If you have been following my blog for some time, you might remember my discovery of okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), Japanese savoury pancake (also called Japanese omelette or pizza). As I said two years ago, the first bite of okonomiyaki was a magical experience, an explosion of different flavours, colours and textures, which surprisingly stay in a perfect harmony. Okonomiyaki means roughly “grill whatever you want” and since I started preparing it two years ago, I have been applying this recommendation to the letter, regularly experimenting with new versions.
Okonomiyaki might sound complicated, but it’s very easy to prepare. Apart from many different versions, there are two main okonomiyaki styles: Kansai (Osaka) and Hiroshima style. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki contains noodles and is heavier, while Osaka (Kansai) style is lighter and doesn’t include them. My okonomiyaki is close to Osaka-style. It consists of the fried “pancake” part (made with thin batter, cabbage and sometimes seafood and/or meat) and toppings, which are put after the frying process. It is often covered with thin slices of pork belly (I substitute it with smoked bacon – I largely prefer -, mushrooms or even chorizo), which become crunchy when the pancake is flipped.
I cannot explain why but okonomiyaki modifications are incredibly tempting. I have already been replacing the classical white cabbage successfully with bok choy/pak choy (see the recipe here), which gives slightly more delicate taste results. This time I didn’t look far and simply exchanged white cabbage with red. Red cabbage is slightly crispier, has a slightly stronger taste, but proved an excellent change from my regular white cabbage and pak choy versions.
Adding a bit of grated garlic to the batter is a completely different matter. Compared to red cabbage, it seemed a tiny almost invisible change, but it actually proved a real revolution! I was completely blown away by this garlicky version and quickly learnt that garlic greatly improves every single okonomiyaki version (white cabbage and bok choy included). Garlic is not very popular in Japan, but I can grill whatever I want!
If you feel like experimenting with okonomiyaki, here are some other versions I have posted:
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; 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 find it in organic shops and I know Asian and Chinese grocery shops sell it). It is not necessary, but in my opinion it largely improves the texture, making it lighter and fluffier. Yamaimo freezes very well (I freeze it peeled in individual portions and then grate when half thawed). 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.
Okonomiyaki is always served with okonomiyaki sauce. I once bought it and it was much too sweet, so I was happy to learn from Hiroyuki how to make my own sauce, mixing ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in desired proportions.
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…).
Dried shrimp is not obligatory, but if you use it, make sure you use tiny Japanese dried shrimp (not Thai shrimp which is bigger and chewy).
Special equipment: a very big pancake turner is very useful here
Preparation: 20 minutes
Ingredients (serves two):
2 tablespoons oil
5 slightly heaped tablespoons flour
3 cm/about 1,2 in grated mountain yam (yamaimo)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 garlic clove grated
half a small red cabbage (leaves finely shredded or finely cubed, the bottom of the hard central “vein” removed)
(4 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)
4 thin slices of smoked streaky bacon
dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
okonomiyaki sauce or tonkatsu sauce or a homemade version of okonomiyaki sauce (see tips above)
ao nori (powdered light green seaweed)
2 tablespoons oil
chives or green onions
(chili paste, oil or sauce, such as Taberu Rayu)
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, sticky enough to keep together 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 and whatever you feel like.
Many people like to put pickled ginger on top. I like it a lot, but served aside.