How to Make Japanese Festival Foods: Okonomiyaki
By Fiona Uyema
One of my fondest memories of living in Japan was going to festivals and tasting the most delicious street food. I remember one day in particular where I tried okonomiyaki for the first time with my husband. At first, I was reluctant to taste it as I thought the toppings were alive! My husband explained to me that it was actually dried fish flakes called “katsuobushi” and they were moving because of the heat from the pancake.
Do you know what “okonomiyaki” means? “Okonomi” means “what you want” and, as many people living in Japan will know, “yaki” means grilled.
So okonomiyaki in simple terms translates to “cook what you want”.
Okonomiyaki is made using a batter (filled with umami, or taste, from dashi) and a selection of other ingredients. The way that okonomiyaki is cooked and the ingredients added to it vary depending on the region in Japan. For example, you can find Osaka style, Hiroshima style, Tokyo style and many other styles of okonomiyaki across the country.
While I was living in Japan, I never thought I could replicate the delicious taste of okonomiyaki myself. However, after returning to Ireland and craving it for many years, I decided to make it in my Irish kitchen. Finally, I created a recipe that’s so easy anybody could make okonomiyaki wherever they are in the world. My advice is to add your own twist by using your favourite ingredients or even whatever ingredients you have at home at the time (it’s actually a great way to use leftover vegetables).
Serves 4 (2 pancakes)
- 250g cabbage, finely shredded (キャベツ)
- 2 spring onions, finely cut diagonally (春タマネギ)
- 100g plain flour (薄力小麦粉 ・フラワー)
- 4 eggs（卵・たまご）
- 200ml dashi (use instant dashi granules or make dashi from scratch) (だし)
- Vegetable oil (植物油)
- 6–8 slices of bacon/rashers, depending on the size of the frying pan（ベーコン）
For the okonomiyaki sauce*
- 4 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup (トマトケチャップ）
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (ウスターソース)
- 1 tablespoon sake or red wine (日本酒) / (赤ワイン)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (しょうゆ)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (砂糖)
*You can also buy ready-made Okonomi sauce in Japan (お好みソース)
- Mayonnaise (preferably in a tube so you can decorate the top) (マヨネーズ）
- Milled nori or dillisk seaweed (青のり）
- Beni shoga (pickled red ginger)（紅生姜）
- Katsuobushi (dried fish flakes) (鰹節・おかか）
- Put all the ingredients for the okonomiyaki sauce in a saucepan and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes until it thickens to the same consistency as tomato ketchup, then set aside and allow to cool.
- Place the shredded cabbage and spring onions in a large bowl and completely coat in flour.
- Whisk the eggs and dashi together in a jug. Pour over the cabbage and mix well together.
- Heat some oil in a large, non-stick frying pan on a medium to high heat.
- For one pancake, completely cover the base of the frying pan with half the bacon slices in a single layer, and fry for a few minutes.
- Carefully place half of the cabbage mix on top of the layer of bacon.
- Fry for a few more minutes, then, if you are not confident enough to flip the pancake, do the following: place a large plate over the frying pan and turn the pancake onto the plate. Add more oil to the frying pan. Carefully slide the pancake off the plate and onto the frying pan with the uncooked part facing down.
- Continue to fry for less than 5 minutes on a medium to low heat. When ready, place on a serving plate with the bacon side of the pancake facing up.
- Using the back of a spoon or a small brush, cover the top of the pancake with the okonomiyaki sauce. Decorate with lines of mayonnaise in a criss-cross design and then sprinkle milled seaweed, beni shoga and katsuobushi on top. You can make full-size or mini pancakes, or both!
I’d love to hear how you get on and what ingredients you add to your home-cooked okonomiyaki recipe – please let me know in the comments below.