By Catherina Hosoi: cookbook author, cooking teacher, food researcher.
Okonomiyaki is a classic Japanese dish that straddles between pancake and pizza. It usually contains cabbage and fresh meat that’s combined with a pancake batter and then cooked in a saucepan. It’s simple, fast and oiishi. Okonomo means “as you like it” (vary vegetables and meat according to preference) whereas yaki refers to the cooking method – to grill or panfry.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12×15 cm pieces
A: Pancake base
4 eggs, lightly beaten
255g plain flour
300g nagaimo* (white yam) grated
100g thinly sliced belly pork, cut into 3-4 cm
4 cabbage leaves, shredded
1 piece chikuwa (Japanese fish roll), sliced
50g mozzarella cheese, grated
White sesame seeds
Japanese pink pickled ginger
Aonori (Japanese seaweed, finely minced)
Katsuo kezuri (Japanese dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna)
4-5 tablespoons cornflakes
Garnishes to liven up the pancakes. Clockwise: cornflakes, seaweed, sesame seeds and dried skipjack tuna flakes.
D: For Cooking Pancakes
65ml cooking oil
1.Pancake batter: In a deep mixing bowl, mix dashi and egg together with a whisk. Add flour. Mix gently until whisk can draw a “ribbon”. Next, fold in nagaimo paste until it is incorporated.
2. For the filling, cabbage must be finely shredded to ensure quick cooking. This vegetable is commonly used in okonomiyaki but can be substituted with other vegetables.
Next, add in pork belly – the oil from this fatty cut renders a tasty and moist pancake. Add remaining B ingredients. Stir until well combined.
3. Heat up a non-stick saucepan. Using a pastry brush, grease pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir batter ingredients once again before cooking.
4. Pour in 1 ladle (65ml) of batter). Cook pancake approximately 5 minutes until light brown, then flip the pancake over and cook another 5 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a large serving platter.
5. To serve, brush each pancake with okonomiyaki sauce using a silicone pastry brush. Alternatively, substitute okonomiyaki sauce with tonkatsu sauce (often served with fried breaded pork or chicken).
6. Drizzle mayonnaise all over pancake from a squeeze bottle. Sprinkle with aonori, katsuo kezuri, sesame seeds, ginger as well as cornflakes for crunch.
7. Cut each pancake into quarters, if desired. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Nagaimo is also used in Chinese cooking. Known as Chinese mountain yam, it is well regarded as a tonic for general vitality. It contains digestive enzymes which aid in digestion by breaking down starchy foods.
TIP: With a starchy texture similar to potato, nagaimo becomes slimy when cut. Wear gloves while preparing it because its sap can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive skins i.e. itching. If this happens, rub lemon juice on the affected area and then rinse with cold water.
TECHNIQUE: The gooey paste of nagaimo acts like a binding agent while the pancakes are cooking. Adding nagaimo produces light and moist pancake.
Catherina Hosoi is the founder of Culinary Hobby Class, a cooking studio where she conducts classes under her “Eat Happy, Live Healthy” concept – healthy Asian meals using fresh produce. Married to a Japanese, she has 35 years of experience in researching, cooking and serving Japanese cuisine.
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