Okonomiyaki: Japan’s savory pancake

okonomiyaki image

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) literally translated into English means “things you like, grilled.” It’s often called a “Japanese savory pancake,” a “cabbage pancake,” or a “Japanese pizza.” Ingredients and toppings vary depending on region, but regardless of region, okonomiyaki always includes cabbage and batter to hold the other ingredients together.

There are many theories about the origin and evolution of okonomiyaki in Japan; many say it started as a thin, crepe-like pancake called funoyaki, served as a savory desert in the Edo period of Japan.  It was in Osaka in the 1930s, however, when okonomiyaki as we know it today got its start. During World War II, rice was scarce in Japan and okonomiyaki, which can be made and served without the use of rice, became popular throughout the country.

There are two specific types of okonomiyaki, Osaka-style and the Hiroshima-style, named after the regions in which they originated. In Osaka-style okonomiyaki, the batter and ingredients are all mixed together prior to putting the okonomiyaki on the teppanyaki (鉄板焼き), or tabletop grill. With Hiroshima-style, however, the batter is put onto the grill first and layers of different ingredients are added to the top of the okonomiyaki and are later folded in.

Basic okonomiyaki is usually made with a batter and cabbage and is covered in okonomi sauce and mayonnaise, then sprinkled with aonori (青のり), or seaweed flakes, and katsuobushi (鰹節) or bonito flakes. There are, however, a lot of different things that can be used in your okonomiyaki in order to add different flavors. The only real limit to okonomiyaki ingredients are your own tastes, which is why it’s called “things you like, grilled.” However, people usually stick to savory flavors. Common add-ons in okonomiyaki include many kinds of seafood – like octopus, shrimp, or scallops – or meats like beef or pork; one way to cook okonomiyaki is to cook bacon or pork belly alongside your okonomiyaki and put it on top before you eat it! Beni shouga (紅生姜) is often put on top of a finished okonomiyaki in order to add a refreshing ginger taste and balance out the sweetness of the okonomi sauce.

Two variations on the more common okonomiyaki are okonomiyaki nikutama (お好み焼き肉圭) and monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き).  Nikutama is a variation on Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, which often contains a layer of either soba or udon noodles. The nikutama okonomiyaki has pork and noodles. Monjayaki, sometimes called “Tokyo-style” is a looser, more liquid version of okonomiyaki. Rather than grilling the batter with the rest of the ingredients like Osaka-style or grilling it before the other ingredients, as in Hiroshima-style, the ingredients are grilled first, and then placed in a ring in the middle of which the batter is then poured. Because the batter has less time to cook, it doesn’t reach the same consistency as traditional okonomiyaki does and usually has to be eaten directly from the grill with small spatulas used as utensils.

You can buy nearly everything you need to make okonomiyaki at Asahi! We sell okonomiyaki batter and okonomi sauce, along with QP mayo, bonito flakes, aonori, and beni shoga. Asahi also sells many things that you could mix in your okonomiyaki, such as small, dried shrimp called sakura ebi, tako, mushrooms, tenkasu and more!

A simple recipe can be found at: http://asahi-imports.com/recipes

Written by Samantha Gill

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