjayaki – often compared to okinomiyaki because both include ingredients like flour, cabbage and egg – is a speciality of the Kanto region and is best sampled in Tsukishima in Tokyo Bay. Head for Nishinaka Street where you'll find over 70 monjayaki restaurants and even a monjayaki information office. If the restaurant you choose has an all-Japanese menu and you need a little help ordering, it's safe to ask for 'mixed' monja. Generally, you can choose from a variety of ingredients including seafood, pork, spicy cod roe, noodles and cheese. And since part of the monja experience is in the cooking (each table is equipped with an electric griddle), we've put together this handy little step-by-step guide for you...
Your easy four-step guide to monja
Place all dry ingredients on the griddle, usually meat first. Leave the sauce aside for now.
Mix well and then form a large doughnut shape, creating a hole in the middle of the ingredients. Pour the sauce into the hole.
Allow the mixture to cook for a few minutes. Now's a good time to scatter some cheese on top. Once the mixture begins to caramelise underneath, mix it all together into one gooey mash.
Turn the heat down and, using the minute spatula provided, eat the monja directly off the griddle. It will continue to brown underneath, forming a delicious crispy base and becoming more heavenly with every bite.