Okonomiyaki is most compared to the Western dishes of pancakes, pizza, and omelettes. While at first glance it would seem that these dishes have almost nothing in common with each other, I have a feeling the comparison stems from the freedom of being able to be creative with the toppings and ingredients of these dishes. In fact, okonomiyaki is a combination of the words okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked”. Just as you can add any manner of toppings and fillings to pancakes, pizza, and omelettes to suit your individual tastes, okonomiyaki is easily customizable, even if its basic components stay the same. Of course, as you will see, okonomiyaki is certainly it’s own beast, though a delicious, soul-warming one….
In anime, okonomiyaki is not seen quite as often as say omu-rice or tamagoyaki, but does pop up every now and then, often in the context of festivals (school cultural festivals as well as summer festival food stands) and in restaurants. For example, in Nabari no Ou, the main character, Miharu, works in his family’s okonomiyaki restaurant, while in Tamayura Hitotose episode 5, the cast eats triple layered okonomiyaki in a restaurant. This dish also appears in Kuroko no Basuke, Smile Precure!, and the Hayate no Gotoku movie, to name a few!
About the recipe:
Okonomiyaki is generally easy to make, though it requires a fair bit of prep-work before it’s ready to cook. Many items must be chopped and at the ready because once all the ingredients are prepared, it can be quickly thrown together. Fluffy and smothered in salty tonkatsu sauce and creamy Japanese mayonaise, with bursts of picked ginger and seafood within, it’s no wonder that this dish is referred to as “Osaka soul food”….
Okonomiyaki can also be paired with a number of other dishes. A popular variation is making yakisoba with okonomiyaki on top. You could even eat it with a fried egg! True to the meaning of its name, okonomiyaki is all about what you want, how you want it!
About the ingredients:
Sharpen your knife! You’re going to be cutting a lot of things in this recipe… But first, what are the ingredients, anyways?
Nagaimo is a type of yam that is light beige on the outside, and white on the inside. It can be found in Japanese grocery stores, such as Mitsuwa. In this dish, the nagaimo is grated using the larger holes on a standard grater. Once grated, this ingredient turns very gooey and sticky. Peel the nagaimo before grating, and make sure to avoid contact with the white surface beneath because it is known to cause an allergic reaction for some people.
Dashi is Japanese fish stock. It commonly comes in the form of powder or granules, dissolving once wet.
Beni shouga is pickled ginger that is julienned (cut like short matchsticks) and is a bright red in color. It can be found in many Asian grocery stores, and comes in a jar, with the beni shouga submerged in a vinegary solution.
Because okonomiyaki is all about eating what you want to eat, you are free to add any sort of seafood or meat to your batter before cooking. In this recipe, I list shrimp as the meat ingredient, but you could easily substitute in almost any other meat or seafood, such as squid, pork belly, octopus, kimchi, or even cheese! Just make sure that it’s cut in bite-size pieces or sliced thinly so that it cooks through!
Aonori is powdered seaweed that is commonly sprinkled on top of okonomiyaki. If you can’t find aonori, you can also use kizami nori, which is julienned nori. It is sold in a container, or you could always cut your own from a sheet of nori. If you cut it yourself, make sure to crisp up your nori on the stove or over an open flame (such as on a gas stove), and cut the nori thinly, a little thicker than the width of a matchstick, and about as long.
Katsuobushi is another word for bonito flakes, which is made from dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna (referred to as bonito). The flakes are airy and very thin, and are placed on top of okonomiyaki as a garnish. The taste is salty and smoky, and best of all, the flakes tend to “dance” gently as it makes contact with the moisture of the sauces below.
Tonkatsu sauce a dipping sauce used for a Japanese dish of deep fried pork cutlets (tonkatsu), but can also be used for okonomiyaki as well. I list it in the ingredients because it is often easier to find than actual okonomiyaki sauce, and it tastes very similar.
Japanese mayonnaise is thinner than its Western equivalent, and is used widely across Japan in sushi, as a dipping sauce, in salads, and of course, drizzled atop okonomiyaki. It comes in a convenient squeeze bottle, and I generally use the popular brand, Kewpie. Japanese mayonnaise tastes different than Western mayonnaise, so I wouldn’t recommend using it as a substitute (might work in a pinch, though I’ve never tried it).
Makes 3 medium or 2 large okonomiyaki (2 plus servings).
- 4 ounces grated nagaimo
- 5 tbsp dashi stock, or water with a pinch of dashi powder
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tbsp beni shouga
- 2 cups packed cabbage, roughly and thinly chopped
- 12 medium shrimp, halved horizontally and lengthwise
- 3 tbsp chopped green onion
- Oil for cooking
- Toppings: kizami nori, aonori, katsuobushi, tonkatsu sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise
1. Peel and grate the nagaimo, avoiding contact with raw surface if allergic. Mix with the dashi and flour, and add two of the eggs. It should be a rather loose batter. (Optional: fry up some tenkatsu with a small portion of the batter.)
2. Add the chopped cabbage to the batter. Add the other egg. Stir with a big spoon or a spatula to combine. Add the beni shouga, shrimp and green onion.
3. Place oil in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Take a wad of cotton wool or paper towels, and spread around a thin layer of oil.
4. Spread ½ to ⅓ of the batter in a circle on the pan. Put on a lid and let it steam-cook for about 5 to 6 minutes.
5. Take two spatulas and flip the okonomiyaki over carefully. Continue cooking without a lid for about 3 to 4 minutes. Lower the heat if it’s cooking too fast, or turn it up a bit if it isn’t. The inside should be just cooked through, not doughy or runny. Try to resist the urge to press down on the okonomiyaki at this point – doing so will squeeze some air and fluffiness out of the okonomiyaki.
6. Remove from frying pan and serve on a large plate. Brush with okonomiyaki or tonkatsu sauce and drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise. Sprinkle on katsuobushi and kizami nori liberally. Eat while piping hot.