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Okonomiyaki Recipe

By Umami Recipe
Okonomiyaki Recipe

Okonomiyaki is one of Japan’s most popular soul foods, especially in the Osaka and Hiroshima prefectures where they take particular pride in their own regional variations. Okonomiyaki can be described as a savory “pancake” made from flour, eggs, cabbage, and other ingredients like pork and squid. This article breaks down all you need to know about mouthwatering okonomiyaki, including its varieties, key ingredients, and a simple recipe to try at home.

What exactly is okonomiyaki?

Literally translated as “fried stuff you like,” in its simplest form, okonomiyaki is an incredibly versatile, indulgent and surprisingly nutritious savory Japanese “pancake” typically made of cabbage, meat, or seafood and held together with a thin egg-based batter cooked on a hot grill. In a similar fashion to pizza, okonomiyaki is not okonomiyaki without the presence of its toppings, which are essential to the overall experience of the dish. Traditionally, the round surface of okonomiyaki is smothered with a brown sauce, a sprinkle of green laver and bonito flakes which “dance” along with the steam — true culinary magic.

Okonomiyaki - Japanese Savory Pancake

Okonomiyaki is a teppanyaki dish that uses flour and cabbage. You can grill these ingredients and use your favorite ingredients as a filling, such as vegetables, meat, and seafood. For the finishing t...

Osaka-style Okonomiyaki

As its name suggests, there are no rules to okonomiyaki. In fact, customizing its main ingredients, toppings, and preparation styles are encouraged. In saying that, there are two main ways of preparing okonomiyaki in Japan. First up, Osaka style okonomiyaki:

The most distinctive feature of Osaka-style okonomiyaki  (大阪風お好み焼き) is that likewise to regular pancakes, all of its main ingredients (eggs, flour, meat and cabbage) are mixed into the batter then cooked on a thin griddle, where both sides are cooked. Compared to okonomiyaki variations in other parts of Japan, the Osaka kind is characterized by a fluffier finish. To achieve optimal fluffiness, Japanese yams “yamaimo” are added to the mix. The result is fluffy and savory okonomiyaki that one can't help but overeat.

Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki

Along with its Osaka rival, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (広島風お好み焼き) is the other most popular style of okonomiyaki in Japan. The Hiroshima-style is characterized by its layering process, where ingredients are carefully layered one at a time rather than mixed in with the batter like Osaka-syle okonomiyaki. Not only that, fried egg and yakisoba noodles (or sometimes udon noodles) are added. An untrained eye can easily distinguish the two styles for the layering of the Hiroshima style results in a very tall pancake as opposed to its Osaka cousin, which is almost always flat.

Lastly, we have “modanyaki” (Modern Yaki), a combination of the above two styles where similarly to Osaka all of the ingredients are mixed into the batter with the addition of Hiroshima-inspired yakisoba or udon noodles to make it more voluminous and hearty.
 

Essential Okonomiyaki Ingredients

Although okonomiyaki is one of the most versatile Japanese recipes, we recommend adding the following essential ingredients for a truly authentic taste:

Yamaimo

Yamaimo, or the Japanese mountain yam, is traditionally grated raw into okonomiyaki batter for a mouthwatering elastic-yet-airy texture. Don’t be alarmed by yamaimo’s extremely slimy feel for when it is cooked, it is this feature that will prevent your okonomiyaki from turning doughy, instead assuring extra fluffiness!

Tenkasu (tempura bits/scraps)

Tenkasu is the by-product of tempura batter. More specifically, tenkasu is the remnants of the batter that come off the tempura seafood and vegetables when they are fried. The crunchy tenkasu bits are scooped up from the top of the hot oil with a metal net then added to the likes of udon, soba noodles, and in our case, okonomiyaki, for that extra crunch factor!

Beni-Shoga (Red Pickled Ginger)

Red pickled ginger are small strips of ginger that have been dyed red and pickled in vinegar. Adding pickled ginger as an okonomiyaki topping adds vibrant color to the dish and provides a tangy counter-taste to the other ingredients.

Okonomiyaki Sauce

Okonomiyaki sauce is perhaps the most essential ingredient for this dish, adding the majority of its flavor. It can be likened to Worcestershire sauce, but in our opinion, it is sweeter and thicker. In Japan, we have different types of okonomiyaki sauce to suit all tastes. In Hiroshima, a sweeter okonomiyaki sauce is preferred whilst the people of Osaka enjoy a more salty variant.

Japanese Mayonnaise

It’s common knowledge that Japanese mayonnaise goes well with everything, and Japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce go together like cheese and crackers. In other words, mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce are an inseparable pair and an absolute must when it comes to authentic Japanese okonomiyaki. In fact, the Japanese believe that 80% of the taste of okonomiyaki comes from the marriage of these two sauces. We promise the calories are worth it!

Katsuobushi (Dried Bonito Flakes)

Katsuobushi are shaved flakes of fermented and smoked bonito. They are sold in small packs at all Japanese convenience stores. Japanese love to WOW their foreign guests by sprinkling the paper-thin katsuboshi on top of cooked okonomiyaki which react to the heat coming off of the surface and start to “dance.”

Aonori (Dried Green Seaweed)

Aonori is dried seaweed that has been ground into a fine powder. It is used to add flavor and a dash of vibrant green color to various Japanese dishes, including yakisoba, takoyaki and our beloved okonomiyaki. We love aonori for its subtle but flavorsome taste of the sea.

Popular Add-ins

We love okonomiyaki for its versatility. These days, people are becoming increasingly adventurous with their okonomiyaki add-ins. The following are some of the most popular ingredients used when making okonomiyaki.

Pork

Pork belly is one of the most popular ingredients in okonomiyaki. It is grilled on the same hotplate but separated from the okonomiyaki, to maximize its taste, before being added.

Seafood

Seafood is another popular ingredient for okonomiyaki. In Hiroshima, where oysters are plentiful, oysters are used instead of pork belly. In Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, scallops and kelp are used for extra umami flavor.

Yakisoba

Adding yakisoba does two things to okonomiyaki. 1. It adds an additional texture, adding to the overall eating experience. 2. It makes the meal more hearty and substantial — who doesn’t love a carb-on-carb meal?

Cheese

Although okonomiyaki is already super flavorful with its essential ingredients, some people enjoy adding a creamy element of grated cheese into the batter. We can’t say we disagree with their logic!

Mochi

An alternative okonomiyaki ingredient, some people add mochi (Japanese rice cakes) to their okonomiyaki batter for its chewy element.

Green onions

onions, helps the meal be better digested as well as adding a refreshing taste. In Japan, negi-yaki is often eaten as a cure for hangovers!

Itadakimasu, Let’s Eat!

So how do we devour this flavorful savory “pancake”? The short answer, however you wish! The long answer, either with chopsticks or knife and fork if you’re cooking okonomiyaki at home, or a metallic spatula-like tool specific for okonomiyaki called “hera” if you’re dining out at an okonomiyaki restaurant. Simply use the hera to cut your okonomiyaki into bite-sized pieces then use the same metallic device to transport the deliciousness straight into your mouth! There’s nothing quite like an authentic okonomiyaki experience! We hope you enjoy every mouthful.

Okonomiyaki Recipe

Here’s a quick recipe to try making your own okonomiyaki at home! We hope you enjoy every mouthful.

Okonomiyaki - Japanese Savory Pancake

Okonomiyaki is a teppanyaki dish that uses flour and cabbage. You can grill these ingredients and use your favorite ingredients as a filling, such as vegetables, meat, and seafood. For the finishing t...

Umami Recipe Team

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