Okonomiyaki is Japanese street food at its finest. A cross between a savory pancake and a frittata, okonomiyaki is packed with veggies and protein, creating a satisfying meal. It’s also made with ingredients I usually have on hand, like flour, eggs, cabbage, hoisin and oyster sauce. Best of all, it’s ready in about a half hour!
Okonomiyaki, like many other Japanese foods, has regional differences. So, the okonomiyaki that you try in Osaka, where it was originally created, is not going to taste like the okonomiyaki they are making in Hiroshima- like how Chicago deep dish pizza is a totally different animal than NYC pies. The version we’re making today is more Osaka style, thick and plush, and it’s packed with my favorite combination, shrimp and bacon. The sweet briny taste of shrimp paired with the smoky crisp bacon is heaven, and it makes every bite of this simple street food seem sophisticated.
If you’re not feeling this combo, no problem. You are welcome to substitute it for whatever protein you like or have on hand. In fact, the name okonomiyaki kind of begs you to do so. Okonomi means “to your taste” and yaki means “grilled”, so this dish is essentially grilled to your taste. Here are some protein options for your consideration: scallops, calamari, sliced pork belly, or maybe even some fish cakes. If you’re vegetarian, how about some bean sprouts, Mochi (I like the Korean sliced rice sticks for this-just simmer in hot water for a couple of minutes before using), or mushrooms.
There are a lot of ingredients for the okonomiyaki sauce, but they are common pantry staples, and all you do is mix them together. You can make this ahead of time; just store it in the fridge until ready to use. This sauce is a little sweet, and a lot savory. Any leftover sauce is excellent on simply cooked meats. Also, if you’re not up for mixing together your own sauce, Otafuku makes a popular sauce for okonomiyaki that will make your life just a little easier.
One ingredient you may not be familiar with is yamaimo or nagaimo, a Japanese type of potato. When it’s grated, yamaimo becomes quite slimy, but it binds the batter and helps make a very light and fluffy mashed potato-like texture in the okonomiyaki. A lot of American recipes omit yamaimo, and have to make up for it by adding more eggs to hold it together. That’s fine, but it totally lacks the authentic texture and flavor of the real deal.
If you can’t find yamaimo, or don’t want to go through the hassle, I would recommend increasing the baking powder a little and adding another egg. Additionally, when we were kids, I distinctly remember my sister having an okonomiyaki with some mashed potatoes mixed in. I haven’t tried to make it myself that way, but it certainly seems like a possible substitution.
Any leftover yamaimo can be grated and served over rice with a little soy sauce (a common snack) or cut into matchsticks and served with a little wasabi and soy sauce.
This is what it looks like when grated; I told you it was goopy! But that goopiness is what binds the okonomiyaki all together, and gives it such a great texture. However, you must wash your hands immediately after grating the yamaimo as the sap will make your hands itchy. If you have any scratches or tiny cuts on your hands or you have sensitive skin, I would recommend that you wear gloves before touching yamaimo.
Green cabbage is the vegetable traditionally used here, and lots of it! Just a quarter of a large green cabbage will give about 4 cups when shredded. (Use the leftover cabbage to make Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad.) I cut the quarter in half to make sure I have shreds that aren’t super long.
Once the veggies are prepped, cut both the shrimp and the bacon in to bite sized pieces. Traditionally, when pork slices are used in okonomiyaki, it is laid out in stripes across the pancake. No doubt it’s attractive, but I want a piece of bacon in every bite. So instead, I like to cut up the bacon and as you can see by my photos, I’m very generous and use a lavish hand!
Now it’s time to mix up the batter. Stir the mixture with a fork or whisk until just combined.
Pan Fry For Perfect Crispiness!
As you can tell by looking, I like my okonomiyaki well browned. I find that the crisp savoriness enhances the rather neutral cabbage pancake, giving it a little charred flavor. If you prefer a less browned pancake, then turn down the heat a little, but cook for the same amount of time.
Once this savory pancake is done, the real fun comes in with the toppings. The sauce you just whipped up, the one and only kewpie mayo (it’s a must, guys-you know Japanese people are obsessed with mayo), shaved bonito flakes, pickled red ginger, and powdered green nori really take it over the top. There’s a definite party on top of your Okonomiyaki.
Release your inner Jackson Pollock and spread some sauce, artfully squeeze the mayo, and scatter the toppings. These could go in the Guggenheim!
I know you will love this iconic Japanese meal. Show off your masterpieces by tagging us in your creations at @funkyasiankitchen, and we would be so grateful if you reviewed and commented on the recipe below!Print
- 4 oz yamaimo (about 3.5 inch piece)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.5 oz)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 large egg
- ¼ head green cabbage (about 4 cups)
- ¼ pound medium shrimp (36/40 size)
- 6 slices bacon
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar (white wine vinegar is fine too)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon granulated onion
- A couple dashes cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons shredded pickled red ginger
- 1 package katsuo bushi (smoked dried bonito flakes, about 5 grams)
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (kewpie brand preferred)
- 1 teaspoon aonori (powdered green nori)
Make the Okonomiyaki Sauce:
- Mix the red wine vinegar, sugar, granulated garlic, granulated onion, cayenne pepper, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, oyster sauce, and hoisin sauce.
- Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Peel the yamaimo and then grate it. If using a box grater, use the small holes and put the grater over a bowl to catch the gooey mass. Set aside.
- Core the cabbage and then cut the wedge in half (so that the shreds will not be too long) and shred the cabbage as if making coleslaw so that the cabbage is in 1/4 inch shreds. Set aside until ready to use.
- Cut the shrimp in 2-3 pieces (you want it to be in small bite sized pieces) and remove tails. Put the shrimp into a bowl and set aside.
- Cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces and set aside in a small bowl.
- Mix all of the batter ingredients (yamaimo, water, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and egg) in a large bowl with a fork, until just combined. Then add cabbage. Mix to combine.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat or use an electric flat top griddle. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and then ½ of the cabbage batter onto each pan. Top the batter with ½ of the shrimp and ½ of the cut bacon. Put a lid on the pan.
- Cook the pancake for 4 minutes until the sides start to bubble and the edges look a little dry. Flip the pancake carefully using a large spatula (or 2) and again cook for 4 minutes with the pan covered with a lid.
- Use a paper towel to sop up the excess bacon grease. (I tilt the pan and wedge the paper towel where the grease pools.)
- Then flip over the okonomiyaki (the bacon side is now on top) and crisp the pancake for a minute without the lid.
- Place the okonomiyaki in a preheated 300 degree oven to keep warm while you finish the other pancake.
- Once both are cooked, put each okonomiyaki on a separate plate, top with sauce, mayo, red ginger, bonito flakes, and aonori. Serve immediately.
*If you cannot find yamaimo, use 1 additional egg and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
*If you like your okonomiyaki less browned, cook on medium heat for the same amount of time.
Keywords: okonomiyaki, japanese food, comfort food,