Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き ) can be translated roughly as “grill what you like” (“okonomi” means “what you like/want” and “yaki” means here “grilled”). This thick savoury pancake with an impressive variety ingredients might look weird, messy, not very appetising and definitely not photogenic, but I can assure you it is one of the most palatable dishes I have ever had in my life. In my opinion, if well advertised and popularised, okonomiyaki could conquer the whole world, just like Italian pizza did. It has certainly won over the whole Japan, even though it has origins in Osaka and Hiroshima. For me this is another example of a typically Japanese, but universally enjoyable dish. Depending on the ingredients and toppings, okonomiyaki could satisfy even the pickiest eaters and those who are afraid of the Japanese cuisine (yes, they do exist).
As its name suggests, okonomiyaki can be prepared with practically everything. At first it looks and tastes as if the ingredients were chosen randomly. In reality, in spite of many different okonomiyaki versions, there are certain recurring items such as a thick pancake batter, shredded or cubed cabbage or grated mountain yam (yamaimo). There are also two main okonomiyaki styles: Kansai (Osaka) and Hiroshima style. Both are very well described and accompanied by detailed recipes on Shizuoka Gourmet blog. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki contains noodles, while Osaka (Kansai) style is lighter and doesn’t include them. My okonomiyaki is rather Osaka-style (thank you, Hiroyuki).
I heard – or rather read – about okonomiyaki for the first time on Hiroyuki’s blog on Japanese Cooking. Then I realised Robert-Gilles (Shizuoka Gourmet), Charles (Five Euro Food), Nami (Just One Cookbook) and Arudhi (A Box of Kitchen) have also posted okonomiyaki recipes. Hiroyuki’s award winning okonomiyaki included several types of mushrooms and was vegetarian, Nami’s recipe included squid, Arudhi’s shredded beef, Charles’s recipe was surprisingly Europeanised and free-style, while Robert-Gilles has posted a whole encyclopedia of different okonomiyaki styles, including the recipes… All these fascinating posts proved extremely useful, informative and helped me to choose the ingredients for my first experiment.
Here is my very first version of okonomiyaki. I must say it will be one of the most beautiful food memories of my life. The first bite of okonomiyaki is a magical experience. It is like an explosion of different flavours, colours and textures, which surprisingly stay in a perfect harmony. I love okonomiyaki also because it can be made with leftovers, because it is quick, healthy and because it encourages me to be creative. Thank you so much, my blogging friends, for your for help, inspiration, detailed information and, most of all, for making me discover this extraordinary dish.
My version doesn’t reproduce any of the mentioned okonomiyaki recipes because I have picked ideas from each of them and adapted to my taste. I wanted to keep my okonomiyaki as Japanese as possible, so I used dashi, dried shrimp, mountain yam, eringi and Japanese toppings too. I am very happy I have opted for the smoked and not raw bacon because it proved excellent here. If you want to start experimenting with okonomiyaki, I advise reading attentively all the above-mentioned posts and choosing what you feel will please you most.
TIPS: I find mountain yam (yamaimo) in organic shops in France, so maybe it is also easy to find in this type of shops in other countries.
Special equipment: a very big pancake turner is very useful here
Preparation: 20 minutes
Ingredients (serves two):
5 slightly heaped tablespoons flour
3 cm/about 1,2 in grated mountain yam (yamaimo)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 big white cabbage leaves chopped or finely cubed (the hard central “vein” removed)
2 handfuls chopped eringi mushrooms
5 tablespoons cubed smoked pork loin
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
1 handful fresh mungo bean sprouts
4 thin slices of smoked streaky bacon
4 thin slices of eringi mushrooms
dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
okonomiyaki sauce (I used tonkatsu sauce instead and it was great too)
ao nori (powdered light green seaweed)
2 tablespoons oil
In a big bowl combine the batter ingredients except for the sliced bacon and sliced eringi. Add the filling ingredients and adjust their amount (the mixture should be very thick, not liquid and the batter should only bind the ingredients together and not dominate it).
Heat 1 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 and eringi slices on top, flatten delicately the pancake, but not too much. Otherwise it might fall into pieces when you turn it over.
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, sauce, ao nori and dried bonito flakes.