Anyone who has eaten an okonomiyaki will agree that it’s one of the many types of Japanese food that will stick in your mind.
Okonomiyaki is essentially just lots of cabbage mixed with batter and topped with sliced pork, beef, or seafood – and served with an addictive, sweet-salty sauce and some seaweed powder. The Osakans will insist that their okonomiyaki is the best, but the Hiroshima folks will beg to differ – their version is more commonly known as modanyaki, which, for simplicity’s sake, is okonomiyaki plus a layer of fried udon or soba and occasionally topped with an egg.
Eating okonomiyaki in Japan is an experience on its own. Most of the time, the okonomiyaki will be cooked on a hot plate in front of you; when it’s done, you’ll be handed a small metal spatula to cut the okonomiyaki up and dish onto your plate, portion by portion, so that it remains warm while you eat.
While that experience is more challenging to recreate at home, okonomiyaki isn’t difficult to make. While authentic recipes call for grated Japanese yam, its key function is to hold the batter together and its omission does not affect the taste.
Finally, a word on the cabbage to be used – some recipes I’ve seen call for Chinese cabbage, which, regardless of the two variants it could be, is wrong and not at all an acceptable substitute.
Now, let’s cook!
1/2 small sweetheart cabbage (or white British cabbage)
4 strips of streaky bacon
1/2 cup plain flour
3 large eggs
Chilli flakes (optional)
Sesame seeds oil (optional)
Okonomiyaki sauce (or tonkatsu or BBQ sauce)
Dried sushi seaweed, cut into fine strips
1. Finely slice the cabbage. If using white British cabbage, use only the outer leaves or blanch the thick leaves after slicing. Blanch in boiling water.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour and eggs together. Add some stock or water if the batter is too thick. Season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes, cumin and a few drops of sesame oil. Add the cabbage to the batter and mix thoroughly. There should be enough batter to coat all the cabbage, with some extra to hold the mixture together.
3. Heat some oil in a frying pan on medium heat. When hot, pour in half of the cabbage mixture and press down slightly with a spatula. Place half the bacon on top of the mixture and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Flip the okonomiyaki over carefully and place the lid on the pan. Cook for another 3 minutes before flipping the okonomiyaki once again. Cook for another 1 – 2 minutes. Dish onto a plate and place it in a heated oven to keep warm while repeating the above steps to cook the second okonomiyaki.
5. To serve, drizzle okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise in a criss-cross manner on top of the okonomiyaki and sprinkle the seaweed strips to finish.
All the ingredients for okonomiyaki
Udon or egg noodles
1 egg (optional)
1. Stir fry the noodles with some okonomiyaki sauce and/or soy sauce until almost fully cooked.
2. Follow steps 1 – 3 above, except to place the noodles on the cabbage mixture before layering the bacon on top.
3. Follow step 4 above. If desired, fry an egg to top the modanyaki before adding the other toppings in step 5 above.