Foodie Friday: Okonomiyaki!
Okonomiyaki, a Japanese dish roughly translating to “however you like it, grilled” is one of my favorite Japanese dishes next to sushi. There’s a long story of how I got introduced it, when my only knowledge of “Japanese cuisine”, sadly – was teriyaki chicken, gyoza and california rolls.
I remember being in the second grade (or maybe it was third…) and being introduced into Japanese culture via a unit we did for class. We read stories set in Japan, learned a little about their language and traditions and I fell in love with it all. From that moment on, I was hugely fascinated in Japan and it’s culture. Over the years that grew into love of most Asian culture, but I still had a hankering to learn the Japanese language. When I was 14, my grandmother hired a private tutor to teach me.
The summer after 8th grade, my tutor asked if our family was interested in being a host family for a Japanese student for a week through the sister city program that her mom was on the board of. We agreed, and a few weeks later we were meeting our student, Rie, for the first time.
My Japanese wasn’t good at the time and Rie’s english wasn’t good either. We basically just nodded and said a few words here and there trying to convey our points. One night she made us dinner, claiming that this dish was her favorite dish. At that point, I had no idea what she was saying other than it had “yaki” in it and that we were eating it with “soba”. I had heard of yakisoba, but never separately. Despite not knowing a thing about what it was or what was in it, we all loved it. The week went by really quickly — we really had a good time being with her and when the time came for her to leave, no one wanted her to. Rie also cried and hugged us all tightly, leaving us all sweet letters and gifts with her departure.
She continued to keep in touch with our family for the next five years, emailing back and forth, sending gifts back and forth for birthdays and Christmas until she announced that she wanted to return, for three weeks this time, on her own. So, she came back to our house for three weeks when we were 19, and then again two years later, with her mom in tow, during the holiday season.
By her third visit, I was very well aware what okonomiyaki was and loved that
she would prepare it. She did her best to convert the recipe to US measurements but it was still a bit off. Between her recipe and looking online, I finally got together a way to make it that was tasty and pleased my family members who were used to Rie’s method. I’m oftentimes lazy and wish that a restaurant in Seattle could make it just as well, but I’ve realized that in order to enjoy it, you need to take the name of it to heart. You need to make okonomiyaki yourself so that way you can really make it “anyway you like”. I’m giving you all the recipe I use, and of course, it can be changed to suit your tastes!
Okonomiyaki, how a B. likes it:
2 Cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbs water with a a sprinkle of hondashi granules, mixed well
2-3 eggs (depending on the size, if they’re large, I’ll just use 2)
Half head of cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 Tbs of pickled ginger (the red, beni shoga…NOT gari that’s served with sushi!)
Handful of tenkasu (fried tempura bits)
Thinly sliced pork belly
Aonori (tiny seaweed flakes!)
Katsuobushi (bonito, or fish flakes)
Mix flour, eggs, hondashi water well before adding sliced cabbage. Add ginger and tenkasu to your liking. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
On a griddle or a frying pan, wipe oil evenly over surface, setting the pan or griddle to medium heat. Pour however much or little of the mixture you want into the pan (but just remember, the bigger the okonomiyaki, the harder to flip). While one side is frying, also fry a few pieces of the pork belly until it’s cooked. Before flipping the pancake (make sure it’s browned at the bottom), lay the pieces of pork over the side facing up. Flip over until it is browned and seemingly cooked through before flipping it back over, pork belly side up.
How you top it is up to you – I like to also make yakisoba noodles to top it with (a little inspired by the hiroshima style) but more typically I’ll brush the okonomiyaki sauce over the okonomiyaki, and drizzle the mayo over it, topping it with a lot of katsuobushi and aonori! What you make should resemble something like the photo I snapped with my cell phone above. The okonomiyaki should be fully cooked on the inside, not runny!
As always, if you have any ideas for Foodie Friday, whether it be a place in the Seattle area to check out or a recipe to tinker with, feel free to let me know!