Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style pancake made with chopped cabbage, green onion, batter and various toppings and sauces and like many of the world’s greatest everyday foods it doesn’t sound like much. The truth is: it’s remarkable. I don’t speak Japanese but I read somewhere the word ‘okonomiyaki’ translates into two words: okonomi, which means ‘as you like’, and yaki, which means ‘grilled’. Together, you get okonomiyaki: ‘grilled as you like’. It’s quick, cheap and delicious and open to endless variations so when I had to decide what to put in mine I went for octopus and pork belly. I have no shame at all.
The pancake (some prefer to compare it to a pizza) is topped with okonomi sauce (which is essentially the same as tonkatsu sauce), kewpie mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and dried bonito flakes which are shaved so thinly that they wave and wiggle when placed on top. Don’t worry though – they won’t turn into sea monkeys.
I had some fantastic versions in Osaka last year both as street food and in restaurants that specialize in them and I don’t know why I haven’t cooked them at home earlier. Time to stock up on those goodies at your local Japanese market so you can make Okonomiyaki at home in less time than it takes to say “sea monkey”.
- Serves 4
For the okonomiyaki
- 1 cup flour
- 2/3 cup dashi
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups chopped cabbage
- 2 scallions chopped
- 1/2 lb pork belly, sliced
- 1 cup octopus tentacles, chopped
- okonomi sauce
- kewpie mayonnaise
- bonito flakes
- ao-nori or furikake
- canola oil
For the okonomiyaki:
- Mix the flour and dashi together. Add to the chopped cabbage and scallions and add the eggs. Mix well. Add the chopped octopus, if using.
- Heat some oil on a griddle or a large pan. Make four mounts of the cabbage mixture (work in batches) and shape them like pancakes. Top with slices of pork belly.
- Cook on medium heat until golden brown and flip over, about 7 or 8 minutes per side.
- Top with okonomi sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes and ao-nori or furikake.
- Serve hot.