Monja Yaki @ Gaja Moc

by janet on September 19th, 2009

If the title of this post looks like a random collection of syllables with a squiggly thing in between, you’re probably not alone.  Monja yaki is a kind of Japanese food, and Gaja Moc is the name of the place, in Lomita CA.  The squiggly thing means “at” and if you didn’t know that then I’m very impressed that you had the technical know-how to open your browser, much less find this little blog at the corner of the interweb.

I went with Venus, who was in LA to give a talk on the importance of furniture design when it comes to food.  Love it!

Anyhoo, perhaps “okonomiyaki” is more familiar to you?  It is a much more common Japanese food; reminiscent of pa-jun in Korean food but much more fun, since you make it at your table.

In very Japaneezy fashion, the menu has their items listed in a ranking system in terms of popularity.  You always want to go with the majority if you’re Japanese, so it’s very critical that you know what the #1 aitemu (“item”) is.  In the case of our okonomiyaki, we went with #7 – Buta Kimuchi (Pork & Kimchee).

Venus was the pro here so she showed me the way.  First, mix mix mix all the ingredients in the bowl. Then, pour it all onto the Hades-hot griddle.  Using the tool/utensil thingies that are shaped like this: D—, tamp it all down into a 2 cm thick disc.

Sit on your hands and wait.  Perhaps order a Chu-hai – a cocktail made with soju (which is Korean, don’t get confused, but pronounced sho-chu in Japanese).  I did so – a peach one.  Sugary and weak and probably not worth it, but ordered because it was #1 ranked.

MMMMMM!  You’ll end up with a golden brown circle of goodness just like above, which you will vigorously slash through with the special tool and slam down onto your plate.

Where you will load it up with: katsuobushi (bonito [fish] flakes), okonomiyaki sauce (like Worcestershire, but muuuch thicker and sweeter; addictive), aonori (seaweed), ginger, and…mayo!

Every bite has a lot going on, in a good way.  Meat. Cake. Cabbage. Heat. Sweet. Chewy. Salty. Tangy. Slimy. Hot. Crunchy. Creamy.

Onto the monja!  It was, I must confess, my first time having monja yaki.  It went through a “boo-mu” (“Boom”; i.e. fad) when I was still living in Japan (now over a decade ago [!]) but I never got around to trying it.

Monja yaki is, in essence, a watery, raw version of okonomiyaki.  Sounds completely unappealing, doesn’t it? That’s why I think I avoided it in the first place.  But why?  It has such Janet-appeal.  The watery-ness means it’s basically one big, complex condiment, which makes my nerves trill.  There are deliciously burney elements.  Finally, the D— tools are mini-fied!!!

EEEEE SOO CUUUUUTE!

This time, like proper obedient Japanese, we ordered the #1 aitemu.  It was mentai mochi cheezu (spicy cod roe & mochi & cheese) which I’m sure is making the more squeamish MTFB readers shudder but was really quite awesome.

Well, I have to admit it came out looking a bit daunting.  I mean, is that, like, shredded cheddar and jack? (I am less disturbed by the sac of fish eggs resting on top.)

Again, mix mix mix.  Then spread on the griddle.  This time it’ll be way runnier so your job is simply to wave the thingies around as if you’re doing something.

Then, when it’s just barely cooked (you will know when the fish eggs have slightly swollen and turned white – HORF!) use your mini tools and scoop little driplets into your mouth.

Once that’s all nommed up, time for the realllllly good part – the burninated bottom layer, which is an eye-fluttering mishmash of cheese, salt, popping fish eggs, and chewy thin mochi.  Use your mini tools to dig dig dig under that layer, which is absolutely glued to the griddle.  Munch on your well-earned two to three flakes.  Repeat.

Sadly, the next day my palm in between my thumb and pointer was bruised and sore and tender from the repeated jamming of the thingie (that’s what she said?).  Absolutely worth it, though, and now that Venus and I are both up here in SF we definitely need to go again.  And get sore from the thingie.

Gaja Moc
2383 Lomita Blvd #102
Lomita, CA 90717
310.534.0153

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