Okonomiyaki- Japanese style savory pancake
So these may sound very strange and exotic at first and you might want to just brush it off and say, savory pancake? No thank you! But…hear us out! Give it a try. It’s cheap, easy, and delicious!
Before our world tour, Dean was an Executive Chef for the University of Colorado in Boulder, a college with a very diverse student population, which meant that putting out a diverse menu was easy to do without many complaints. Each year there was a massive catering event that was made to showcase the diversity of the student population that he and his staff prepared all of the food for. There would be up to 35 different countries and Japan, of course, was one that was always represented. One year, the recipe for okonomiyaki came across his desk, and to be honest, it sounded weird! Shredded cabbage, eggs, flour, carrots, soy sauce, you get the picture. How could all of these ingredients together make a cohesive dish? Needless to say, they were a hit! Crispy cabbage got nestled in a warm batter that held it all together, and the best part, the sauces you put on top!
Fast forward to a few years later to when we travelled to Japan which held plethora of these okonomiyaki restaurants and we knew it was a must eat dish while we were there. Osaka specifically stood out to us and this is the style that we will be highlighting here, but each area has its own style, similar to the how BBQ or chowder in the USA with lots of variations. The name translates to how you like it (Okonomi) and cooked (yaki), so there is a typical base, being the cabbage, egg, flour and Japanese sweet potato, the rest is up to you. Pork belly, octopus, scallions, some even offer up noodles as well! The sauces also help to make the dish, there is a classic okonomiyaki sauce (we made a recipe if you can’t find it) and kewpie Mayo (a Japanese variety that has msg added), then of course you can also add bonito flakes, but since we are not fish eaters, no dried fish flakes for us! You can also spice it up a bit (like we did for our Tokyo Hot Chicken Sando) with some togarashi chili seasoning.
Makes about 4 large or 8 small
2 large eggs
2 Tb soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of All Purpose flour
1/2 large green cabbage(about 4 cups finely shredded, you can buy precut cabbage too, look for “angel hair”)
1 carrot finely grated
1 Japanese Sweet potato* grated
4 scallions sliced (3 for mixing in, 1 for garnish)
First, sift together the flour and the baking soda.
In a separate bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients together. After all is combined, add your sifted flour and baking powder into the wet ingredients. You’ll want it to form a nice thick batter, but not be too heavy or you’ll get a dense pancake!
Next up, add in the veggies to the batter and gently mix together.
This is where the fun comes in…add in whatever else you want! We added corn kernels, bacon, chilies, and in Japan, we even had one with some yakisoba noodles mixed in. Use this as a way to be creative, or even to use up leftovers. To the best of our knowledge, there are no okonomiyaki police that will arrest you for using something off the wall. Just be sure that the ingredients you add are dry, as in not saucy, you’ll want to save that for the top. Stir these in and let’s get cooking.
- In a large skillet, heat 3 Tb of a neutral oil over medium high heat. You want the oil to be hot, but not smoking hot. A good tup is to look for small ripples in the oil. Once the oil is hot, scoop about 1 cup of the mix into the oil and, using a spatula, push the mix into a pancake. Larger flatter pancakes will give plenty of nice crispy crust, and smaller taller pancakes will give a nice hearty center. You can choose whichever you like, but we aim for an in between. Just rememeber that the taller ones will take a bit longer to cook through. Cook the pancake for about 3 minutes. Use you spatula take a peak underneath, you don’t want black, but deep golden brown. Once golden brown, flip and cook the other side for about 3 minutes. If you’re worried about the eggs cooking through, use an instaread thermometer and make sure the most dense part is 165 degrees. We cook about 3 pancakes at a time, so you’ll repeat this step. Place the finished pancakes on a sheetpan and keep warm in the oven. Then, top with some sauce!
*Japanese Sweet potatoes are quite different than the typical sweet potato from the US. They are purpleish pink skinned, and have a white flesh. They are sweeter, dryer and have a nutty flavor. If you can’t find these, feel free to substitute a regular sweet potato, regular potato, or nothing at all.
Sauces: There are many to chose from, but the classics are Kewpie Mayo, and okonomiyaki sauce.
Kewpie Mayo you buy at the store, even most local grocers might have it now in the international section. It is like regular Mayo, but has MSG added, for extra umami. Feel free to use regular Mayo, adding a dash of soy sauce, liquid aminos or miso can give it that added umf.
Okonomiyaki sauce is something you can buy at most Asian markets, or make your own with ingredients you most likely have already.
6 Tb of ketchup
2 Tb of Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb honey or sugar
2 Tb soy sauce
Mix all together, and that’s it! See, now you can tell your friends that you’re a Japanese sauce maker and impress them!