Aka kyabetsu to ninniku no okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake with Red Cabbage and Garlic)

red_okopIf 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:

Okonomiyaki with Chorizo
Okonomiyaki with Chorizo
Okonomiyaki with Bok Choy and Chicken
Okonomiyaki with Bok Choy and Chicken
Okonomiyaki with Chicken
Okonomiyaki with Chicken
Okonomiyaki with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon
Okonomiyaki with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

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

30 ml/about 1 oz dashi (Japanese stock, home-made or instant) or milk

1 egg

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)

(pickled ginger)

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.

34 Replies to “Aka kyabetsu to ninniku no okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake with Red Cabbage and Garlic)”

  1. This looks so very good.

    I’ve been wanting to make okonomyaki (with chorizo would be amazing though I also have the rest of the surimi package in my fridge) for the last month, but I’ve got so many other items scheduled to empty from the freezer, that I have to make appropriate side dishes for, that creating a menu from scratch is almost impossible to manage. Even more difficult is the fact that I’m cooking for one and all my meal plans are for 2-8 people. The pantry clearance is going well but organization is a bear.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. I’m not sure if surimi would be good here (but then I hate warm surimi, so it’s personal). Chorizo is fantastic though! Good luck with pantry clearance! (My freeezer is so small I don’t have this problem: bread and ice cubes take already half of it.

  2. Generous amount of mayo, as always (laugh)!
    As for pickled ginger (beni shoga), many Japanese actually add it to the batter, but I don’t because my children don’t care for beni shoga. As for bacon, I think that thinly sliced pork belly is more common, but I guess it’s rather hard to come by outside of Japan, right?

    1. Hi Hiroyuki, mayonnaise is obligatory for me here. I have a very good French low-fat brand (3x less fat and calories), so I can have fun without remorses. Actually two brands! (Though it took me time to look for them… I threw out several jars of disgusting tasteless low-fat stuff before). I think also the Japanese low-fat mayonnaise is not bad (though not as good as these; they really “cheat” very well).
      Thank you for the correction. I have always assumed it was salt-cured (unsmoked) bacon! I have just updated the post. I can find pork belly here without problems (though of course not sliced thinly, unless I ask the butcher of course… apart from Japanese grocery shops where it’s sold cut and frozen and costs a fortune), but I largely prefer smoked bacon. In general I love smoked meats.
      You know, I have adapted okonomiyaki so much to my taste, last time I went to Japan I didn’t like it so much… and I went to apparently good okonomiyaki places (according to my friend and internet sources). I did discover a very original version though (I’ll try coping it soon). I just missed so much my smoked bacon, chicken bits in the batter, taberu rayu wasn’t available… and now that I added garlic to the batter, I think I’ll never go to eat okonomiyaki in Japan (unless there is something really exceptional).

  3. I do love these fresh and very flavourful Japanese pancakes, you always seem to put the most wonderful combinations together and it makes me want to have one as I read your delightful description Sissi. We are coming up to Shrove Tuesday when traditionally in North America we eat pancakes for dinner! This will be a perfect alternative to a normally sickly sweet dish.
    Canada just won the Gold medal in men’s hockey in Sochi and our streets are going crazy, so much celebration! I even watched most of the game (I did go up into the kitchen to begin preparing the batter for English Muffins that we had for breakfast), but I didn’t miss much. Canadian Women won Gold for Women’s hockey too! Go Canada Go!
    PS Sorry Charles.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I would also prefer this one rather than a sweet pancake I think. Congratulations! I’m not particularly interested in sports competitions, so I even had no idea who won at which discipline 😉

  4. A few months back I was reading an article on the “new” and hot foods for 2014. Okonomiyaki or the Japanese pancake was one of those foods. Of course this article was directed at Americans to who this pancake is not very well known. I had never heard of it and here you, have two recipes on your site! Love it! Need to add this to my “foods to make in 2014” list. Thanks for making it easy for me Sissi! Gotta love anything with garlic and bacon!

    1. Hi, MJ. There are more than two recipes actually 😉 It’s an amazing, easy and versatile dish, so you should try it! (My addition of garlic is not Japanese at all, but I love it this way).

    1. Yes, I have even posted a recipe once 😉 (Though there are different kinds of Korean pancakes; you probably mean the most popular one with green onions).

  5. I would like to try okonomiyaki. It must be very flavorful especially with the garlic and cabbage that you added. It looks like a good Japanese comfort food. Have a good week Sissi. 🙂

  6. I have to take Japanese coking lessons from you. After all you are closer to me than Japan haha! It looks delectable and so tasty! Start packing your luggage lol!

  7. Sissi, I always love your Japanese pancakes — they look so beautiful and exotic (and of course nothing like our traditional North American pancakes). This one has the prettiest layerings of colour – a little artistic masterpiece. I think if I ever came to see you, this is what I would request 😉 — (only full fat mayo for me. simply egg + olive oil, all good !!) :).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I have always thought okonomiyaki looks really messy and not appetising, especially to those who have never had it (because even when I see the ugliest of okonomiyaki photos, I am instantly hungry!). You are always welcome, Kelly! I’ll prepare okonomiyaki with pleasure, just remember to choose the version 🙂

  8. Hi Sissi, We certainly don’t have any problem with awesome and perfectly tasty mayonnaise here in the U.S.
    We always use Hellman’s real mayo, and sometimes buy the British brand, or bring back Italian may when we go to Italy. I do love your version of the Japanese pancakes, and combining it with the pretty and flavorful red cabbage, and garlic. This would certainly be a full meal for me right about in the mid afternoon, since I have not been eating dinners for the last couple weeks and just eat easy but tasty appetizers and/or unique salads!

    I have not been visiting blogs regularly lately…neglected yours, as well (so sorry) Not been a very good couple weeks…lost my precious kitty…so sad:(

    1. Hi, Elisabeth. I didn’t mean we have problems to find delicious mayonnaise (I’m not a fan of Hellman’s (but maybe it has a different taste in the US?); I can buy here the fantastic Japanese mayonnaise, which is my number one and French mayonnaise is just a step behind this one). I meant it’s difficult to find tasty but low-fat mayonnaise and it’s very important for me because the fat content is really much much lower… and given my love for mayonnaise, I’d already put on several clothes sizes otherwise 😉 It’s actually the only low-fat food I buy.
      Thank you for kind compliments. I’m sorry for your loss. Unfortunately cats don’t have long lives…

  9. This is something I haven’t had in a really long time and should make for my parents-in-law. It’s a shame I can’t get katsuobushi here because I really feel like that’s important for a truly “authentic” one (at least in my opinion). I always end up cooking it too hot… need to work on that so it doesn’t burn the outside and stay raw inside!

    Looks lovely Sissi – making me hungry too. How could I have gone so long without eating this wonderful dish? Must fix that soon!

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. From my experience most people in Europe hate katsuobushi (I don’t know why because it’s so addictive!). I still remember my Japanese friend made an okonomiyaki party, but instead of putting katsuobushi aside, she served it already on each okonomiyaki. She said everyone was complimenting (probably out of politeness) but she saw no one liked it very much… and she didn’t know why. I told her of course it was because of katsuobushi. She was so surprised!
      On the other hand, in Sweden people it so much herring which has a strong taste, maybe your parents-in-law would like katsuobushi too!

  10. Amazing Sissi! I always enjoy okonomiyaki at local Japanese Izakaya but never thought of making it myself. The recipe looks wonderful and manageable so I’ll probably try it myself soon. Love eating all the comments on mayo. I think i’ll have to look for a healthier mayo myself too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Yi. Thank you so much for the compliments. Okonomiyaki is very easy to prepare. Do try to find yam though. It makes the whole pancake fluffier and lighter (though of course it’s not obligatory).
      Good mayonnaise has always been one of my obligatory products in the fridge, so when I realised I could no longer eat it without limits, I was glad to find good light versions (most are really awful…). I cannot eliminate it from my meals (I’m not disciplined enough) so I had to make this compromise…

  11. I love seeing many variations of okonomiyaki from your post! I try different versions too just for fun. I need to try monjayaki one day. My mom never cooked it at home so I actually never made it at home. I love the mayo and sauce combination (and I’d say mayo is a must too!). Looks delicious. I have to make a lot and freeze… this is the best lunch ever (just for myself!).

    1. Thank you, Nami. I must stop modifying okonomiyaki, but somehow I cannot resist it… I’m not a big fan of monjayaki (I had it only once in a place which made excellent okonomiyaki, so I suppose it was equally good in monjayaki category, but I didn’t like the mushy texture… and because of its liquid consistency it somehow burnt…). It was also difficult to prepare compared to okonomiyaki.

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