East Series/ Food/ Main Dishes/ Pescetarian

Okonomiyaki

Despite the belief that people “eat with their eyes” first, taste is the boss of all senses when it comes to food. But in the case of okonomiyaki, it doesn’t matter much. This savory Japanese pancake is dressed to kill and will make your tastebuds dance in a fit of frenzy; this savory Japanese pancake is life.

When I first started doing my homework for this series, okonomiyaki was the first dish that jumped out at me. With all of it’s golden crisp goodness and striking trimmings, how could it not? I’m a sucker for anything that is crunchy, savory and bursting with umami, and without ever having tried this gem before I could already tell how it would taste; flippin’ delicious. So, undeterred by my lack of familiarity with it, okonomiyaki was the first thing I penned on my list for the Japanese segment of this series. After all, this series is about becoming familiar with East + Southeast Asian food beyond the Americanized menu and encouraging others (yeah, you!) to tap deeper into these culture’s cuisines.

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

The name okonomiyaki translates to “grilled how you like”. Some restaurants that specialize in okonomiyaki boast a diner-style counter where the chef prepares the dish in front of the patrons; other restaurants pride themselves in being a grill-it-yourself establishment where the server gives patrons the chance to be their own chef with a bowl of uncooked ingredients + hotplates on their tables — similar to Korean BBQ or Shabu-Shabu restaurants.

There are several versions of this dish, including modan-yaki (served with a layer of fried noodles) and negiyaki (a thinner pancake that incorporates a lot more scallions), but okonomiyaki is the most predominant throughout the majority of Japan. Most of the ingredients are common and include eggs, flour, cabbage and dashi, but there are a few shining ingredients that might be new to you.

The nagaimo, Japanese mayo and pickled red ginger.

 

None of these are essential ingredients, but they’re highly recommended for best results. Your tastebuds will thank you.

The naigaimo is a Chinese yam. Despite it being an optional ingredient, it adds a fluffiness to your pancake that you *don’t* want to miss out on. Most large Asian markets carry it, but if you can’t find it, you can still cook up a stellar okonomiyaki. In fact, I came across several okonomiyaki recipes throughout my research that didn’t include it.

Something worth mentioning is the alarming texture of this yam. (Yes, alarming.) When you first cut into it, it seems like no big deal; it’s like cutting into an apple. But once you start to peel it and expose the inner flesh, it gets slimy and when you grate it… well, you’ll see. Think of me when you do it, and allow your mind to go into the deepest of gutters. *casually sips tea*

Japanese mayo is similar to regular ol’ American mayo, except not. (Whut.) Kewpie, which is Japan’s Hellman’s, has a smoother texture and a tangier flavor than it’s American kin. This is due to the fact that Kewpie increases the egg count, decreases the egg whites, uses vegetable oil, swaps the usual white vinegar for rice vinegar, and adds MSG. Yes, that last ingredient is often disputed, but if you want the true flavor of Japanese mayo, it’s necessary — plain and simple. If you’re the type to hiss at the idea of MSG, don’t fret; stick to what you’re comfortable with.

Onto the ruby-hued pickled red ginger. It’s a thing of beauty, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t fancy the ethereal pink slices served next to sushi. It must be the plum vinegar. Either way, I was originally going to skip out on it, but I’m so glad I didn’t. It adds an incredible zip to the pancake that I can’t picture it without.

Though this dish intimidated me at first, I can say with confidence that it was a breeze to put together and it’s super simple to cook. Due to the girth of each pancake I assumed they’d be difficult to flip without breaking, but everything worked out swimmingly.

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

Of course, the easiest part was devouring the damn thing.

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

THIS RECIPE IS PART OF MY EAST SERIES. 

In this series, I’ll be covering dishes from Japan, China and Korea to cover East Asia, followed by dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to cover Southeast Asia.

Making this recipe? Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram: @Killing__Thyme /#killingthyme. For more delish eats, follow me on INSTAGRAM + PINTEREST.
Print

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a glorious savory Japanese pancake that will blow your mind with it's varying textures and umami flavors.
Servings 4 servings
Author Killing Thyme

Ingredients

Okonomiyaki:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 inch piece of Nagaimo/Yamaimo
  • 3/4 cup dashi or 3/4 cup water with 1 tsp of dissolved dashi powder
  • 1 cups large head of cabbage approx. 8
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup roughly choped shrimp chips or tempura scraps Tenkasu/Agedama
  • 1/4 cup pickled red ginger Kizami Beni Shoga, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil

Okonomiyaki Sauce:

  • 1.5 TBSP honey
  • 2 TBSP oyster sauce
  • 4 TBSP Sriracha sauce if you want to avoid spicy, you can use ketchup
  • 3.5 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

Garnishes:

  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Katsuobushi
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Nori Komi Furikake or dried green seaweed powder
  • Thinly sliced pickled red ginger

Adding meats:

  • Some folks enjoy the addition of meat to their okonomiyaki. I like to add cooked and roughly chopped shrimp to mine but you can also use squid or any other meats you fancy. Simply add your meats to the top of the pancake when you initially spoon it onto the pan and press down with a spatula to secure. I always cook my fish prior to this step to avoid it from being undercooked.

Instructions

Okonomiyaki Sauce:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, oyster sauce, Sriracha and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.

Okonomiyaki:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder; whisk until well blended. Set aside.
  2. Peel the nagaimo and grate it into a small bowl. Die a little, then wash your hands.
  3. Add the grated nagaimo and dashi to the bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk until combined, cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. In the meantime, you can cook any meats you plan to add, prepare your Okonomiyaki Sauce and mince your cabbage, core removed. If your cabbage is very moist, press with a paper towel and set it aside to let the moisture evaporate so that it doesn't dilute the batter.
  5. Once the batter has been in the fridge for an hour, remove it and add the eggs, the chopped shrimp chips or tempura scraps and the pickled red ginger. Stir until well-combined.
  6. Add the cabbage to the batter approx. 2 cups at a time. Stir well before adding the rest.
  7. In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over moderate heat.
  8. Carefully spoon the batter in a circle on the pan (approx. 2 cups worth).
  9. If using meat, place is on top and lightly press into the wet batter to secure. Cook covered for 5 minutes.
  10. Once the bottom side is nicely browned, carefully flip it over.
  11. Gently press down on the okonomiyaki to reshape (if needed) and keep it together.
  12. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  13. Flip over one last time and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
  14. Transfer to a plate or baking sheet and continue with the others until done.

Assembly:

  1. Brush the Okonomiyaki Sauce over the top surface of the pancake, then drizzle the Japanese mayo over it in zigzag lines. Sprinkle some katsuobushi over it, followed by your other toppings. In my case, it was Nori Komi Furikake, thinly sliced scallions and thinly sliced pickled red ginger.

Recipe Notes

* There is one hour of idle time for this recipe. * Okonomiyaki freezes well. Once cooled, wrap each in aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. When you want to eat one, take it out, let it thaw and put it in the oven at 350 degrees until it reaches your preferred temperature.

Resources

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

You Might Also Like

23 Comments

  • Reply
    Ochazuke - Killing Thyme
    March 8, 2017 at 4:44 pm […] like the Okonomiyaki I made back in December, I’d never tried Ochazuke until I whipped it up for this series. If […]
  • Reply
    Markus Mueller | Earth, Food, and Fire
    February 3, 2017 at 7:51 pm I have never heard of this dish before but it looks incredible and I can't wait to make this. Not sure if I'll be able to find any naigaimo here in PEI, but a "veg" pancake topped with deliciousness.. I don't know what to say. We have "Kartoffel Puffer" in Germany which is the closest thing I could relate this to, (grated cooked potato with various seasonings and egg mixed in then fried like a pancake). Not sure why I never thought of cooking other vegetables in pancake form though!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      February 6, 2017 at 10:28 am Definitely let me know how you like it, Markus! I'd never heard of it either, so I was skeptical about making it myself since I felt I was going in blindly. Luckily everything worked out swimmingly and the end result had me believing that that's what it was meant to be like. Kartoffel Puffer sounds right up my alley, too. I'll have to give that a shot!
  • Reply
    Fouzia Husainy
    February 3, 2017 at 1:19 pm Your pancake looks so yummy. It must be really flavourful. I am sure going to try it. Thanks for sharing.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      February 6, 2017 at 10:25 am Thanks so much, Fouzia! Let me know how you like it :)
  • Reply
    Marie-Pierre Breton
    February 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm This looks like a bomb of flavours! I've never heard of Okonomiyaki before, thanks to you it's seriously on my radar... Looks so yummy!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      February 6, 2017 at 10:24 am I'm glad I've enticed you with this, Marie! It totally is a flavor bomb and it's one of those things that leave you wanting another one, but you know you shouldn't… haha.
  • Reply
    Shareba @ In Search Of Yummy-ness
    February 3, 2017 at 11:45 am I've had Korean pancakes before but never Japanese ones. These look amazing and full of great flavours! I've pinned it for later :)
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      February 6, 2017 at 10:23 am I'll have to check Korean pancakes out! Thanks, Shareba. I think you'd love these — they are full of umami. Coming back to this post has me craving them all over again.
  • Reply
    Margaret @ Kitchen Frau
    February 3, 2017 at 11:30 am This recipe totally jumped out at me, screaming 'Try Me!", so I guess I've gotta listen. It sounds absolutely delicious. I love egg-based recipes. I'm going to look for the Chinese yam in our Asian supermarket and hope to find it. I know you said it's optional, but would it work to substitute regular grated yam or sweet potato if I can't find it? I'm intrigued by the texture you've described, so am curious to try it. Can't wait to taste the whole pancake.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      February 6, 2017 at 10:21 am Haha, I hear you Margaret! When I was doing research for this series, this bad boy jumped out at me too. I listened, and I encourage you to as well. It is so. friggin'. good. I wouldn't substitute the Chinese yam with a regular yam because they have two completely different textures (you'll see what I mean). The Chinese yam almost has the texture of an apple, and when you grate it, it turns into a slimy substance. So if you can't find one, just omit it completely. But your local Asian market should carry them! I hope you can find it just so you can experience the uniqueness of the thing ;) Please let me know how it goes!
  • Reply
    Teresa
    December 24, 2016 at 4:45 am Great research, with photos and descriptions to match. I'm going to have to attempt this myself, once the holiday eating has played itself out.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 30, 2016 at 10:48 am Thanks, Teresa! I'm glad you found this post useful. Let me know what you think once you give it a go. It's damn delicious, and surprisingly easy!
  • Reply
    Samantha | My Kitchen Love
    December 23, 2016 at 3:54 pm I've actually made Okonomiyaki before and loved it. I used a recipe from a restaurant here i Vancouver ("Dirty Apron") - it was fantastic, but I didn't use red pickled ginger which I am totally now regretful about. This looks fantastic Dana! I hope you enjoyed eating it!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 30, 2016 at 10:47 am Thanks, Sam! I love that you've made this dish before. I absolutely encourage the use of the pickled red ginger because, my stars, it's ridiculous. The flavor it brings is mind-blowing. I definitely enjoyed eating this :)
  • Reply
    Elaine @ Flavour and Savour
    December 23, 2016 at 3:45 pm Wow! Loved reading this post and getting educated in Japanese cuisine! You've done such a thorough job of explaining this dish that I can't wait to try it. Every culture has its own version of the pancake, but this one looks 100x more interesting and delicious than most. Thanks for the info! I'm studying like mad. Guess where I'm headed soon . . . :)
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 30, 2016 at 10:45 am Thanks, Elaine! I'm so glad this post motivated you to give it a whirl. I hope you enjoy it — keep me posted, I can't wait for your feedback :)
  • Reply
    Colleen Milne
    December 23, 2016 at 1:35 pm Dana, this looks spectacular. I once ate okonomiyaki in Japan, and have never forgotten it. You make it sound easy and now I want to try it myself. Yum :-)
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm Thanks, Colleen! I'm really glad I've made it look easy, because it truly is. It seems like a lot is going on when you look at + read about the dish, but it's a piece of cake (or pancake, to be exact!) Please keep me posted when and if you try it :)
  • Reply
    Nicoletta @sugarlovespices
    December 23, 2016 at 1:16 pm Of all East Asia cuisines, Japanese is my favorite and close to my heart. I love Japanese food, and that includes okonomiyaki. But we've never made it ourselves! Thanks to your recipe, now we can attempt making them and eating them in the comfort of our home. Delicious! Pinned in my "Recipes I'm going to try" board :-) !
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm Thanks, Nicoletta! This comment tickles me. I'm *so* glad you feel inspired to make this at home. Despite the prep/chopping, it's a simple dish to make and the reward is oh-so worth it :) Please do let me know when you give it a shot!
  • Reply
    Eyecandypopper
    December 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm Wow! I had never heard of this dish, but it seriously sounds delicious!!!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 23, 2016 at 1:09 pm Thanks, Gabby! It is *SO* tasty. Definitely not a healthy meal, but a fantastic treat :)

    Leave a Reply