Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese pancake)

Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake or pizza) is one of my favourite things.  I wish I could say I discovered it at a quaint wayside inn beside a bubbling brook, somewhere beyond Tokyo, but in fact I first ate them at Highpoint.  These thick vegie-rich pancakes are my shopping centre saviour - made daily, sort of healthy and meal-size for about $4.  When Ajitoya opened in Seddon, giving us a western suburbs counterpart to Fuji Mart or Suzuran, I gathered up all the ingredients to make okonomiyaki at home - and you can too!


You will need:

(Makes two pancakes - recipe adapted from Visual Recipes)

* 1 cup okonomiyaki flour (available from Ajitoya).  This is superfine white flour seasoned with dried seafood and other goodies.  You could possibly vegetarian-ise or frugal-ise it by seasoning white flour yourself (with maybe powdered mushroom, garlic powder etc?)
* 3/4 cup dashi (Japanese bonito stock) or water.  I recommend Spiral Foods dashi above (available from KFL Supermarket in Flemington) which does not have MSG.  You really don't need to use dashi as the flour is seasoned, but I love the extra flavour!
* 1 egg
* Roughly 1/4 cabbage, finely shredded (you may need more)
* 1 carrot, grated
* Neutral oil eg rice bran
* Japanese tonkotsu sauce and Kewpie mayo (pictured below)


Whisk dashi and eggs together (ignore the two eggs - I was doubling the recipe)


Add flour.


Whisk till smooth.


Add cabbage and carrot.  You want it really thick - when it goes in the pan, it needs to sit in a clump, not spread out like a regular pancake.  Just keep adding and mixing until it is a good, thick mixture like the above.


Heat a frypan, add oil (about 1 or 2 Tb) and add a big dollop of mixture.  Push the sides in a bit so it's nice and circular.  You could make more pancakes that are less tall, but I like the contrast between crispy ends and soft, doughy middle.


It is hard to get the timing right so you don't burn the sides or end up with an uncooked centre.  I experimented by adding the mixture in on high, cooking for a couple of minutes then turning it down low.  After about 5-10 minutes, flip and repeat.  You need the top and bottom to be crispy but the middle cooked.  I stuck a knife in and if batter was still welling up, I kept cooking.  Eventually a tiny bit of batter still looked wet, but I took it off the heat, left to stand  for 5 mins and it was done upon eating.  Each pancake probably take about 20 minutes total to be done all the way through.  Sorry to be vague - I am really much more an eatie-foodie than a cookie-foodie!


Put pancake on plate and take tonkotsu (fruity BBQ-style) sauce and Japanese Kewpie mayo (sorry about crusty, well-loved bottle)...


...quickly squeeze squiggles over in perpendicular fashion.  Serve with greens (preferably dressed with addictive creamy toasted sesame dressing, also from Ajitoya).

oko middle

Yuuuummmmmy....  The cabbage becomes soft but doesn't have any stinky boiled cabbage smell.  The pancake is soft in the middle yet tantalisingly crispy on the edges, while the BBQ sauce and mayo combine to give it creamy, tangy flavour punch.  You can cut it into wedges and sell it to the kids as pizza and mine absolutely love it.

I think really authentic okonomiyaki is a bit different - some have topping cooked onto it while in the pan (hence Japanese pizza) while others have bonito flakes and other goodies on top.  I like my simple version though, and it does beat the Highpoint version!

Local identity Nick Ray (of the Ethical Consumer Guide) is putting together a new project called Local Harvest.  Among other things, it will comprise a directory of sustainable food links such as food co-ops. community gardens, pick-your-own schemes, all aimed at connecting you with your food on a more grass roots level, bypassing the handful of multinational corporations who control a lot of our food.  They need funds at the moment to meet their fundraising target to get off the ground - see widget to the right, or check out the website.


  1. Yum! Thanks for the recipe, and for the tip about Ajitoya. I had my first Okonomiyaki at that similarly authentic institution, Chaddy, about 19 years ago (eep!) ;-) and my memory is that those ones also had peas in them. I have since had the Highpoint ones a few times but reckon they weren't as good. Can't wait to try these and I suppose 1/2 cup of frozen peas in the mix would be very do-able :-)

  2. yay a recipe post! I love these too when they are filled with veggies instead of the stodgy flour. They make these REALLY good at Tookaiya on Keilor Rd Niddrie.

  3. I was expecting seafood in it, but there isn't! Love how dashi forms the gentle basis of most Japanese dishes. You should try making it from scratch using sea kelp and bonito flakes - amazing!

  4. Absolutely PERFECT!! This recipe is fantastic, Lauren. I've still got the dashi stock powder in my pantry too but never know what else to use them for besides noodle soups. Can't wait to try! And I LOVE anything with Jap Mayo. I could eat grass if it had Jap Mayo on it. Resonating to what Bryan said, I think those marinara mixes would go well too. Thanks for sharing =)

  5. Ajitoya is hardly a counterpart for Fuji Mart. I asked if they had Japanese rice and they told me that they used Thai rice. Any Japanese food lover will tell you that the two are vastly different. I was really excited about Ajitoya opening in Seddon and have been really disappointed with the less than ordinary sushi.


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