I was looking through my boys’ photo albums and found this photo the other day; My boy enjoying cooking (?) Okonomiyaki at my parents’ house.
What a precious memory.
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” and yaki meaning “grill”. Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country.
I am from the south west of Japan, so that I am more familiar with Osaka-style okonomiyaki which is the predominant version of the dish found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, thin pork belly, seafood and vegetables. Some like to add mochi rice cake or even cheese.
There are restaurants that specialize in the dish.
Some okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself establishments, where the customer mixes and grills at tables fitted with teppan hotplate. They may also have a diner-style counter where the cook prepares the dish in front of the customers.
However, it is not at all complicated dish and my mum always cooked it at home.
Ingredients (for one pancake)
100g all purpose flour
1 tsp Bonito Dashi granules
1 tsp baking powder
2 pointed cabbage leaves
This is the basic dough. Cabbage always goes in the mixture in Osaka style.
Dashi granules are available at Asian supermarkets or online shops.
When I first arrived in the UK, I couldn’t find the right cabbage to make okonomiyaki. White cabbage is too hard and tightly wrapped and savoy cabbage is too different from what we have in Japan. Pointed cabbage is similar in taste and texture to Japanese cabbage.
Suggestion for additional ingredients
1 spring onion, finely chopped
prawn, squid or octopus
pork meat, finely sliced
cooked egg noodles
This is “How you like” pancake and you can add what ever you fancy.
1 tbsp Okonomiyaki sauce
dried bonito flakes/powder
Aonori seaweed powder
Some like adding Japanese mayonnaise, too
Okonomiyaki sauce is a Japanese BBQ sauce. If you cannot find it, you can substitute it with ketchap and soy sauce mix (1:1). I also found that the popular Caribean BBQ sauce works.
How To Prepare
1. Shred cabbage leaves finely. Mix flour, dashi granules, egg and water. Add cabbage leaves and set aside.
You can add your additional filling at this stage except raw meat if you are using some. Take care not to overwork the dough.
2. Heat up a frying pan with a little oil. Pour okonomiyaki mixture into a round pancake shape. If using meat, start cooking your meat strips separate from the pancake.
3. Once the underside of the pancake is done, add the cooked meat to the top and flip over to finish cooking.
I am making two at a time for my boys here. I am making one with egg noodles. Strange? but it works.
When both sides are golden brown and cooked through, spread sauce and sprinkle with bonito flakes or powder and Aonori seaweed powder. Cut the pancake into 4-5 pieces.
If you are nervous about flipping over the pancake, slide it off from the pan onto a large plate with the uncooked side up and then, flip it over.
I cook in frying pan like this, but we use our electric hotplate sometimes, especially when we need to serve many people. Place the hotplate in the centre of the dining table, and we all cook Okonomiyaki together. We can have a Okonomiyaki party! It is fun!
There are many celebrities who are converted Okonomiyaki lovers. I have seen Jonathan Ross cooks it on one of Gordon Ramsey show. There is also interesting series presented by Ainsley Harriott on Channel 4. He visits Japan and enjoys his first Okonomiyaki (served in Hiroshima style). It is called ‘Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food‘.
Fillings are not mixed in the batter in Hiroshima style. Thin pancake is spread on a pan and fillings are added on top of it.
It is so inexpensive and nutritious. You can be creative and make your own version. Basically, it is a savory pancake with filling topped with sauce. Have a go.