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Sauerkraut or sardines? Hiroshima's pancake goes global for G7 summit

Atsuki Kitaura, manager at okonomiyaki specialty chain Chinchikurin, prepares okonomiyaki, in Hiroshima, Japan

By Tom Bateman

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - When Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hosts leaders of the Group of Seven richest nations in Hiroshima this week, restaurants in the city hope to put a local speciality on the map, with a choice of fillings to cater for foreign tastes.

A gateway to tourism on the western side of Japan's main island, Hiroshima's name is forever carved in history as the first city to suffer the horror of a nuclear attack nearly 78 years ago.

Kishida's parliamentary constituency covers part of Hiroshima, a city that is home to over one million people, and also around 800 restaurants specialising in okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake whose name means "cooked as you like".

The ingredients of the signature dish typically include noodles, cabbage, batter, and meat fried on a hot metal plate, but for the G7 the Oconomiyaki Academy, a local restaurant trade group, has dreamed up variations incorporating favourite foods from each nation.

"You could say that okonomiyaki is the number-one most popular soul food among people from Hiroshima," said Atsuki Kitaura, the city-wide manager of the Chinchikurin chain.

"We thought a lot of customers from various countries overseas would come here, so we wanted to offer various flavours of okonomiyaki to match their taste."

They include German sauerkraut, as well as a maple syrup-infused Canadian version, and a carbonara style to honour Italy. For American tastes there will be burger meat, while the French version contains cabbage, bean sprouts, bacon, cheese, okonomiyaki sauce and a fried egg, all wrapped in a crepe.

Some locals weren't so sure about the new foreign fillings, such as the British-themed version with fried sardines and topped with potato chips.

"If it's fish and chips with a Coke, that's ok," said office worker Shinya Otsuki. "But I don't think I can eat it served this way."

(Reporting by Tom Bateman; Writing by Rocky Swift; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)