Grilled as you like it

Okonomiyaki: Grilled as you like it February 28, 2008

Filed under: Cooking,Eating,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 6:19 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,


Okonomiyaki is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It is a delicious, cabbage-based savory pancake. The name means “grilled as you like it,” and you can augment the basic batter with nearly anything you can think of.

Okonomiyaki is the regional specialty dish in the Kansai area of Japan—Osaka and Hiroshima are each known for their distinctive style of pancake, and each claims to be the home of the archetypal okonomiyaki. In the Osaka style, all of the ingredients are mixed together and cooked as a single pancake. In the Hiroshima style, on the other hand, each ingredient has it’s own layer—first comes a thin layer of batter, then some meats and seafood, cabbage, a layer of yakisoba or udon, and finally a fried egg. Either style is topped with paper-thin bonito flakes, ao-nori seaweed powder, okonomiyaki sauce (like Japanese-style barbeque sauce), and kewpie mayonnaise. Although I love to eat both styles, I prefer Osaka’s style for home cooking because the single layer makes it a lot easier to manage in a frying pan.

My favorite way to enjoy okonomiyaki is to have an okonomiyaki party. To prepare, I shred about half a head of cabbage and make a big bowl of batter. Each guest brings a portion of their topping of choice. Each guest mixes up and cooks their creation. If anyone at the party has dietary restrictions or strong dislikes each person can stick with the cake that they made, but it’s really fun to slice up and share the pancakes. Maybe you’ll discover a great flavor combination that you never thought of.

*This recipe uses grated mountain yam, a Japanese root vegetable that, when grated, becomes viscous and slimy. It may look very strange and even a little disgusting, but it really improves the texture of your okonomiyaki, making it more tender inside and more crisp on the surface. You can find mountain yam in Japanese grocery stores; it is called yama-imo or naga-imo. If you don’t have a Japanese grocery store, you can leave it out, but you may want to experiment with increasing the amount of water in your batter, and maybe adding some cornstarch or cake flour to keep the batter from becoming tough.

Nagaimo: Japanese mountain yam

Recipe: Okonomiyaki

Batter for one:
35 grams (¼ cup) flour
pinch salt
35 ml (3 tablespoons) water
20 grams (2 tablespoons) grated mountain yam (yama imo or naga imo)
1 egg, beaten

Batter for a party: serves about 6*
225 grams (1¼ cups) flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
225 grams (1 cup) water
120 grams (¾ cup) grated mountain yam
6 eggs, beaten

*The batter for 6 recipe can be scaled to any group size in multiples of two.

For each pancake:
about 50 grams shredded green cabbage
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions or garlic chives
about 1/2 cup assorted toppings, see below for suggestions
bonito flakes, ao-nori seaweed flakes, okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise

Toppings: choose as many as you like from the following, or use your imagination
bacon, sliced and cut into 2 to 3 inch lengths
beef, pork, chicken, or lamb, thinly sliced or chopped
mini wiener sausages, sliced
shrimp, chopped
scallops, chopped
squid, sliced into rings
clams, chopped
dried shrimp
mentaiko or tarako
tofu—plain, grilled, or fried—sliced or chopped
mochi, chopped
cheese such as mozzarella, shredded
tenkasu (tempura bits)
garlic chives (nira), chopped
scallion, thinly sliced
onion, thinly sliced
spinach, shredded
eggplant, sliced
zucchini, sliced
bell pepper or chile pepper, sliced
carrot, sliced
corn kernels
enoki mushrooms, cut into 1 inch lengths
mushrooms, sliced
bean sprouts
kimchi, chopped
pickled ginger, chopped
yakisoba or udon noodles
fried egg

Cut the topping ingredients into small pieces that will cook in the same amount of time as the pancake. Put each topping in a small dish and arrange the dishes where your guests will prepare their mix.

Stir together flour, salt, water, mountain yam, and egg to make a batter. Give each person at your party a medium to large bowl. Each person should put about one sixth of the batter and whatever toppings they like in the bowl (except bacon or noodles). Stir together.

Next, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. If using noodles, stir fry the noodles until cooked through. Set aside and top the finished pancake with them later. Spread the bacon (if using) evenly in the pan without overlapping. Pour the batter on top of the bacon. While the pancake is cooking, sprinkle a generous amount of bonito flakes and ao-nori over the top.

When the bottom is browned and it is cooked about halfway through, flip the pancake. If it is difficult to flip, you can use a large spatula or slide the pancake onto a large plate, place the pan on top, and then invert the pan and plate.

Continue cooking until the cake is cooked through and browned on the bottom. Top with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise, slice, and serve.

If you have any leftover batter, lightly stir in a few spoonfuls of sweetened adzuki beans and cook small pancakes for dessert.

Some ideas for flavor combinations:
Classic: bacon or thinly sliced pork and squid
Spicy seafood: kimchi, shrimp, squid, scallops, and mentaiko
Popeye: lots of spinach and shredded cheese
Kimchi-chi-chi: Kimchi, mochi, and cheese
Kit-Kat surprise: Add bite-sized pieces of Kit-Kat bar to your favorite combination!


13 Responses to “Okonomiyaki: Grilled as you like it”

  1. nthmost Says:

    Hi there, I found your website while searching for more okonomiyaki recipes to add to my collection at http://okonomiyakirecipes.nthmost.com

    Your combination suggestions are pretty unique, I daresay, and they sound really good. I love kimchi with my okonomi-yaki, for sure.

    Right now I’m really interested in finding out ways to substitute for the nagaimo which can be hard to find, especially if you don’t have Asian groceries nearby.

    Have you ever made a substitution for nagaimo that worked well? I am experimenting with yucca but this is far too starchy.


    ps. Kit-Kat? REALLY?? eek! I’m not sure I’d like that surprise :p

  2. laurel Says:

    Hi Naomi, luckily I was able to find nagaimo even in Denver, so I haven’t had to experiment with substitutes. I was thinking of trying grated regular potato or a mix of cornstarch and water as a substitute next time I can’t find it, though I’m not sure how well they would work. If you can find nagaimo occasionally, I’ve heard that a friend of a friend planted a piece and it grew and made more imo, but I don’t know the details. Maybe it’s worth a try though.

    As for the kit-kat, it’s a bit of a joke. We were at an okonomiyaki party when one of our pint-sized assistants stired a piece of the kit-kat she had been snacking on into the batter. We cooked it anyways, and it wasn’t so bad. But honestly, I’d rather save the kit-kat for dessert.

  3. nthmost Says:

    Hmm, I’d be curious to know whether the nagaimo is actually a very starchy root at all, because if it’s not, then other potatoes aren’t really going to do the trick. That gooey snotty thing it does when grated would probably be a certain bunch of proteins, but I don’t really know.

    That’s interesting about your friend planting the nagaimo and getting some growth out of it. I’ll keep that in mind.

    Re: kit-kat in batter, that’s pretty cute. I’m tempted to toss something like that into one of the next okonomiyaki I make at a party…

    Cheers and thanks again,

  4. laurel Says:

    Well even though it is very sticky and gooey when it’s raw, it seems to become starchy once it’s cooked. I had a great dish or nagaimo slices fried with garlic recently; it was just the tiniest bit gooey in the center…. but that’s another story.

    I tried making okonomiyaki without the nagaimo once before I found them at Pacific Mercantile in Denver (the only place near me at the time that had them), and it just seemed heavier and maybe a little bit doughy. With the nagaimo the texture seems lighter and crispier, which is why I recommended the starchy substitutes like grated potato or cornstarch. Come to think of it, maybe a little bit of leavening like a pinch of baking powder might be helpful too…

  5. laurel Says:

    It also appears that you can get nagaimo by mail order in the US if you don’t have an Asian store nearby:


  6. […] achei várias, vou postar uma mais completa que oTho gentilmente traduziu pra mim do site Beyondboulder. Pra quem tiver interesse de ver um verdadeiro chefe fazendo um Okonomiyaki assistam esse video: […]

  7. […] time, I’ll try the proper way of cooking okonomiyaki — bring on the cabbage! And curiously, the Japanese also have a way of using eggs in usuyaki […]

  8. Andrew Gould Says:

    Thanks for the okonomiyaki recipe. We just love this dish, and have fond memories of it from our 3 years in Japan, 20 years back.

  9. rantingcynic Says:

    Thank you, I have been looking for a good recipe for this. It’s one of my favorites!

  10. Michelle Says:

    Love your site!

  11. […] bloggen med samma namn finns det ett bra recept om man vill prova på att laga okonomiyaki […]

  12. […] of this snack but cabbage is the constant ingredient no matter how you prepare it. Here is a recipe for okonomiyaki. Anyone know where I can get some in […]

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