Jan 30, 2020

Tasting: Taco Bell - Okonomiyaki Burrito

Taco Bell's Okonomiyaki Burrito features pork carnitas, shredded cabbage, cheddar cheese, crispy red tortilla strips, okonomiyaki sauce, and Japanese mayo wrapped and grilled in a warm flour tortilla. It was offered as a limited-time item in Japan last year but I was able to try it at Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, CA.

The dish that the burrito takes its inspiration from, okonomiyaki, is an interesting one as it came about post-WWII during the general food and, more specifically, rice (a Japanese staple) shortage of that time. US forces occupied the country during its reformation and provided flour and lard as part of relief measures, which were used with whatever other ingredients were available to make something like a savory pancake. Okonomi basically means "whatever you like," while yaki means "cooked" or "grilled." Pork, cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce, and Japanese mayo are common components, while cheese is not unusual.

Taco Bell's Okonomiyaki Burrito contained more meat (it seemed like more than half of the filling was pork carnitas) than any burrito I've had at Taco Bell. The pork was moist and lightly seasoned.

Okonomiyaki sauce is like a thicker, sweeter take on Worcestershire sauce. It's savory, tangy, and quite sweet. It and the pork provided the bulk of the flavor for the burrito. The mayo added some creaminess and more sweetness (Japanese mayo is sweeter than American mayo). The cheese didn't do too much as it's quite mild.

The chips and cabbage provided a little bit of a crunch and buffer against the richness of the rest of the burrito but, for the most part, the Okonomiyaki Burrito felt somewhat like an all-meat teriyaki pork burrito, which is enjoyable but I actually wished there was some more cabbage to balance it all out.

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