Monday, June 7, 2010

Japanese Okonomiyaki - Gluten free


For my brilliant effort with this dish, I was rewarded with a circle of unenthusiastic faces staring at the thing on the plate.

What is it? They asked suspiciously.

I swear they all looked like they wanted to prod it with a stick.

Oko something or other.

OMG!!! The daughter squealed, grabbing the plate from my hand.

OKONOMIYAKeeee! She screamed again.

I was stunned. You actually know what this is?

DUH! Of course. It’s Japanese.

Apparently, a fascination with Japanese anime makes her knowledgeable about Japanese food too. Who says too much tv is a bad thing:?:-)

Why don’t you make more stuff like this?

Dear friends let me clarify. In essence this is a cabbage omelette/pancake with layers of fish and vegetables piled on top. I would like to impress upon you that various incantations of these same ingredients appear regularly in other meals around here. This same young lady usually frowns, picks out most of the vegetables and stirs the fish in contemplative circles on her plate. Am I missing something? Ahhhhh yes, the cool Japanese name.


Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savoury pancake that I first encountered in Cate’s World Kitchen. According to Wikipedia the name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki meaning "grilled" or "cooked."

Japanese food is rarely on my radar due to the difficulty of accessing specialty ingredients. This however is very accessible because you can customize it to your own tastes. What could be better than that? You can load it up with as many or as few toppings as you like. You can be as exotic as the Japanese with toppings like squid, pork, bonito flakes, nori (seaweed), or pickled ginger. If that's too out there for you then do as I did and come up with your own combination of toppings. It is after all what YOU want.

Warning: it may take you a while to learn how to say it. However it won’t take you but two minutes to learn how to prepare it and even less than that to fall in love with it. My one complaint is that for some reason it made me crave a tall cold beer. Okay so that's not really a complaint is it:-)  By the way, I forgive you in advance for calling it, the oko thing. I still do.

Okonomiyaki Recipe
makes 12 small ‘pancakes’


Japanese Pancake Batter
3-4cups cabbage; finely chopped
2 ½ cup flour or Gluten free flour (I used Dove Farm’s White Bread Flour)
¼ cup cassava flour and ¼ cup water (optional)*
½ cup water
4 eggs
Oil for frying
½ to ¾ tsp salt ( less salt is needed if cassava flour is omitted)

* traditional recipes include grated yam which I didn’t have at the time so I used cassava flour. This makes a thicker more filling pancake.

1 ½ cups grated carrots
1 cup scallions chopped
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 onion 3 pimento peppers
1 can tuna (in oil)

Okonomiyaki Sauce

1/2 cup Ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (omit if making it GF)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Soy sauce (substitute with Braggs Liquid aminos to make it GF)
1 teaspoon Honey


Make sauce
Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Taste and adjust ingredients until it is to your taste. If it's too tangy, add more honey/sugar. If it's too sweet, add a splash more soy sauce. Set aside.

Prepare toppings
Use a mandoline and chop your carrots. Set aside.
Chop scallions and set aside.

Make pancakes
Reconstitute the cassava flour with 1/4 cup of water. After a while it will absorb the water and swell to about 1/2 cup.

In a large bowl mix cabbage, flour, cassava flour (if using) eggs and water and salt.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast 1/4cup sesame seeds and set aside.

Lightly grease skillet and sauté onions and pimento peppers. Add the canned tuna and fry for a few minutes then set aside. Clean the skillet and lightly oil.

Ladle approximately ½ cup of batter onto hot skillet. Cook until air bubbles appear then flip over and cook on the other side. Cook until it has turned a light golden colour.

To garnish: top pancake with fried tuna, carrots, chopped chive. Squeeze okonomiyaki sauce back and forth over the top. Then alternate with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve hot

Cook’s Notes: To get your mayo into a squeeze bottle mix ½ cup of mayo with a tablespoon or more of milk. This makes a great breakfast or even dinner.

Finally if you have nothing better to do with your time, here is a funny video from a Japanese show called, “The Man who can’t get Married,” This guy appears to be on a date and is not pleased with his companion’s technique for making okonomiyaki. Finally the lady gives it over to him and he proceeds to school her on the correct technique.  When it is done, she takes a bite at last, saying delicious and he says, “It was made in such a way as to make it delicious.” You don’t have to speak Japanese (or French) to see why this guy is not married LOL.



  1. I love okonomiyaki too and it's great for using up leftovers too! :D

  2. This looks and sounds new to me :) nicreally interesting recipe.

  3. Hmmm -I might have to give that a try! I love introducing the kids to all different flavors and cultural things - I've not done any Japanese yet. Will have to try for sure.

  4. layers, happy layers--this is a really nifty dish, wizzy, and sadly, one which i'll never pronounce correctly. :)

  5. How intriguing! I've never heard of it. You did a beautiful job, it looks like. The photos are amazing.

  6. How funny - kids are all about what's cool as far as food is concerned, it seems. Wish I could spring this one on our kids, but I doubt they get enough anime to recognize it. I'd more likely get the wrinkled nose and frowns. That being said, it does sound really tasty! I am so not well-versed in Japanese cuisine...I really should venture in that direction!

  7. the daughter is hilarious....I think Japanese cooking is too way out for me, tho most of it sounds healthyish.

  8. One of my fav dish! You remind me that I haven't made it for such a long time!

  9. Thanks for teaching me something new.

    Will email soon.

  10. I made okonomiyaki in an older post. Not gluten free though. I had so much fun making them!
    RE the video: I would have thrown everything in the bowl in his face.

  11. Oh, pure treasure - your daughter's reaction! Superb! Looks good though cabbage in an omelette - will have to experience it for myself!

  12. How hilarious the way that your kids knew what it way. It looks delicious by the way. What fun!

  13. Cabbage omelette/pancake with vegetables? Sounds good to me!! Save me a bite?

  14. I'd not heard of it before - your daughter is brilliant to know what it was. I must say it looks beautiful, very tempting!

  15. This is new to me! But it sure looks delicious! I might have squealed on sight too! Your presentation is beautiful.

  16. I'm so happy that you landed on my blog, so I had the chance to get to know yours! I really love it, I'll add it to my blogroll!
    Have a wonderful week!

  17. Okonomiyaki! One of my favorites from my visit to Osaka earlier this year.

  18. Very nice photography.

    Okonomiyaki is a great snack to have with beer when in Japan.

    The okonomiyaki restaurants tend to be very friendly and casual. I've never seen anyone make an okonomiyaki so slowly or with as much fuss as the video. I looks like it might be a lampooning of the tea ceremony.

    As for why the guy can’t get married, I suspect he's gay. He was paying more attention to the male staff member than the lovely woman at his table.

  19. Wow, such an interesting dish! I've never heard of this before, and it sounds delicious.

  20. LOL prodding with a a stick...that s what my kids look like sometimes when I introduce something new...n they are all grown up!!!!

    its all in the presentation isnt it? and that is a beautiful looks almost like a pizza...CUTE!I bet it tastes wonderful.

  21. Zurin - it's sometimes called Japanese pizza but IMO the batter is def more pancake or even omlette

  22. I love this as well! Remember the first time I'm making these & my kids also screaming for it. They want more. I think this is also the best way to feed them the veggies. You know, kids just hated veggies! Hope you're having a great day, daahling.
    Cheers, Kristy

  23. Oh, Wiz, we had this in Japan, at a street festival. It was DELICIOUS. Dan is going to be veryvery surprised when I fix this for him here at home! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

  24. I love okonomiyaki. I last had it at a Japanese street fair in NYC. it's my second favourite to gyudon.