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Some people call okonomiyaki a “Japanese pizza”, but I think of it more as a cross between an omelette and a pancake… or a latke crossed with a crepe. However you define it, this savoury dish consists of cabbage in a flour-based batter, fried up and topped with a delicious sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and mesmerizing katsuobushi bonito flakes that, – propelled by heat – dance and wave atop the dish. But the best part is that it’s totally customizable and perfect for those days when you need a quick, cheap, meal to use up whatever you happen to have in the fridge.

Okonomiyaki, grilled on a hotplate and topped with sauce, mayonnaise, and katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

Different regions in Japan all boast their own style of okonomiyaki, and for people in every region, their own style is (of course) the best. But don’t listen to them… this Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the best. And, with all of the ingredients mixed together in a bowl and fried all at once, it’s also the easiest. Because it’s flexible, customizable, and easy to make this is the recipe that everyone tells me they’ve quickly incorporated into their culinary repertoire.

Ingredients (per okonomiyaki)

Base:

  • Approx 1 cup thinly sliced cabbage and (optional) chopped green onions
  • Approx ½ cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 or more Guu (fillings) of your choice
  • ½ cup or so liquid: dashi stock or milk + 1/8 tsp dashi powder
  • a shake or two of salt and pepper
  • 1 -2 slices bacon (optional)

Toppings:

  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Ao-nori (type of dried, crushed seaweed)
  • Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie brand is the most popular)
  • Katsuo-bushi (Bonito flakes)

Method:

  1. Prepare the cabbage. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage, and cut out the stems (you want only the young and tender parts of the leaves). Slice the leaves as thinly as possible (a food processor with a slicing attachment is your friend for this step) and place into a medium-sized bowl. Add chopped green onion (optional) in any amount you like, as long as you end up with about 1 cup total.
  2. Prepare your pan and ingredients. Pre-heat a frying pan or large grill to medium-high heat and pre-measure all of your ingredients so you’ll be ready to mix the okonomiyaki ingredients immediately before cooking. To prepare the dashi stock, dissolve about 1/8 tsp of dashi powder in a little hot water, and then add enough cold water to make a 1/2 cup.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients + guu. Add flour, salt and pepper and guu of your choice to your cabbage base and mix. The flour should coat all of the ingredients, leaving enough at the bottom of your bowl to create the batter.
  4. Add the egg. Crack the egg into the cabbage/flour base and gently mix until just incorporated.
  5. Add the liquid. Again, mix until just incorporated. Add extra if necessary, to achieve a thick pancake batter. You may still have some pockets of flour that are not completely moistened. This is OK.
  6. Fry it. Add a little oil to the pan, and pour in your okonomiyaki batter. Arrange it so that it’s level and round. Fry on one side until it becomes what the Japanese like to call kitsune iro. This translates to, literally, “the colour of a fox”! (More fun than boring old “golden-brown”.) Let it cook until the bottom is quite firm, about 5 to 7 minutes. If you want to add bacon, place one or two slices on the uncooked side of the okonomiyaki.
  7. Flip it. Once the first side is done, flip it over. You may need two spatulas to do this – it can be heavy. Make a few incisions with the corner of your spatula in the crusty top of your okonomiyaki to help the steam to escape through the top cook the pancake through evenly.  Keep cooking until both sides are foxy brown and the middle is cooked right through.
  8. Garnish with okonomiyaki sauce, aonori, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes.

Guu (fillings):

This is where you get to make it just the way you like it. Throw in 5 – 10 bite-sized pieces of one (or many) of the following as your guu or filling of choice.

  • Seafood: raw squid, octopus, prawns, scallops, etc.
  • Meat: pre-cooked sliced beef (or beef tendon) or pork
  • Chunks of firm, mild cheeses like mozzarella or mild cheddar
  • Mochi (pounded rice cake) pieces
  • Any of the above+ 1 – 2 Tbsp tenkasu (bits of fried tempura batter, available in a bag)

Good to Know:

You can even try varying the base by mixing regular cabbage with red cabbage, increasing the proportion of green onions, or by adding bean sprouts to the mix – just keep the total amount at approximately 1 cup.

Reader ParticipATE-tion:

Check out what readers have made using the above recipe.

Stephanie made a great little montage of photos of her okonomiyaki-making experience

Kristy, Meghann, and Marcus' okonomiyaki with shrimp and cheese - using both green and red cabbage, too!

Rhoda opted to make her okonomiyaki as she likes it - with sweet chili sauce instead of okonomiyaki sauce!