One of the most loved Japanese dishes is okonomiyaki. Particularly prevalent in western cities such as Osaka and Hiroshima, it’s essentially shredded cabbage fried in batter on a skillet along with various other ingredients mixed in, like pork, squid, or even cheese and kimchi. But the cherry on top is the okonomiyaki sauce that gets painted on its surface.
For those in western countries who aren’t familiar, it’s very comparable to BBQ sauce in that it’s quite tangy with savory notes to mix well with hearty dishes. For a lot of people, this sauce is essential to the okonomiyaki as a whole.
▼ Even “okonomiyaki-flavored” foods like this Jagariko snack usually just taste like the sauce.
It's also a comfort food in that it doesn’t undergo periodic shortages like butter and potatoes have in the past…or so we thought. On Jan 8, leading okonomiyaki sauce brand Otafuku Sauce made an alarmed tweet.
“In the first part of a news broadcast, it was reported that there are concerns that the deterioration of stability in the Middle East may affect okonomiyaki sauce. The part they left out was that we have a stockpile of dates. [embarrassed emoji]
Please rest assured that okonomiyaki sauce will not disappear from store shelves.”
Otafuku added: "Hiroshima okonomiyaki was born from the fields burnt by the atomic bomb and helped in the city’s recovery. Our company would like to put smiles on faces of all people beyond all borders through delicious food. We sincerely hope that peace will come soon.”
As Otafuku mentioned, on the same day, NHK Hiroshima had reported that the situation in Iran and the rest of the Middle East could affect the import of dates, which are a key ingredient of their okonomiyaki sauce. Apparently it startled enough viewers that Otafuku felt it necessary to issue a public statement on the Iranian conflict and inform everyone that they, in fact, have enough dates.
Dates are not only used in Otafuku Sauce but by rival okonomiyaki sauce brands as well, such as Oliver and TopValu. It is also one of the key flavors that distinguishes it from similar sauces like Tonkatsu sauce.
Nearly all dates are produced in the Middle East and parts of North Africa, with Iran being the second-largest grower after Egypt. Although the current crisis is focused on Iran, a full-scale war would likely send shockwaves of disruption throughout the entire region and its date-producing capabilities.
Followers of the Otafuku Twitter account were relieved at the company’s preparedness.
“I’m from Hiroshima and was worried that I might not be able to get okonomiyaki sauce.”
“You have my support! I will use your sauce!”
“I have a stockpile of your sauce in my house too.”
“That’s a relief…”
“Really? Good job guys.”
“I love Otafuku sauce. When I was a child my father used to cook okonomiyaki every Sunday.”
“Wait… Did you use dates back at the end of WWII too?”
Otafuku addressed that last question themselves and said that their sauce originally did not use dates, but they began adding it 40 years ago and now consider it an indispensable flavor. The company seems confident that their stocks can last potential turmoil and even if not, there are a handful of date growers in the U.S. and China as well.
Also, it’s in Otafuku’s interests to dispel any misinformation about the supply, as certain people in Japan have a habit of buying up dwindling products with the dubious intent of reselling them at exorbitant prices. This holds true even – perhaps especially – for luxury foods like potato chips or leading okonomiyaki sauces.
This still might all seem frivolous in the grand scheme of things, and it is. But it’s a reminder that we’re all connected, these days more than ever and often in ways we can’t easily see.
Source: Twitter/@Otafuku_s, J-Cast News
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