Lately, I’ve been craving a lot of Asian food. I’m not too sure why, but I guess being sick kind of makes you miss home a bit, and while ‘home’ is not Asia, ‘home’ sure has a lot of Asian cuisine. I’ve always liked Japanese cooking, and while I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of sushi (doesn’t mean I don’t like it, though), I really like Japanese street food and home cooking – ramen, somen, taiyaki, ekiben, and onigiri on the go.
One of my favourite Japanese foods is お好み焼き (oh-koh-noh-mee-yah-kee), which literally translates into “whatever you like (お好み), grilled (焼き)”. It resembles a pancake or pizza and is most famous in the Kansai region of Japan (Osaka), but there are many other variants throughout the country.
The base consists of flour, cabbage, eggs, water or dashi broth (has a bit of a salty fish flavour), and grated Japanese mountain yam (山芋). As I’m in Germany, I had to substitute a few ingredients – I found dashi broth, but thought it was too expensive, and couldn’t find yamaimo at all (not that I expected to). The rest is “whatever you like” – I added some grated cheese that I found at Aldi and some bacon. I would’ve liked to add green onions and leeks, too, but I couldn’t find the former, and forgot to buy the latter. Other common additions to okonomiyaki include pork, beef (normally in strips), octopus, shrimp, and squid, but you could really put anything in it.
Toppings can include okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, pickled ginger, aonori (green seaweed powder), and bonito flakes. One note on the Japanese mayonnaise – I don’t think okonomiyaki is worth eating without the mayo. It’s got to be the Japanese kind, though, because it’s got more of an eggy flavour and isn’t as sour as the North American variety – it really kicks awesome. I scoured Saarbrücken to find it and, after two and a half hours of hitting every Asia Markt in town and asking the folks at Hashimoto where I might be able to find some, found it at the Asia Feinkost und Kunstware (?) shop on Mainzerstraße.
It was the last bottle, too, and I won’t tell you how much it cost, because it was REALLY EXPENSIVE…but I have it now. They were sold out of bonito flakes, which was a bit disappointing, but at least I have the most important ingredient! Kookie, if you want to borrow some, let me know =)
I took the recipe off a Youtube channel about Japanese cooking, “Cooking with Dog”. The dog’s name is Francis, and he’s the host of the show…it’s just weird. You have to check it out. They’ve got some good recipes, though =)
- 100g flour
- 140ml water or dashi broth
- dash of salt
- 200g cabbage
- Japanese mayonnaise
- 2 eggs
- 50g shredded cheese
- okonomiyaki sauce
1. Mix flour and water together until most of the flour lumps are gone. Don’t worry about overmixing – since we haven’t used yamaimo, extra mixing should give some elasticity to the okonomiyaki.
2. Cut out the hard white parts of the cabbage (the stem part) – this will ensure more even cooking). Dice cabbage leaves into half-inch square pieces. The shape doesn’t really matter, but you’ll want it small enough so that the pieces coat well in the batter. Add on top of the batter.
3. Add cheese and whatever other ingredients you want (green onions, leeks, etc.) on top of the cabbage. Usually the meat goes on top, so leave that out!
4. Add the eggs on top of all the ingredients and toss everything to coat evenly in the batter.
5. In a hot pan (oiled, if necessary) on max heat, add the mixture and flatten it out into a circle. Add the meat strips on top. Fry for about 2 minutes, then flip over. Cover with a lid and leave it to cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
6.Brush with okonomiyaki sauce and flip over again to brown the other side. Brush the other side with okonomiyaki sauce, too. Remove from pan to a plate.
7. Top with Japanese mayo, bonito flakes, and aonori. Enjoy!
After the Fact…
I didn’t use okonomiyaki sauce because I actually don’t really like the taste of it (I think it’s too sour), but in retrospect, the sourness balances out the richness of the mayo, so I should’ve bought it. As well, it makes the okonomiyaki more brown…oh well!
Okonomiyaki goes best with carbonated drinks, like Coke or beer, or drinks that have a bit of acid in them, like most types of fruit juice. Because I’m sick and also don’t drink beer or Coke, I made myself a honey lemon tea. The acidity in the lemon and the tea cut the fattiness of the mayo quite well, so it was pleasant =)
I wouldn’t call okonomiyaki “healthy”, per se, but it’s surprisingly not too bad for you (depending on what you add in it, of course!). It’s mostly cabbage, and rather filling – I ate two small ones for dinner.
Now that my stomach is (really) full, time to get back to translating lecture slides…!
Coming soon: Bento, Omurice, Thanksgiving dinner