Okonomiyaki!

I kind of wish I could make animated .gifs — the little flakes on there are moving because of the heat making the air rise. It’s pretty cool looking.

Okonomiyaki are savory egg-and-cabbage pancakes that originated, it’s believed, in Osaka (and sometimes referred to as Osaka soul food). I first had one the second time I visited Los Angeles, when my host and I were lucky enough to catch a cart preparing them outside one of the Japanese markets. He ordered one for us to share and I seriously considered mugging him for the second half. There’s a lot going on in there: sweet, savory, crunchy, soft, meaty, pungent. It’s a pretty well-balanced dish and quite filling; one makes a sizable meal (and the recipe below makes two). Undressed, they keep fairly well overnight when wrapped on a plate; just unwrap, cover loosely, microwave and top with all the delicious things and devour happily. Both roommates are fond of this recipe — unsurprising, since they introduced me to it.

This recipe does use a fair number of specialty ingredients, which is something I generally try to avoid. I’m lucky enough to live in a metro area with one of the largest Japanese populations in the US, so for me it’s just a little bit out of the way to go to the Japanese market, but most of the things I’m using were available in the tiny Asian market of my Southern hometown of 100,000. And of course there’s the Internet, where everything is available.

Okonomiyaki

1 c. okonomi flour
3/4 c. plus 1 1/2 Tbsp. water
2 eggs
3 scallions, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. pickled ginger, chopped fine
1 small, 1/2 medium or 1/3 large head nappa cabbage (sometimes called Chinese cabbage or celery cabbage)
5-6 slices bacon, cut in half

To Serve:
Okonomi sauce
Kewpie mayonnaise
Aonori (seaweed flakes)
Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

Mix the okonomi flour, water and eggs in a bowl until just combined. Batter will be lumpy. Add the scallions, pickled ginger and cabbage; stir to coat. There won’t look like there’s enough batter to make a cohesive pancake, but there is; just trust it. Heat a tiny bit of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add half the batter. While it’s cooking, top with half the bacon, patting the slices into the veg so they’ll stick reasonably well. Let it go for maybe 10 minutes — the charming translated instructions on the first package of okonomi flour I used said to cook until it was “fox-coloured,” which implies to me a ruddiness it never took on, but the underside should be pale-ish with brown spots.

Carefully turn the okonomiyaki over — I am not a fancy flipping person; I use two spatulas and planning. It will sizzle much more entertainingly on the second side, what with the bacon being there. Cook until the bacon is done to your liking (keeping in mind that there’s only one side getting cooked — don’t burn it, but maybe cook a bit more assertively than usual) and flip onto a plate. Top with the mayo and okonomi sauce (which is sort of like Worcestershire, but sweeter and thicker), and then sprinkle on aonori and katsuobushi to taste (they’ll both pick up moisture from the sauce and not be as dry as they look).

It’s an unusual dish in most of the States, but well worth fixing if you can get your hands on the components.

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~ by iliadawry on 12 September 2012.

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