Saturday, June 25, 2011

Okonomiyaki: Japanese egg pancake

Many years ago, when alphamatrix returned from a year in Japan (her first visit), I remember her cooking something which she said she really missed, and just had to have.  When she explained what it was, I didn't get it.  Clearly, the Japanese are crazy.  An egg pancake with cabbage in it is just not right. 
When we visited Japan just over a year ago, we stumbled upon a great local spot and tried this okonomiyake we had heard so much about.  And I was so wrong.  Don't knock it til you've tried it.  
This has become one of those foods that I dream about for days if someone mentions it and I can't make it straight away!


I've heard this described variously as Japanese pancake, Japanese omelet, and Japanese pizza, but none of these does it justice.  This is a thick, eggy pancake, filled with delicious chicken, leek and bacon (you can put all sorts of things in it, but I keep coming back to these as my favourites), and cabbage - there's always cabbage.  Really, though, it's about the sauce, and the crazy bonito flakes - and these two ingredients are well worth tracking down so you can try this.  Trust me.


Okonomi sauce is something I've tried to substitute for, but it really is unique, and essential.  You can hunt for the word "okonomi" or cheat like I do, and look for a bottle with a picture of okonomiyaki (and the unmistakeable mayonaisse criss-cross)!
I also believe bonito flakes are essential - and I wouldn't have dreamt of outting these near food before I visited Japan.  I've found a brand with individual 3g sachets, which stay fresh and are perfect as I don't make this that often.

Rather than buy okonomiyaki mix, I read the English translation on the back and have come up with an easy batter which tastes the same to me.


Take two eggs, and mix with about 1/2 cup of plain flour and 1 tsp of white sugar.
Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water until you get a thin consistency, like this:


Stir-fry your main ingredients: I typically use slices of chicken thigh, leek, and bacon - but also use sliced mushrooms, and onion regularly.


Add thinly sliced cabbage, and stir until just warmed through (this will cook further when the batter is in)


Now, pour the batter over, cover, turn the heat to low, and let sit for a couple of minutes.


Carefully flip when the batter starts to set on top.  You want the batter cooked through, and only lightly browned.


Transfer to a plate, cover with okonomi sauce, draw pretty pictures with mayonnaise (purists insist on kewpie mayo, but I find standard store-bought is just fine).  Sprinkle generous helpings of bonito flakes, and dig in!



  1. YUM!!
    I agree about the mayonnaise - any store-bought stuff is fine, so long as its creamy mayonnaise, not tangy sweet stuff (i.e. something like Best Foods, not ETA mayonnaise).

    I"m glad you don't think I'm crazy anymore.

  2. hee, hee, I love the bonito flakes wave at you when you put them on hot things :-) You'll have to tell me where you found your dealer, this sounds like a fab quick dinner idea :-)

  3. The bonito flakes are from the Asian grocer on the outside of South Melbourne markets (opposite the nut place at the meat hall entrance on Coventry Street). I always watch to see them wave, though the effect is not as good on these shorter ones as on the really long pieces we saw in Japan!