I’d always thought of surprises life has in store for us as a box of chocolates or a brown paper package tied up with strings… That is, until I experienced the way of the iron-born. As chefs diced and set aflame a bespoke okonomiyaki for me, amazing me with their jaw-dropping knife skills, dexterous egg toss and prodigious pyro-magic, I learnt how surprises can dazzle, all flash and fiery and fresh!

Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine - a sizzling performance art some will argue - that uses an iron griddle to cook food. The term derives from teppan (iron plate) and yaki (broiled or grilled or pan-fried) and references the finely chopped and impressively grilled meats and vegetables in a mouth-watering mélange, including steak, seafood, okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake or omelet of ‘what you want grilled’), yakisoba (fried noodles) and monjayaki (pan-fried batter comprising varied ingredients). Freshness of ingredients, bite-sized skilful chopping and subtle seasoning (usually limited to soy sauce, salt and pepper, wine and vinegar) are of utmost importance since, all the drama notwithstanding, the teppanyaki style of cooking capitalises on the original flavour of the ingredients. Cooked at high heat with just a drizzle of oil, Teppanyaki dishes are a healthy and interesting meal. Teppanyaki masters at restaurants operate‘live’, dicing, stirring, seasoning and dividing each diner’s portion onto plates on the teppan, playing with fire so you can relish the sizzling hot experience! The egg-trick that would have had Sabrina wide-eyed and bean sprouts stir-fried with garlic are customary, as is the ‘volcano’ of onions sliced, stacked, and set aflame.

This diligent and dramatic showstopper of a cooking style traces back to the period immediately after WWII, when an enterprising restaurateur started cooking steak on a tableside teppan in Kobe. It is said that this unique Teppanyaki steak became a rage with the dancers, occupational soldiers and the Americans. Very soon, Misono became world famous, prompting other local chefs to improvise their cooking into an unforgettable performance art.

Hold your breath during the Teppanyaki Theatricalist festival at ITC Sonar, wherein Chef Jerry Bernasol will chop, toss and flambé your menu selection with great panache, all through June. If you’re in Mumbai, definitely learn the way of the iron-born at the Art of Japanese Grill and Griddle promotion that continues from9 to 16 Juneat ITC Maratha.

Go ahead and play with fire!