Okonomiyaki is a cabbage pancake covered with Okonomiyaki sauce. Okonomiyaki sauce is a Worcester-based sauce with some sweetener, and it is the crucial flavor of this dish. We like Otafuku brand, but anything you can find is fine. Or you can use Tonkatsu sauce that tastes similar but less sweet.
Okonomiyaki is found anywhere in Japan, but is big in the Osaka area in western Japan where we are (proudly) from. There are a lot of Okonomiyaki restaurants in Osaka. Restaurants have tables with built-in griddles where you can cook Okonomiyaki yourself or your server cooks it for you. You eat it right from super hot griddle, and it’s so good.
People in Japan also make Okonomiyaki at home. A lot of people have portable electric griddles, and make Okonomiyaki at the dinner table as you eat.
The main ingredients are cabbage and a choice of meat. Pork is most common, but squid, shrimp, and beef are also popular. The meat is not usually mixed into the pancake, but added to one side. One of the best things about Okonomiyaki is that you can make it in so many ways. The name actually means “cook as you like” (or something close to that anyway). Different areas of Japan have very different styles as well. For example, in Hiroshima people add noodles.
After the cabbage, meat, and essential Okonomiyaki sauce for seasoning, other ingredients are very good to provide an authentic flavor:
1 Nagaimo (Chinese yam)—makes the pancake hold together and gives a light texture
2 pickled red ginger (Benishouga)—gives a little sour kick
3 dried green laver or seaweed (Aonori)— seaweed flavor that goes very well with the sauce
If you can’t get them, don’t worry about it. However, those ingredients definitely give this dish the right Osaka taste. It is very easy to make, but these ingredients might be more than 101. It is worth though to go to the trouble of finding them if you can. Once you make it, you’ll make it over and over again!
All ingredients are found in Japanese markets, or most of them at online stores.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup Dashi (fish broth)
- 1 egg
- 3-4 Tbsp Nagaimo (long yam), grated
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cabbage (about 12oz), chopped fine
- 3-4 green onions, chopped fine
- 2-3 Tbsp pickled red ginger (Benishouga, not sushi ginger), chopped fine
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 6 pieces thinly sliced pork belly
- Okonomiyaki sauce or Tonkatsu sauce
- dried bonito flakes
- dried green seaweed (Aonori)
- In a big bowl, whisk flour and Dashi (fish broth) together until smooth. Stir egg and yam to flour mixture. Season it with salt and soy sauce.
- Add cabbage, onions, and ginger to the batter and mix.
- Heat oil in a skillet, pour half of the pancake batter into an 8" circle, and lay 3 pieces of pork slices on it. Fry at medium heat until the bottom becomes golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
- Flip to fry the other side until the pork becomes crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
- Flip one more time, pork side up, and spread Okonomiyaki sauce and mayo on the pancake.
- Sprinkle dried green seaweed, then dried bonito flakes over the pancake. Serve hot.