By Katya Golubkova
HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - The cheap and cheerful savoury Japanese pancake that stirs both feelings of local pride and deep rivalry in the city of Hiroshima has found its newest fan in British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
During his visit for the three-day Group of Seven (G7) leaders summit in Hiroshima, Sunak sampled okonomiyaki, a heaped mound of batter, cabbage, noodles and often meat that is fried on a hot plate and then smothered with savoury sauce.
Its name means "cooked as you like" and it is widely considered "soul food" in Japan. In some restaurants it is fried in front of the customers, in others the customers fry it themselves.
It is also the subject of fierce regional rivalry, not unlike the debate over thin crust or Chicago-style deep dish pizza in the United States.
In Hiroshima the ingredients are layered before cooking, but in Osaka they are mixed together first. Sunak, who tried okonomiyaki with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida - who represents Hiroshima in parliament - tried it Hiroshima style.
Sunak told reporters he "particularly enjoyed" having the okonomiyaki during his visit.
"Prime Minister Kishida pointed out to me how you do that – how you do that here in Hiroshima is different to how they do that in Tokyo, different to Osaka," he said on the sidelines of the G7 summit.
"He said the Hiroshima ones are the best. I have no reason to disagree. It has been delicious."
Hiroshima, home to more than 1 million people, boasts some 800 Okonomiyaki restaurants. Ahead of the G7 summit some local restaurants rolled out special versions to cater to foreign tastes by including ingredients from the different G7 countries.
There is one with German sauerkraut, and a maple syrup-infused Canadian version. The French option has cabbage, bean sprouts, bacon, cheese, sauce and a fried egg, all wrapped in a crepe.
It was not clear if Sunak got to try the British version - which featured fish and chips - or if he even wanted to.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Hugh Lawson)