Okonomiyaki are often translated as Japanese pancakes, but the only pancake-like thing about them is their shape. They are a savory dish which combines vegetables, carbs and protein all in one, perfect for a snack, lunch or dinner! This street food from Osaka is also great for using up whatever you have in the fridge. Especially if you live in Japan, and are likely to have access to a lot of ingredients that, while uncommon in other countries, are staples here! They are good for using up whatever protein you have on hand, chicken, pork, fish or even tofu…
The basic ingredients for okonomiyaki can be found in most grocery stores anywhere in the world. This recipe serves 1-2 people.
- 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
- 1 egg
- ¼ cabbage
- 1 spring onion
- Oil for frying
- Any meat or seafood of your choice. For a vegetarian option, you can use firm, smoked or deep fried (age) tofu or tempeh bacon.
- 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 together 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 still 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 aside.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or griddle, 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 can be made thinner to make cooking easier.
- Add the slices of protein on top of 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.
How to Make Okonomiyaki Sauce
Whisk together the following:
- 1½ tbsp tomato ketchup
- ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
Other Traditional Okonomiyaki Additions
If you live in Japan or have access to a Japanese grocery store you can take your okonomiyaki up a notch with these 6 ingredients. There are also some alternative suggestions if you can’t find an exact match. However, the basic pancake and toppings will still taste great without these additions!
Mixe into the batter:
1. Tenkasu (Tempura bits) or panko breadcrumbs
Tempura scraps are the bits leftover from making tempura. You can buy a bag of them at most grocery stores in Japan, and many Asian grocery stores abroad. If you can’t find them, making your own is also an option! The tempura scraps are a common addition to okonomiyaki batter, especially in Osaka, to help make the batter fluffier. Add the tempura bits at step 3 of the recipe.
2. 150g Grated nagaimo / yamaimo (about 2 inches or 5 cm)
Nagaimo is Japanese long yam while yamaimo is Japanese mountain yam. You can get these tubers at most grocery stores in Japan, or at your most Asian supermarkets if you live in the West. To use the yam, simply wash and grate a 2 inch, 5cm chunk (about 150 g). The result is a slimy textured mixture, but once added to your okonomiyaki batter, the grated yam will make the batter even fluffier and more delicious. You can substitute with silken tofu to make the batter fluffier instead. Add the grated yam at step 1 of the recipe.
3. Beni shoga (pickled red ginger)
Add the pickled ginger at step 3 of the recipe for a kick in the batter.
4. Yakisoba noodles and egg
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki includes yakisoba noodles and fried egg! Fry up some yakisoba noodles in a second pan while the first side of the pancake is frying (step 7). Once the first side of the pancake is done, flip it and place it on top of the noodles to cook in the second pan. After a few minutes, break an egg on top, cover with a lid and cook for another few minutes, until the egg white is cooked but the yolk is still slightly runny.
- Aonori (dried green seaweed)
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
- Beni shoga (pickled red ginger)