Okonomiyaki is one of the most brilliant inventions of the Japanese cuisine. Easy, quick, versatile and full of flavours, it is a dish one falls in love with at first bite and becomes instantly addicted to. I wrote here about my first impressions a couple of months ago and have never got tired of it since then. I must have prepared okonomiyaki for at least thirty different meals. As I said then, I still think that if well advertised this dish has a potential to become as popular and loved as pizza. If only the Japanese cuisine wasn’t associated with sushi, seaweed and miso soup, but with such universally enjoyable dishes as this one… To those who see it for the first time, okonomiyaki might look messy and/or unappetising, but in reality few people are able to resist it (I still have to meet someone who does).
As a reminder, “okonomiyaki” means “grill what you like/want” and apart from the several obligatory ingredients and toppings (which also depend on the region), this thick pancake can be made with practically anything. There are two main types of okonomiyaki: Hiroshima-style, containing noodles, and a lighter Osaka (Kansai) style. My okonomiyaki are rather Osaka-style (thank you, Hiroyuki). After numerous experiments, I have now two favourite versions: the mushroom okonomiyaki (click here to see the recipe) and chicken okonomiyaki I am presenting today. The latter has also become the most frequent version, because, as a big chicken fan, I always have chicken breasts either in the fridge or in the freezer. A Japanese friend told me she has never seen chicken okonomiyaki in her country, but since I can add whatever I like…
Okonomiyaki’s ingredients can be divided into three groups: the batter, the filling and the topping. The batter’s amount is small and it’s there only to bind the filling, which is often composed mainly of shredded/chopped cabbage. The toppings can be adapted to everyone’s taste, but in my opinion chives (or spring onion), mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce are obligatory. My favourite topping is composed of mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, chopped chives and I put lots of my beloved dried bonito flakes. I know some Europeans who love okonomiyaki but hate dried bonito, so it can be omitted of course. Pickled ginger is one of the traditional toppings too, but somehow I prefer it as a side dish. One the other hand I always add chili sauce or paste (most often Taberu Rayu I wrote about here). Thanks to Hiroyuki‘s advice I no longer buy okonomiyaki sauce (which was too sweet for me anyway) and prepare my own sauce mixing ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. Thank you, Hiroyuki, for this precious recipe!
Visit Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking, Nami’s Just One Cookbook, Robert-Gilles’s Shizuoka Gourmet, Arudhi’s A Box of Kitchen to learn more about other okonomiyaki versions and Charles’s Five Euro Food to see a very European interpretation. I would like to thank them once more for inspiration.
TIPS: Okonomiyaki batter mixture can be bought in Japanese grocery shops or prepared from the scratch. Personally I am happy to prepare it from the scratch since it takes two minutes and I’m sure it tastes better. I have seen different batter recipes and mine is composed of an egg, some flour, some dashi (Japanese stock), salt, pepper, baking powder and, last but not least, grated mountain yam (or yamaimo in Japanese), a slimy cousin of the potato (I fin it in organic shops). When I don’t have yam or dashi, I simply omit them, trying to keep the same pancake-like texture. The result is still delicious, albeit slightly different. Dried shrimp is not obligatory either.
Okonomioyaki mixture can be prepared in advance and fried/grilled the following day. As an addict, I often make a double batch and have it two days in a row. (Actually I even had it recently for three meals in a row: a lunch, a dinner and a lunch the following day…).
Special equipment: a big pancake spatula is very useful to flip okonomiyaki
Preparation: 40 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2):
5 tablespoons flour
3 cm grated mountain yam (yamaimo) (can be omitted, but then less flour should be added)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 – 5 big white cabbage leaves chopped or finely cubed (the hard central “vein” removed)
1 chicken breast
1 tablespoon oil
8 thin slices of smoked streaky bacon, cut into bite-sized squares
(3 tablespoons dried tiny Japanese shrimp (sakura ebi); I don’t advise other types of shrimp or dried shrimp from other countries: they might be chewy and tough)
dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
okonomiyaki sauce (or a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce)
chopped chives or spring onions
2 tablespoons oil
(chili paste, oil or sauce, such as Taberu Rayu)
Cut up the chicken breast into small cubes (1 cm x 1 cm). Season with salt and pepper, fry until golden brown and put aside.
In a big bowl combine the batter ingredients. Add the filling ingredients (except for the bacon!) and adjust their amount (the mixture should be very thick, not liquid and the batter should only bind the ingredients together and not dominate them).
Heat one tablespoon oil in a frying pan or on a smooth grill (called teppanyaki grill or la plancha).
Put half of the okonomiyaki mixture in a more or less round-shaped heap (you can adjust it on the pan).
Put the bacon slices on top, flatten delicately the pancake, but not too much. Otherwise it might fall into pieces when you turn it over. (My okonomiyaki is max. 1,5 cm/about 1/2 inch high)
Cover the pan and let it fry at medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes.
Turn the pancake over, cover once more and fry for another 5 minutes.
Repeat the same with the remaining batter.
Serve the bacon side up, topped with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, chives, dried bonito flakes and chili sauce/oil or paste.