Japanese Okonomiyaki is a pancake made with a wheat batter. It is a popular pan fried dish which has cabbage, green onion and pickled ginger as the main ingredients. The word Okonomiyaki means, ‘As you like, and grilled’ in Japanese. The cake is made the way you like it, with the ingredients that you have chosen. The chosen ingredients are added to the wheat batter and then grilled. They are then topped with a wide variety of possible toppings.There is no right or wrong way to make this dish.
Japanese Okonomiyaki is sometimes considered to be a pancake. This is not the case however. It is grilled or pan fried such as a pancake, however, an Okonomiyaki will also contain some form of meat or seafood, and there is no sweetness to the batter. In Japan, there are multiple restaurants that will allow the diner to prepare their own Okonomiyaki at their table. Do not get frustrated though, there are still many Japanese restaurants that will do the preparation and the cooking for you still.
Some of the toppings that can be added include:
The steps to making Okonomiyaki are not difficult, but can be a little bit daunting. The batter consists of flour, nagaimo, (which is a long type of yam), eggs, water or soup stock, called Daishi, and shredded cabbage
During the 1940’s and 1950’s Okonomiyaki was a staple. It was the food that many relied on. Okonomiyaki was made with whatever was available. Those times, many items were not available, or were too costly. Families all over, had to work with what they had.
Today, however, Okonomiyaki is a food that is happily served to family and friends.Okonomiyaki is Japan’s version of comfort food. This dish truly shows off the creativity Japan has always had when it comes to food.
1 cup Okonomiyaki flour
⅔ cup dashi or water
4 cups shredded green cabbage
2 green onions, sliced thin and at a diagonal
1 ounce of red, pickled ginger
¼ cup Tempura bits
6 strips bacon, cut in half
½ cup raw, peeled and deveined shrimp, (optional)
- Cut the cabbage, remove the thick veins from the leaves, then shred the cabbage into smaller pieces
- Clean the green onions and slice thinly, at a diagonal
- Preheat the griddle to 400*, or use a nonstick pan
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and the daishi, use a which to combine until smooth
- Add in the cabbage, green onion, tempura pieces, pickled ginger and shrimp(optional)
- Mix well for at least 30 seconds, so all the cabbage is coated
- Add the eggs to the bowl and mix lightly
- Brush the grill with oil
- Use ½ of the mixture for each savory cake. Flatten the batter out until it is approximately 12 inches per cake.
- Add the cut bacon slices to the top, do not overlap the pieces
- Using 2 large, wide spatulas carefully flip the cake over after 3 minutes
- Once flipped, allow to cook for 4 minutes on this side
- Flip the cake one more time and allow it to cook for an additional 3 minutes. You want the cake browned, but not dark or burnt.
- Remove the cake and place it on a plate
- Drizzle the Okonomi Sauce back and forth on the cake
- Drizzle the Kewpie Mayonnaise in a contrasting direction
- Sprinkle with the seaweed flakes
- Sprinkle with Bonito flakes, be sure to watch as you sprinkle them. They will move due to the heat
- Eat with chopsticks
Okonomiyaki Flour: This is a wheat flour that is used in Japan. Japan has two types of flour, hard or soft. The hard wheat flour is what produces the all purpose flour in Japan. The soft is used to produce cake flour.
Dashi: Dashi is the basis for all soups in Japan. It is generally vegetable or bone broth.
Red Pickled Ginger: Fresh ginger is shredded and then placed in a brine, authentic red pickled ginger uses red shiso leaves. Many types of pickled ginger bought in markets use red dye.
Tempura Bits: These bits are small pieces of fried batter that are crunchy and oftentimes used as a garnish.
Bonito Flakes: The flakes are bits of skipjack tuna that have been simmered, smoked and fermented.
Okonomi Sauce: This tasty sauce has 4 ingredients in a basic recipe that you can make yourself. These include ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, honey or sugar and oyster sauce.
Kewpie Mayonnaise: This is a mayonnaise that is made with the yolks of the eggs, not the whites. It also has rice vinegar or apple vinegar.
Seaweed Flakes: These are exactly what they say. They are flakes of seaweed that are dried and then packaged. These provide a color and gentle texture to the foods.
How To Eat Okonomiyaki
There can be so many choices as to how you can eat Okonomiyaki. We will go through some of them. But, first let me say that if you need help in choosing when you are at an Okonomiyaki restaurant, relax. Each person that works at the restaurant is there to help you have a great experience. If you are unsure, ask questions. The cook can explain the many different ways.
There are two different styles of restaurants that serve Okonomiyaki, those where you cook it yourself, and the ones where they will cook it for you. If this is new to you, I suggest visiting the restaurants where they do the cooking, you can possibly watch how it is done and learn from that.
You will also have the choice of where you sit. The options are the tables with table side grills or the counter with the large grill. It is a fun experience to watch the way the Japanese can put this food together so quickly and serve it perfectly.
How will you pick it up? Here, too, you have a choice. You can use chopsticks to pick bites up, or you can use the hera, which is the flat bottomed spatula used when flipping the savory cakes. With the spatula, hera, you can use it to cut the Okonomiyaki and pick it up, as well as the cooking.
The Best Okonomiyaki in Kyoto
Okonomiyaki was actually more popular in the neighboring city of Osaka, until recently. Kyoto, Japan is taking over being the most popular city to visit restaurants to have yourself a taste of the best Okonomiyaki. The following is a list of some of the best locations in Kyoto when you want to enjoy this dish.
- Chibo: This will fall in at a budget level, price wise. This restaurant is located in the Avanti mall. The mall is south of Kyoto Station. The restaurant features a kid’s menu, they know English. Most importantly, the Okonomiyaki is the best in the area.
- Donguri: This restaurant is perfect for those who have a hearty appetite. Donguri uses locally sourced ingredients in the phenomenal Okonomiyaki that they have been proudly serving since 1977.
- Oagari: This restaurant gives you excellent food in the mid range of prices. This is not your average restaurant. It seems to be a tourist hot spot, however, the food cannot be beat. The restaurant has some of the best Okonomiyaki cooks around, and they have a great selection of Saki.
- Warai: Located just steps away from the Nishiki Market, Warai is a fun place to enjoy some savory Okonomiyaki.
- Yamamoto Mambo: This is a family run restaurant that serves a hearty meal that will keep you full for hours. The Okonomiyaki made at this family style restaurant is fabulous and you have a choice of beverages to sip while eating.
Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki
Kyoto and Osaka have long been known for the style and flavor of Okonomiyaki that they proudly serve. There are other styles and flavors as well as those. Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki is fast becoming a favored taste. Osaka and Kyoto, along with the surrounding areas are common restaurants where the guest can assemble and cook their own Okonomiyaki.
Due to the differences, in Hiroshima, you will find the majority of the restaurants will do all the cooking for you. The Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki is more of a layered version. It even looks more like a ‘pizza’. The flavors are the same, although they come across differently because of the layering. Unlike Kyoto, the Okonomiyaki is put together in a certain order. First the batter, then they add noodles, and lastly is the toppings being added. Since the ingredients start out unusually high, this style of Okonomiyaki is more difficult to cook. It is flipped more often while cooking, to ensure the dish is entirely cooked.
Thought to have originated in the Shintenchi region in the middle of the 20th century, Hiroshima has hundreds of restaurants that serve Okonomiyaki. ShinTenchi is also the home of Okonomimura. This is one building that has four floors, all filled with small, medium and larger restaurants. Some with the counter grills and others where the cooking is done in the kitchen and brought out to the guests. Within this variety of dining options is where you can find basically every version of Okonomiyaki that is made. Many of these Okonomiyaki recipes are not served anywhere else in Japan.
The recipe for Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki is very similar.
100g Okonomiyaki flour
120 ml water
150g green cabbage
60 g bean sprouts
6 strips of bacon
2 servings of Yakisoba noodles, par-boiled
2 spring onions
1 pinch of aonori powdered seaweed
Katsoubushi dried Bonito flakes
1 tsp pickled ginger
- Chop your cabbage and spring onion
- In a large bowl, mix the Okonomiyaki flour and the water
- Mix in 1 egg until the batter is smooth
- Heat a pan with oil in it
- Add a little less than one half the batter to the pan in a circle shape
- Next, add half of the cabbage and half of the bean sprouts on top of the batter
- Lay three strips of bacon on top of the sprouts
- Place 1 tbsp on top of the bacon, this will hold everything in place
- Cook for 7 to 10 minutes
- Carefully flip the Okonomiyaki over with a wide end spatula
- Cook the second side for 7 to 10 minutes
- In another pan, cook 1 serving of the yakisoba noodles with a touch of oil and the sauce included in the package of noodles
- Once the noodles are cooked, use a spatula to move the Okonomiyaki over on top of the freshly cooked noodles
- In a small bowl, crack an egg and break the yolk
- Pour the egg into the first pan next to the Okonomiyaki
- Using the wide end spatula and place the Okonomiyaki on top of the egg and let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
- When the egg has cooked for 1 to 2 minutes, flip the Okonomiyaki over onto a plate and drizzle the Okonomiyaki sauce in a diagonal pattern over the Okonomiyaki. Then use the Kewpie mayonnaise to drizzle in the opposite diagonal pattern
- Garnish with the spring onion, aonori seaweed, pickled ginger and the katsuobushi on the top
- Repeat steps to make the second Okonomiyaki
With so many possibilities, Okonomiyaki will become your favorite food in Japan. Whether it is Kyoto style, Hiroshima style or the Osaka style Okonomiyaki, the dish is healthy, hearty and very flavorful. Keep in mind that the only difference between styles is that in Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered, the others are all mixed together in the batter.
Japanese cuisine is quite possibly the best in the world, and the restaurants in Japan are varied so that you can choose how you want to sit. You can cook your own Okonomiyaki or watch them cook while you sit at the counter grill, which is an experience in itself. Travel to Japan and taste the experience!