Savory and satisfying, okonomiyaki or Japanese pancakes are simple, frugal meals with just a few Japanese ingredients.
Frugal can still be fabulous, as I’m showing you this week.
Okonomiyaki is Japanese savory pancakes, sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza. The name comes from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want,” and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked.”
Traditionally they might include a combination of prawns, octopus, squid, chicken, pork, noodles, cheese, or vegetables. The Japanese cooking with one constant is cabbage and many excellent toppings, including katsuobushi (bonito flakes), which dance in the hot steam. I use crispy shallots instead for a veg alternative.
Scale it right back to basics, and you have a dense, savory pancake with cabbage as its main ingredient. That might sound a bit weird, but once the other toppings are added, it’s some delicious heaven in your mouth.
You can buy actual okonomiyaki sauce if you like, but it’s just as good with other less traditional things you might have on hand.
The regular bbq sauce is excellent, tomato sauce mixed with soy sauce, Indonesian kecap manis (so untraditional, but so delicious with these), and sriracha which is excellent with almost anything. Top that with a swirl of Japanese kewpie mayonnaise, some shredded nori, spring onions, crispy shallots, and you have a severe case of yum.
And I mentioned this was frugal? Check it out, a filling and delicious meal from a hunk of cabbage, a spring onion, an egg, and a bit of flour and water. Who’d have thought?
The fundamental quantities in this recipe are for one pancake. Just multiply them if you’re cooking for more people. I’d recommend mixing each pancake with okonomiyaki ingredients individually just before it goes into the frypan. Otherwise, you’ll end up with dry cabbage on top and heaps of batter at the bottom of your bowl.
I suspect this could easily be made gluten-free by using different flour, as the batter is only there to glue everything together and doesn’t need to rise. I haven’t experimented with this, though, so let me know if you do.
Go to town customizing this to suit yourself. That’s the whole idea.
The essential ingredients for okonomiyaki ingredients can be found in most grocery stores anywhere globally. This recipe serves 1-2 people.
How to Prepare Okonomiyaki
- 100g okonomiyaki flour. If you don't have okonomiyaki flour, you can mix 100g regular flour + 1tsp baking powder + 1 tsp soy sauce (or 2g dashi stock powder instead of soy sauce)
- 100ml water
- One egg
- ¼ cabbage
- One spring onion
- Oil for frying
- Any meat or seafood of your choice. You can use firm, smoked, or deep-fried (age) tofu or tempeh bacon for a vegetarian option.
- Mayonnaise (Japanese-style mayonnaise-like Kewpie is best)
- Okonomiyaki sauce (to make your own, see recipe below, Worcestershire sauce and sriracha are also less traditional but delicious additions)
- Whisk the okonomiyaki flour (or flour + baking powder + soy sauce/dashi powder) and water. To make the batter fluffier, you can refrigerate for 1-8 hours to let the gluten rest. However, even if you don't, the okonomiyaki will taste good.
- Finely chop the cabbage and spring onion. Add the chopped vegetables to the batter.
- Mix the egg into the batter, being careful not to over mix, or the final okonomiyaki will be too chewy and tough.
- Thinly slice your protein and set it aside.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet on medium heat.
- Once the pan is hot, add a circle of batter to the pan. The okonomiyaki pancake should be about 2cm thick but thinner to make cooking easier.
- Add the protein slices to the okonomiyaki and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes covered.
- After the bottom of the pancake is browned, flip it over and cook covered for another 5 minutes.
- Flip a third time and cook uncovered for 2 minutes.
- Take off the heat, plate, and add toppings of your choice: mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, etc.
Enjoy your “Okonomiyaki,” and I would love to hear any feedback from you about the experience on the taste and you ever prepared it by yourself!