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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Okonomiyaki (Japanese "As You Like" Savory Pancake)

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Celebrate Your Inner... Japanese(?) with Okonomiyaki.

Huh? What? Psst! St. Paddy's Day is Irish! Dye the Chicago River green. U2. The Corrs. William Butler Yeats. Oscar Wilde. James Joyce. Pierce Brosnan. Corned beef and cabbage. Irish soda bread. Irish tea. Guinness. Get it?

No, no. I'm not confused.

Four years ago I was in Dublin. Not Dublin, California, but Dublin, Ireland. See? Ireland. I know whence I speak.

My hotel was The Townhouse, two converted townhouses that were the former homes of poets, Dion Boucicault (1829?-1890) and Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904). Each room was named after one of their poems. The lobby featured news clippings, playbills, and photographs of each poet. I had long forgotten the name of the first poet, but Hearn stayed with me. Hearn is better known as Koizumi Yokumo. This Irishman's writings about Japanese legends and ghost stories, at a time when Japan was pushing for modernity, helped introduce Japan to the Western world and preserve a part of Japan's past.

So on this very Irish, actually Irish-American holiday, I offer you my recipe for okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake. Okonomi (as you like) can be made of whatever ingredients you want to yaki (grill). Since I added noodles to mine, I guess it's technically the more Hiroshima-style modanyaki.

 Okonomiyaki (Japanese "As You Like" Savory Pancake)

For two big okonomiyakis, which is about 4 servings as a meal, you'll need:

2 cups flour (If you have it on hand, make it be 2/3 part flour, 1/3 part potato or tapioca starch.)
2 cups cold water, more or less, you want a pancake batter-like consistency
2 eggs
About 1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced
About 4 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces or any other meat of your choice -- shrimp, leftover teriyaki chicken, whatever you want
1 small onion, shallots, or green onions, thinly sliced
1 package of ramen noodles, cooked and drained
Nori (Japanese seaweed)
Bonito flakes
Kewpie mayonnaise

Okonomi sauce:
About 1 tblsp ketchup
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp mustard 

Make the okonomi sauce first and set aside.

Prepare ramen noodles as instructed, seasonings included if you wish, and allow to drain in colander.

Julienne cabbage. Dice onion or shallots. Slice meats.

Mix two cups flour with slightly less than two cups cold water. Beat in two eggs. If the consistency isn't quite pancake batter-like enough, add more water. Add in the cabbage, onion, meats (except bacon if you're using that), and noodles. You should get a slightly thick batter like shown below.

In a large saute pan, add the bacon slices first. Then take half of the batter mixture and spread it out evenly in the pan. It should take about 5-7 minutes for the bacon to get crispy and for the bottom to get golden.

While you're waiting, cut up nori seaweed into thin strips. I didn't have bonito flakes so I substituted with Vietnamese dried cuttlefish. Shred that too.

When the bacon is crispy and the bottom layer is golden, flip the pancake with a spatula or two.

Add mayonnaise and okonomi sauce, topped with nori and fish flakes. Slice into wedges to eat. You may need to use your hands. That's why okonomiyaki is sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza.

But the above picture was messy looking and I knew I could do better.
So with the second okonomiyaki, I tried a different technique. When the bottom layer is ready for flipping, don't use your spatula. Slide it onto a plate as shown here.

Then take your pan and place it over the top of the pancake.

Use potholders! Hold the plate tightly against the pan and flip the pan back upright so the plate lies on top of the pan, and the pancake is still all in one piece.

Remove the plate and you'll see a perfectly flipped pancake.

Top the same as above.

Slice into wedges.

Side view of all the layers.

I've seen recipes that featured cheese even to really make it that much closer to pizza. Okonomi (as you like) so add whatever you'd like. And do read Mmm-yoso's recipe if you want to understand the whole grated mountain yam and texture thing. But otherwise, it just tastes like a savory pancake to me.



  1. Looks great! And guiltily pleasurable (anything with mayo, bacon and instant ramen noodles instantly qualifies as a guilty pleasure :)

    I spy Mama brand ramen.

  2. Hey WC - Sounds like a natural combination to me! Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki(that would be because of the noodles) and St Paddy's day.....what could be more natural!

  3. No kidding. It's the first time I see ramen/noodles fried in as a pancake :O

  4. GC,
    Do you like Mama brand? I bought it b/c it was only $3.99 for the box, but I gotta say I like Nong Shim much more.

    Only you would think St. Patty's Day and Japanese food is natural. :)

    Oops, I missed wishing you a Happy St. Patty's Day! :)

    I'm just showing you all crazy kinds of food combos huh? :)

  5. I love mama brand noodles! i grew up eating the tom yum brand. :)

  6. Squidopus,
    When I'm craving that sour spicy kick, the Mama brand tom yum totally hits the spot.


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