For a long time, Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) was my favorite food. But then I realized it’s not fair to have a favorite food in Japan (or any other country, really) because food is just so darn delicious.
People call Okonomiyaki a Japanese Pancake, but I think that is a little misleading. Sure, Okonomiyaki looks and cooks like a pancake, but pancakes are sweet, and Okonomiyaki is not. In the end, Okonomiyaki is fried batter with cabbage and meat inside, topped with a salty brown sauce, mayonnaise, fish flakes, and seaweed.
The name Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) has two kanji in it, the kanji for “like” (好) and the kanji for “fried” (焼). From what I understand, the name Okonomiyaki sort of means “fry what you like” – which makes sense because there are an assortment of different kinds of Okonomiyaki – and every shop I go to is different.
Okonomiyaki shops are interesting, because you cook the food yourself. Some places even let/makes you flip the pancake. But the first time you go to one of these places, you might be a little overwhelmed (I remember the first time I went to one, back when I went to boarding school up in Hokkaido – I was so confused), so I wanted to make a quick guide on how to make your Okonomiyaki properly!
1. Sit down and let them turn on the griddle for you. Most Okonomiyaki shops have a griddle in the middle of the table. They will clean it, oil it, and turn it on as soon as you sit down.
(A nearby table. Notice the dials on the side the controls the griddle)
If you’re making Okonomiyaki at home, turn on your griddle and oil it well.
2. Mix the batter well. Don’t worry it stuff falls out of the bowl, you can heap the mixed batter on top of all the spills – and everything is fine! The better you mix, the better it will taste.
If you making it at home, here is the recipe I like to use:
–1 cup of whole wheat flour (it’s best if you use Okonomiyaki flour- but I know most of you can’t find that outside of Japan)
– ¾ a cup of water (but I usually end up using less. Start with half a cup and go from there)
– 2 eggs (if you don’t like the taste of egg, use one – but I like my Okonomiyaki a little “eggy”)
– ¼ of a cabbage, cut into TINY shreds. If you need a specific size, I try to use a little over 3 cups (but I pack the cabbage hard into the cups). Using a little too much – or too little – cabbage isn’t going to ruin the recipe.
– 1-2 green onions, sliced thinly. If you don’t like green onions, you don’t have to add it.
(You will need Pork, Beef, Bacon, or Shrimp – cut into shreds to put on later, but don’t add it in the batter yet)
Mix everything – except the meat – in a bowl.
3. Pour everything on the griddle. If you’re in a shop, they will probably do this for you. Try to get all the batter together (ie, no tiny pancakes off to the side. Put it in one big heap). Try to flatten down the top so it is a little thicker than the size of a hamburger bun.
If you’re at home, I like to use a ladle to scoop the batter. It’s much easier (I think) and you have better control. You don’t have to use all the batter at once, general rule of thumb, each Okonomiyaki should be about the size of a ladle (but can be bigger).
(My host mother Atsuko pouring Okonomiyaki)
4. Lay the meat on top of the Okonomiyaki. We used bacon here.
5. Put on all the other toppings. In this picture, the “bonito” fish flakes are on top. I usually put them on at the end, but each restaurant is different.
Also, if you look closely, the left-most Okonomiyaki also has soba noodles on it. I was surprised; I’ve never seen that before. So basically, you can add whatever you want on top.
If you’re at home, common toppings are: Beef, Pork, Squid, Shrimp, Octopus, and other meats.
6. Flip the Okonomiyaki. This part is tricky. I usually fail. If you’re lucky the shop will do it for you.
If you’re at home, you’re on your own. I think the trick is to use the biggest spatula available – preferably a nice, rubber one with a large surface.
Once you flip it, it should look like this.
(To the right of the Okonomiyaki is some Yakisoba. I will do a post about it later. Yakisoba is amazing!)
7. Put on mayonnaise.Unless, of course, you are Ryosuke and have an unnatural fear of mayonnaise. Also, try to use Japanese mayonnaise – if you can find it. I don’t know how exactly they make it, but it is worlds better than American mayonnaise – and much less oily. Last time I went home, I brought some back with me from Japan. My parents love it.
8. Put on Okonomiyaki sauce. It’s similar to Worcestershire sauce – but thicker and a little sweeter. You cannot eat Okonomiyaki without this stuff.
If you’re at home and couldn’t find any sauce, I found this recipe online, but haven’t tried it yet. Reviews say it works… but I would just save yourself the trouble and buy the sauce.
2 tablespoons 30 ml Tomato puree
2 tablespoons 30 ml Ketchup
1/3 cup 78 ml Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons 45 ml Dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sugar
7 tablespoons 105 ml Dashi (bonito stock)
2 tablespoons 30 ml Cornstarch – dissolved in
2 tablespoons 30 ml Water
Bring tomato puree, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, sugar and dashi to boil in saucepan over high heat. Add cornstarch mixture, a little at a time, and cook until thickened to the texture of ketchup. Cool before serving.
This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.
Each tablespoon: 7 calories; 196 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.01 gram fiber.
9. Put on seaweed flakes. Don’t cut up seaweed – it doesn’t work that way.
If you haven’t put on the “bonito” fish flakes, do it now. They will start to “move” when they react to the heat. It’s really fun to watch.
10. Cut up the Okonomiyaki and enjoy!
I hope you like it – I adore Okonomiyaki! If you have any other suggestions for toppings – please leave a comment!