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