Hours after landing arriving in Japan the first time, back in 2005, we were introduced to okonomiyaki, a delicious Japanese pancake-like meal. Kansai is the geographic region surrounding the cities of Kyoto and Osaka and okonomiyaki is a Kansai area specialty. We were visiting Matt and Robin at the time and ate it in a tiny restaurant in their Osaka neighbourhood. We live in the Kanto region, however, where good okonomiyaki is not easily found. Hence, the need to learn to make it.
Recently, the students in one of Richard’s adult classes had a homework assignment that required them to translate favourite recipes into English and bring them to class. Two ladies brought recipes for okonomiyaki! I also had a cookbook recipe. Using these three recipes, I created one of my own and tried it out yesterday.
The first challenge was shopping for the ingredients. Okonomiyaki calls for flour. Since I don’t have an oven here, I can’t bake and hadn’t looked for flour before. I hoped I wouldn’t have to buy a big bag as the recipe only calls for half a cup. Silly me! I should know by now that nothing, except rice, comes in big packages in Japan! Milk is sold in 1 litre cartons, carrots 3 to a bag, potatoes 4 or 5 to a bag, and the biggest package of cereal on the Seiyu shelves is 435 g. After searching and finally locating the flour, I was delighted to find that it only comes in 1 kg bags!
I was very excited to learn that, while most okonomiyaki recipes call for Chinese yam, a potato makes a good substitute. I could probably get Chinese yam here if I was able to identify it from amongst the many unknown items in the produce department but I definitely want to be able to make okonomiyaki back home in Canada and I can easily get potatoes in the Sedgewick Coop! Whether using yam or potato, the secret is to use a grater that turns it to mush.
I am very happy to report that my first attempt at making okonomiyaki in Japan was a great success! It was simple and delicious. And so, without further ado, here’s my recipe:
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 small potato, peeled and grated
- 2 eggs
- 100 g (1/2 Japanese cup or 2/5 American cup) flour
- 1/4 cabbage, chopped
- 100 g pork, thinly sliced
- red pickled ginger to taste, chopped fine
Place the potato, eggs and flour in a large bowl and mix well to form a thick batter. Cut some of the pork into small pieces keeping 4 slices aside. Add the cabbage, cut pork and ginger to the batter. Mix until ingredients are well coated. Form 2 large pancakes. Top each with two slices of pork and cook in a hot pan or on a griddle. Turn over after 3 minutes and cook for 5 minutes. Turn again and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn once more, cooking for 3 minutes. Spread with okonomiyaki sauce (thick Japanese style Worcester sauce) and mayonnaise and sprinkle with dried bonito (fish) flakes.
Additional fillings such as shrimp or cheese may be added.