Smarter Living: Recipes

Okonomiyaki is commonly described as a “Japanese pizza”, but in fact its consistency and taste is more like a savory pancake (perhaps most comparable to a thick corn pancake). Like a pizza, however, you can make it with a mixture of whatever ingredients you like (or whatever you have in the fridge). Okonomiyaki effectively translates to “as you like it.”

It’s perfect for throwing a meal together at the last second as the only necessary ingredients are cabbage, flour, eggs, and water. As the name implies, whatever else you throw in is up to personal preference. Some options include: prawn, pork, octopus, ham, scallops, fish, cheese, corn, carrot, potato, mushroom, asparagus, peas, onion, bell pepper, and zucchini. You can try any combination of veggies, meat, seafood, and condiments you’d like, so go crazy!

Japanese pancake

Photo: Mike Dynalab

Ingredients for Vegetarian Okonomiyaki Pancakes:

Typically makes four medium pancakes.

Basic Batter

  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (less if you use table salt)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (to be used when frying the pancakes)

Filling

(this is where you can experiment with whatever you want)

  • 2 cups cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 can sweet corn (8 oz.)
  • 1 can green peas (8 oz.)
  • 4 shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 medium potato, grated
  • 1/2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 tbsp benishoga

Toppings

(see below for further explanation)

  • Japanese mayonnaise (or typical mayonnaise)
  • tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
  • aonori (green nori flakes, nori is dried seaweed)
  • benishoga (red picked ginger)

Method

  1. Put all of the batter and filling ingredients in a large bowl (except the oil) and mix until combined (don’t worry if there are small lumps of flour). Note: you can double the amount of batter if you want a more pancake-like okonomiyaki.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed pan (a cast iron skillet is ideal but any frying pan will do) over medium heat until hot and pour a splash of oil in the pan (you should add a splash of oil before each pancake).
  3. Spoon some of the mixture into the middle of the pan and flatten into a circle about 1 inch thick and 6 inches across. Allow this to fry until the bottom of the pancake is cooked enough that you can lift one edge with a spatula and it doesn’t fall apart (this will take a few minutes).
  4. Flip the pancake and use a spatula to press it down (sometimes it helps to use two spatulas due to the size of the pancake). Your finished okonomiyaki will be about half an inch thick. Continue to fry the second side until it’s also lightly browned and the center is cooked.
  5. Use a spatula to transfer the cooked okonomiyaki to a plate then spread some tonkatsu sauce on top. Squirt the Japanese mayo on top of that. If you’re feeling creative you can do designs with the mayo (it is commonly applied in a sort of lattice design in restaurants). Finish by lightly sprinkling aonori across the pancake and placing some pickled ginger in the middle for color (or serve it on the side with extra sauce for people to add as they please).

More on the toppings:

You may not have come across the typical toppings used on okonomiyaki. First, there’s Japanese mayonnaise, which is creamier in both color and texture than American mayo as it uses Japanese rice vinegar (instead of distilled white vinegar) and more egg yolks. Second is tonkatsu sauce (or okonomiyaki sauce if you can find it), a Japanese sauce typically used on pork cutlets. And finally, there are three toppings sprinkled on top: bonito flakes (flakes of dried, smoked bonito fish or skipjack tuna), aonori (green nori also known as dried seaweed) and benishoga (red picked ginger). Side note: as I typically make a vegetarian style okonomiyaki pancake I leave out the bonito flakes.

These toppings can be purchased at any Japanese grocery store (which can be easily found online using directories like this New York listing). If you don’t have access to a Japanese grocery store it’s not the end of the world. You can use your typical mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce (instead of tonkatsu sauce) and will likely have to forgo the aonori, bonito flakes and benishoga.

last revised 4/19/2011

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