Okonomiyaki

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

Directions

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.

Variations

Additional fillings such as shrimp or cheese may be added.

Okonomiyaki before toppings

Okonomiyaki before toppings

with toppings

with toppings

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5 thoughts on “Okonomiyaki

  1. We love a pancake supper on a rainy night in the summer or a stormy night in the winter. However, we have the ordinary breakfast kind with a variety of fruit toppings or just maple syrup!!!

    I think I will try doing this recipe of yours…sure has all the food groups!!! Is the pork cooked or raw when you add it? Can we buy red pickled ginger here?

  2. The pork is uncooked and sliced so thinly that it cooks very quickly. In fact, I buy both beef & pork cut that way here & love it. It’s about the the same thickness as bacon and is great for stir fries. I’ve already told Richard that I plan to invest in a meat slicer when we get home so I can cut my own! I’m not sure about the ginger. I’m hoping to find it in one of the Asian grocery stores in Edmonton. Here it’s sold in little plastic pouches in the refrigerated section of the store. I do know that you can buy bottles of pickled ginger that would be a suitable substitute. It’s thinly sliced and pink in colour. I’m also not sure about finding the okonomiyaki sauce. Again, I’m hoping an Asian grocery will have it. I know these things are all available in Vancouver where there is a larger Asian population but that’s a bit far to go for groceries!

  3. Wow, how long did it take to grate all that potato? Just grating a few tablespoons of daikon wears me out. ^_^

    How does regular potato compare to nagaimo in the end product? I’m experimenting with nagaimo alternatives myself.

    I have a couple of great recipes for okonomi sauce on my blog:

    http://okonomiyakirecipes.nthmost.com

    It’s also available to buy through Amazon.com:

    http://bit.ly/11UDkx

    Yes, I have a whole blog about okonomiyaki… it’s a fun food!

    –Naomi

  4. Since I usually cook for two, I only use one small potato and it doesn’t take long to grate. I’ve never used nagaimo so I don’t know how it compares but I’m happy with how the potato works especially since I can get it anywhere.

    Thanks for the information about okonomiyaki sauce! I’ll have to check it out.

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