Okonomiyaki is often described as a “Japanese pizza”, but it’s actually more like a savoury pancake in composition. The name roughly translates to “fried as you like it” and refers to the fact that you can put anything you like into it.
It’s a great dish that you can make in a pinch because all you really need is some cabbage, flour, eggs, and water. As the name implies, the rest is up to your own personal okonomi. With all the possible veggies, meat, seafood, and condiments that you can put into or on top of it, there are literally millions of possible combinations.
I like mine with more filling than batter, so I only use enough batter to hold everything together, but if you prefer a more pancake like okonomiyaki, go ahead and double the amount of batter you use relative to the cabbage. The recipe I’ve outlined below is for a fairly typical okonomiyaki, but once you get a feel for what it’s supposed to be like, try your own variations.
Cheese, corn, fried tempura crumbs, octopus, prawns, pork, ham, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms, are all fair game, but I’ve seen some really creative ones that include everything from pepperoni to zucchini to cod roe. That’s just for the filling, then there are all the things you can put on top. The typical toppings include a smear of Japanese mayonaise, okonomiyaki sauce (which is essentially the same thing as tonkatsu sauce), bonito flakes, aonori (green nori) and benishoga (red picked ginger).
If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like yakisoba, you’ve been paying attention. Okonomiyaki and yakisoba frequently show up on the same menus and are often eaten together. In fact, the Hiroshima style of okonomiyaki actually includes noodles on the pancake.
2 C roughly chopped cabbage
2 Tbs katsuobushi
2 scallions chopped
1 tbs benishoga
1/2 C flour
1/3 C water
1/4 tsp kosher salt (less if you use table salt)
2 strips of bacon cut in half
okonomiyaki or tonkatsu sauce (Worcestershire sauce will do in a pinch)
aonori (green nori flakes)
Put the filling ingredients in a bowl along with the batter ingredients. Mix until just combined (it’s okay if there are small lumps of flour). You don’t want to over-mix as the gluten that forms will make it chewy. If you want a more pancake-like okonomiyaki, double the amount of batter.
To fry, heat a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. If you are using bacon, lay the strips down on the pan and allow some of the fat to render out. If you are not using bacon, put a splash of oil in the pan.
Dump the contents of the bowl straight onto the bacon in the pan and flatten into a circle about 1″ thick. Allow this to fry until the bottom is set and you can lift one edge with a spatula without it fall apart. Flip the okonomiyaki and use a spatula to press it down. Your finished okonomiyaki will be about 1/2″ thick. Fry this side until lightly browned and the center is cooked.
Use a spatula to transfer your cooked okonomiyaki to a plate, bacon side up, then spread some okonomiyaki sauce on top. Sprinkle on some aonori, then put a couple squirts of Japanese mayo on top of that. Finish with a generous dusting of katsuobushi and some benishoga in the middle for color.