What is okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki ( pronounced oh-kon-mi-yhaki ) means ‘grilled the way you want it’ in Japanese, and is also sometimes referred to as a Japanese pizza. The dish, however, more closely resembles a tortilla or a savoury pancake. The name says it all – you can literally add any ingredients that you like! Okonomiyaki consists of cabbage strips and a pancake-like batter with two sauces, okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise, but all other ingredients are optional.
In Japan, the pancakes are available in two styles, Hiroshima style and Osaka style (also called Kansai style). In the Osaka style, all the ingredients are mixed into the batter and then baked to form a creamy pancake, while the Hiroshima style calls for the ingredients to be layered and grilled on a grill plate until it forms a thick round cake.
Okonomiyaki first became popular during the second world war when rice was scarce and people needed to create meals with leftover scraps of meat and vegetables. A simple pancake worked well as a base for this dish and slowly a version with eggs and cabbage emerged.
At first, okonomiyaki was mostly prepared at home, but it made the leap to restaurant menus by the end of the war. The dish is normally prepared on a grill plate similar to that used for teppanyaki. Today, two types of okonomiyaki restaurants exist: the normal version and the do-it-yourself version, where all the ingredients are brought to your table along with a grill plate so that you can prepare your own meal to your exact specifications.
Did you know
The dish is more of a delicious snack than a meal.
How to make okonomiyaki
For the Osaka-style pancake, eggs, flour, dashi, grated yam, cabbage strips, fried onions, spring onions and fresh ginger are first mixed into a filled batter. The batter is then fried in a pan at medium heat and bacon or pork belly can be sprinkled on top for added taste.
In the Hiroshima version, the pancake is first baked on a grill plate, after which the other ingredients like cabbage, bean sprouts, bacon, yakisoba (fried soba noodles) and a fried egg are added. Sometimes a second pancake is added to the dish.
The baked pancake is then generously sprinkled with okonomiyaki sauce and mayo. Toppings ranging from simple fresh tomato pieces to extensive aonori (dried nori flakes), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and benishuga (red pickled ginger) are often added. The purpose of the toppings and sauces are clear; they make the pancake addictively tasty!
Banh xeo is a hearty Vietnamese pancake made from rice flour. Athough it is paper-thin, it is filled as richly as okonomiyaki. In Canada, people eat jianbing, pancakes made from a wheat- and mung bean flour, filled with eggs, spring onions and coriander.
People from the Kansai region of Japan eat their okonomiyaki with rice. Although this is considered strange in the rest of Japan, it is an easy way to turn your snack into a main meal.