One of the Japanese favorites, which is also loved by many non-Japanese is Okonomiyaki. It’s often called Japanese pizza, but in reality, it’s more of a pancake with a lot of stuff in it. So, I think it should be called Japenese stuffed pancake.
There are a few Japanese restaurants that serve only okonomiyaki in New York etc, but most in the U.S. serve it alongside other dishes. In Japan, okonomiyaki is pretty much only served at a specialized okonomiyaki house. These restaurants normally have a hotplate in the middle of the table or the bar. You pick your ingredients in the combo you like, and the restaurant will give you everything in a bowl. (Okonomiyaki batter, shredded cabbage, and other ingredients such as veggies, seafood and/or meat.) And you are the cook. Put oil on the plate, wait till it’s hot, and pour in the mix. Flip when one side is nicely browned, and wait till it’s cooked on both sides. Put the toppings you like, slice it up and eat it HOT! That’s it. I think okonomiyaki place is the most profitable kind of restaurant, because the customers pretty much does most of the work! Plus, ingredients are inexpensive and readily available.
As you can imagine, you can easily make this at home. It’s really fun and easy to make, great for lunch, a snack or party, especially if you have a large hot plate. In fact, when I was about 4 or 5, I demanded that my mother cook me Okonomiyaki for my 3 o’clock snack every day. You can change the ingredients and use whatever (pretty much — thus named “Okonomi” means as you like, “Yaki” fried or grilled) you have in your fridge.
Some people like to add grated yamaimo (glutinous yam) or nagaimo (chinese yam) into the batter. If you can find them, try it — it will make the pancake even fluffier. There are people who add a little bit of cornstarch, baking powder etc. as well. You can probably use your own special pancake recipe without sugar and milk (replace it with cold water, although I’ve heard of people who makes Okonomiyaki with milk) and use it for the okonomiyaki base. If you like green onions, you can skip or reduce cabbage, and add a whole bunch of green onions, and make “Negi-yaki” (green onion pancake). Korean people have similar dish using grated potatoes. I tried it with grated lotus root and steamed and mashed Japanese taro… They had different texture, but I really liked it.
Yes, the variation is limitless…. So try with something you have on hand, and let me know how it turned out!
Okonomiyaki (Japanese stuffed pancake) お好み焼き
Ingredients (1 large or 2 medium size okonomiyaki)
- flour 2/3 c
- 1 egg, beaten
- cold water, 1/2 c (125cc) Depending on your preference, add or reduce water.
- cabbage: thinly sliced and loosely packed 1c
- Ingredients you like or have at hand. You only need a little bit of these, especially if you plan to use many of them (1-2 oz):
- Thinly sliced beef or pork (scrap are OK), cut in bite size pieces
- shellfish (shrimps, calamari, bay scallops) cut in bite size pieces
- sliced green onions, corn, shredded cheese, etc.
- Optional items available at Japanese or Asian markets
- red picked ginger, smoked squid shreds (called kiri-ika)
- fried flour batter crumbs (called age-tama or ten-kasu)
- Toppings: Traditionally, mayo, Okonomiyaki-sauce, bonito flakes, green nori flakes (ao-nori). See photo below. If you don’t have Okonomiyaki-sauce, try A1, Lea Perrins, Ketchup, Mustard, BBQ sauce, Sriracha Chili sauce, etc. It’s best to put mayo first and and something saucey on top.
- Mix flour, cold water and beaten eggs well in a medium sized bowl. Make sure there’s no lumps. If there are any, pass it through a fine strainer or sifter. The texture should be thick and like batter.
- Add thinly sliced cabbage and green onions, other vegetables and seafood. Mix well.
- If adding meat, cook first with a little bit of salad oil. Make sure it somewhat cooked before adding the batter.
- Heat the oil on hotplate or non-stick skillet until hot, then pour the mixture in. If using a hotplate, spread it to about 5-6inches diameter and 1/3 inch thick. If using skillet, spread it to the size of the skillet, and thickness should be about 1/2 inch. Cook till both sides are golden brown.
- Remove it to a plate, and garnish with your favorite toppings. Since the batter doesn’t have any seasonings, they should cover the entire surface (just like spreading mayo on sandwich bread.)