Out Of This World Okonimiyaki
Known as Japanese comfort food, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that is all at once sloppy, crispy, gooey, savory, sweet, and umami.
Among all of Japan’s unbelievably delicious foods (piping hot takoyaki, street-style yakisoba, hand-rolled sushi and onigiri rice ball snacks) there’s one dish that takes us right back to Osaka (a city that feels like our beloved second home). That dish is okonomiyaki, and it’s such a well-known and well-loved creation that we can’t believe it’s taken this long for us to share on our blog.
Okonomiyaki is described many ways. "Crepe" and "omelette" are two common comparisons. But you're bound to hear "Japanese pizza" or "Japanese pancake" most often. These monikers are all true to an extent but basically wrong. Okonomiyaki is a flour based mixture cooked on a griddle. Thus a cake from a pan, or "pancake." But it doesn't have the sweetness of fluffiness the name impies (at least in the American sense). Its pizzaness comes from the various ingredients. Just like you can have whatever you want on your pizza, you can have whatever you want on (or in) your okonomiyaki.
Fun to say and fun to cook, the word for this Japanese, cabbage-based pancake loosely translates as "what you like, grilled". As its name suggests, okonomiyaki is a flexible dish. There is a batter base, an obligatory cabbage filling and quite strict garnishes – but otherwise, the rest of the ingredients come down to what's at hand. Shrimp and octopus are popular fillings. Pork is also a common choice, usually in the form of pork belly cut into very thin strips, so it looks more like bacon.
The main technicalities surrounding okonomiyaki come down to the garnish. Okonomiyaki sauce is quite hard to track down- it is similar to a brown sauce in taste, texture and appearance, but the addition of soy or shiitake mushrooms imparts distinctive Japanese umami flavours. Japan's brand of Kewpie mayonnaise is thicker and creamier than its western counterpart. The final topping is bonito fish flakes, which are parmesan-thin flakes shaved off dried, fermented tuna. The heat emanating from a just-cooked okonomiyaki makes the bonito flakes "dance" over the pancake, but aside from decoration, their main purpose is to impart big umami notes. Bonito flakes can be found in Japanese specialist shops and are traditional, but not compulsory.
When it comes to cooking okonomiyaki, it is important that the pan is not blindingly hot. Stray pieces of cabbage blacken easily, and the result will be a crispy, dark outside and an undercooked center Keep the pan at a moderate temperature, and use a lid to trap the heat and encourage cooking on the sides, top and middle, not just the bottom.
1. 3 1/2 Cups of flour
2. 1/4 Tsp. of baking powder
3. 1/2 Tsp. salt
4. 1/2 Tsp. bonito powder
5. 3 Cups of water
6. 3 Cups of shredded cabbage
7. 2 Cups of shredded carrots
8. 1/2 Cup of sweet corn
9. 1 Cup of spinach
10. 2 Eggs
11. 1 Dollop of Mayonaise
12. 1 Liberal sprinkling of furikake powder
13. 1 Tbs. of peanut sauce
14. 1Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. To make the batter, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder bonito powder, and water, in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, carrots, sweet corn, and spinach to the batter and mix well for at least 30 seconds. Add the eggs and mix, lightly this time, for about 15 seconds, or until the eggs are just combined with the cabbage.
2. Preheat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet for at least 5 minutes on medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, making sure to coat the entire surface of the skillet. Cook the okonomiyaki in batches. Spoon batter mixture into the skillet to form a pancake about 6 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Don’t push down on the cabbage; you want a fluffy pancake.
3. Cook the pancake for about 3 minutes. Use a long spatula (a fish spatula is ideal) to carefully flip the pancake. Gently press down on the pancake with the spatula (don’t push too hard, you don’t want batter spilling from the sides)
4. Cook for about 5 more minutes, then flip the pancake again. (If the okonomiyaki comes apart when you flip it, don’t worry; use a spatula to tuck any stray ingredients back into the pancake.) Cook for about 2 more minutes. When it’s ready, the pancake should be lightly browned on both sides.
5. Transfer the pancake to a plate, and add the toppings. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of peanut sauce onto the pancake, in long ribbons. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise onto the pancake, also in long ribbons. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of furikake over the pancake.