Okonomiyaki: Classic Japanese Street Food

Okonomiyaki

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Often described as a “Japanese pizza”, okonomiyaki is actually more like a pancake. I think the reason people compare it to a pizza is because you can fill it with just about anything that suits your fancy. Fitting, given that its name literally translates to “grilled as you like it”.

A street food that’s often sold at Matsuri in Japan, it’s a fast food that’s been around long before McDonalds opened their first golden arches in the land of sushi and teriyaki.

Okonomiyaki

At its core, okonomiyaki is shredded cabbage, held together by a loose batter. But that would be one boring pancake, so when you’re making okonomiyaki, the most important thing to remember is to go wild with the fillings and the toppings. Bacon, kimchi, cheese, chicken, and squid are all fair game, as is just about anything your vegetable drawer can cough up. For that matter, I often make okonomiyaki to clean out all those odds and ends that seem to accumulate in the far reaches of my fridge.

Okonomiyaki

This time, I had a scrap of ham, two small cocktail sausages, an ear of corn that had seen better days, and some frost bitten basil. It’s not exactly a traditional mix of Japanese ingredients, but I figured it would be fun to do a western version, and it was delicious!

Okonomiyaki

For the first pancake I went with traditional toppings: chuno sauce, which is like a thicker sweeter Worcestershire sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and scallions. But the next day I decided to go embrace the western nature of the fillings and topped it with homemade ketchup and alioli. It was awesome! Other regular toppings in my household include fried shallots, pickled ginger, nori, Thai chili sauce, and Sriracha.

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)

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Okonomiyaki is classic Japanese street food that is often compared to Japanese pancakes. Okonomiyaki recipes can vary in ingredients. Food blogger Marc Matusmoto shares his ingredient recommendations in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.

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Ingredients

  • 500 grams cabbage (18 ounces or about half a head)
  • 300 grams other vegetables, diced (11 ounces)
  • 200 grams meat, poultry, or seafood, diced (7 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • condiments such as Chuno sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and sriracha
  • 1 packet shaved bonito flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Remove the core from the cabbage, and then use a mandolin or sharp knife to slice it into thin ribbons. Add the cabbage to a large bowl along with the other vegetables and meat.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and cold water together. Add the flour and salt, and then whisk until there are no lumps left.
  3. Pour this mixture over the cabbage and vegetables, and then stir together until it's well combined.
  4. Split the oil between 9" frying pans. Heat over medium heat until hot. Split the cabbage mixture between the two pans, then flatten out the tops into an even round pancake. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover the pans with lids, and let them steam for about 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes, lift up an edge of a pancake with a spatula and check and see if it's browned, if not, cover and let it cook until the bottom is a golden brown.
  6. Flip the pancake over. Ideally you'll want to flip it in the pan with a flick of the wrist, but if you don't have confidence in your flipping abilities, use two spatulas and carefully flip it over. You can also flip it into another preheated pan, but to make 2 at once, you’d need 4 frying pans of the same size.
  7. Press down on the pancake to compress the vegetables on the other side, and let it fry uncovered until the second side is browned.
  8. Transfer your okonomiyaki to a plate, and then cover with your desired condiments. Top with the bonito flakes and serve.

Yield: 2 large pancakes (serves 3-4)


Marc Matsumoto is the food blogger behind Fresh TastesMarc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.