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Okonomiyaki

July 14, 2011

the real deal

MAY 2010 — My AP Japanese class, at the end of the year, held a “festival” inside the cafeteria, and partners made booths with either games, food, or other activities. Well, every booth (except one) had food. Okonomiyaki, a product of Osaka, is apparently dubbed as the “Japanese pizza,” which makes absolutely no sense to me. The idea is that the name means “as you like it,” so the freedom of filling it with whatever you wanted was identifiable with topping pizza with whatever you’d like, I suppose. But their preparations and tastes are just so inherently different. Okonomiyaki is at its base, a pancake of an egg-flour batter, loaded with shredded cabbage. You can then add small ingredients like peas, corn, ham, shrimp, etc in the batter.

When I toured Japan in the summer of 2008 with the California Youth Symphony (shout-out!), I went to a restaurant (in a Tokyo mall, not Osaka, unfortunately,) exclusively for okonomiyaki, and the entire table is a griddle. The typical preparation is swirling katsu sauce (kind of like BBQ sauce) and mayonnaise on top, and then sprinkling seaweed and bonito (dried fish) flakes on top.

So what did you do?
I had to go look up a recipe for this (there are a wide variety). But you need to mix a batter of uncooked, shredded cabbage and mix with egg and flour. Then simply add various ingredients.
My friend Shirley and I, for our booth, decided to name our booth, “Okonomiyaki My Heart,” (knock off of Pizza My Heart), and we had different types of okonomiyaki: Veggie Delite, Meat Lovers’, and Surf ‘n’ Turf. So, some okonomiyaki just had peas, corn and carrots, while others had ham, and others had shrimp. All of these toppings had to be mixed into 3 different batters.
We borrowed a special griddle-like device from a Japanese friend. This baby is designed specifically for okonomiyaki, apparently. Cook it just like you would a pancake–until nice and golden brown.

Afterwards, we had katsu sauce, special Japanese “Kewpie” mayonnaise, and seaweed flakes. We didn’t bother with bonito. And, as you can see, our toppings weren’t as dispersed.

Lessons learned?
Finely, finely, shredded cabbage is better than big chunks, so that everything sticks together in the batter more cohesively. Katsu sauce is really vital here, ‘cos the okonimiyaki is generally on the blander side.

Our "Surf 'n' Turf" okonomiyaki

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