When the name translates to “grilled how you like,” you know this dish is going to be fun!
Okonomiyaki is one of Japan’s favorite street foods, in part due to its customizable nature. At its base, it is a savory cabbage pancake that’s topped with anything you could want—from bacon to shrimp to octopus to all kinds of vegetables, and it’s typical to see them topped with mochi or cheese. Traditionally, these are made with a special blend of okonomiyaki flour—wheat flour, soy flour, leavening agents, and a choice of spices. If you don’t have access to this, however, all-purpose flour with a little bit of baking powder and dashi powder will provide a similar effect.
Okonomiyaki is also traditionally served with two condiments: okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. If you can’t find these in the store, they’re super quick to whip up at home.
For the okonomiyaki sauce, stir together:
- 2 TBSP ketchup
- 1 1/2 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp honey or sugar
For the Japanese mayonnaise, stir together:
- 1/4 cup regular mayonnaise
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
The roots of this dish go back to at least the late Edo period, in the early- to mid-1800s. Records describe fu-no-yaki, a thin wheat crepe or pancake with miso basted on one side during the cooking process. Sweet and savory adaptations developed (including kintsuba, a pancake layered with sweet azuki paste), and these treats grew in popularity after the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923. After this point, the modern version of okonomiyaki began to emerge as cooks started to top these pancakes with all kinds of savory ingredients.
There are two main styles of okonomiyaki—Osaka (or Kansai) and Hiroshima. While the Hiroshima version has the WOW factor going for it, with layers and layers of ingredients piled high, the Osaka version almost seems to have a better advertising team. While it’s harder to find Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki away from that area, you can find Osaka-style okonomiyaki all over Japan. They even have restaurants where you can cook your own!
My recipe takes its inspiration strictly from the Osaka style (although the Hiroshima style would be fantastic if you’re in the mood for a feast!). This version is basic, but it leaves lots of room for you to play around to see how you like it!
1 cup okonomiyaki or all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dashi stock
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt, divided
12 oz finely shredded cabbage
3 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup cooked bacon, roughly chopped
2 TBSP oil
Toppings: okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed, bonito flakes, green onions
Whisk together the flour, dashi stock, baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and the eggs in a large mixing bowl until well-combined. Cover, and let rest for 1 hour.
In another large bowl, toss the cabbage and green onions with the remaining salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes to let the moisture sweat out, then gently squeeze the cabbage and green onions to drain. Fold the vegetables into the rested batter.
Put a sauté pan or a griddle on medium heat, and add the oil. Once hot, add 1/3 cup of the mixture into the pan. Gently spread it into a disc shape (but don’t press down on it!), then sprinkle some of the bacon on top. Cook for 5 minutes, flip, then cook for another 5 minutes, until the pancake is evenly golden brown. (If you’re using a sauté pan, use 2 at the same time to speed up the process.) Top as desired, and serve hot.
Serves about 8 pancakes.