Cheap Eats 2015

Beyond Ramen: 6 Japanese Snacks You Should Know

Ganso Yaki’s okonomiyaki.
Ganso Yaki’s okonomiyaki. Photo: Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room

Here’s how to tell your taiyaki from your takoyaki — just two of the snacky Japanese specialties proliferating at New York’s newest izakayas (bar-food-focused Japanese pubs) and Asian-inflected fast-food joints.

Above: Okonomiyaki
The name of this customizable savory pancake translates to “as you like it, grilled.” The garnishes are a constant, though: thick, sweetish sauce, mayo, and bonito flakes. (At Ganso Yaki, 515 Atlantic Ave., at Third Ave., Downtown Brooklyn; 646-927-0303.)

Otafuku x Medetai’s taiyaki.
Otafuku x Medetai’s taiyaki. Photo: Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room

Snack cakes shaped like sea bream, a fish so esteemed in Japan it’s often served at weddings. Big at street fairs and temple festivals, and typically filled with bean paste. (At Otafuku x Medetai, 220 E. 9th St., nr. Third Ave.; 646-998-3438.)

Hanamizuki’s onigiri.
Hanamizuki’s onigiri. Photo: Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room

Seasoned rice balls ubiquitous in Japanese convenience stores and lunch boxes, variously stuffed and often bound with nori. Pickled plum and eel are common fillings; in Hawaii, a Spam variant is practically the state snack. (At Hanamizuki, 143 W. 29th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-695-5533.)

Uma Temakeria’s temaki.
Uma Temakeria’s temaki. Photo: Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room

Cone-shaped hand rolls wrapped in nori, and the building block of what one local proto-chain hopes to be the Chipotle of sushi. They’re “customer designed” and come with signature sauce. Temaki burritos, too! (At Uma Temakeria, 64 Seventh Ave., nr. 14th St.; 646-360-3260.)

Mocu-Mocu’s obanyaki.
Mocu-Mocu’s obanyaki. Photo: Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room

Thick, soft, coin-shaped cakes made in iron molds. Served at festivals and filled traditionally with azuki-bean paste, now with everything from apple custard to curry. (At Mocu-Mocu, 746 Tenth Ave., nr. 51st St.; 212-765-0197.)

Otafuku x Medetai’s takoyaki.
Otafuku x Medetai’s takoyaki. Photo: Illustration by Ellaphant in the Room

No octopus ball before its time! The spheres cook in circular molds and are flipped for even browning. Then, an anointing of mayo, a Worcestershire-like sauce, seaweed powder, and bonito flakes. (At Otafuku x Medetai.)

*This article appears in the July 13, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.

6 Japanese Snacks You Should Know