Okonomiyaki means 'pancakes as you like them.' They originated in the bustling port city of Osaka as a post-WWII street food. Like some Japanese re-imagination of a Polish cabbage roll, okonomiyaki includes sautéed cabbage, pork belly, egg, and any manner of other desired fillings capped off with smears of sweet tangy sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes and dried tuna shavings that dance over the top in the steam like spirits.
In Osaka, the ingredients are all mixed together and cooked as one mass. But this super popular food has taken on new forms in new cities, most famously in Hiroshima, where okonomiyaki are cooked in layers and piled high. Noodles are added to the middle, adding heft and chew. If you're new to okonomiyaki, you might want to start with a simpler version than this behemoth. Try our recipe for modanyaki (coming soon!), the classic Osaka style with noodles mixed into the batter for good measure. But if you want to impress guests (and yourself) with a tower of perfect, lip-smacking, hunger-abating pancake-as-you-like-it, then definitely make this! It's great.
Active time: 1 hour | Difficulty: moderate | 4 servings
2 packages (20 ounces) Umi Organic fresh ramen noodles
3 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil, divided
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup dashi* or water
2 cups finely chopped cabbage, collards, and/or kale
1/2 cup diced green onion
12 pieces thinly sliced pork belly or bacon
4 tablespoons okonomiyaki sauce**
Mayonnaise (ideally in a squeeze bottle)
Aonori (dried dulse seaweed powder)
Katsuobushi (dried shaved bonito flakes)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Gently pull apart and fluff noodles. Add noodles to water and boil 2 minutes, stirring often. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then shake out excess water. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil and set aside. Can be made up to 12 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour and dashi or water to make a smooth pancake-like batter. Heat a large griddle or two large skillets over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to one side of the griddle or one skillet and swirl to cover surface. In the pan, spread a scoop of the batter (approximate 1/3 cup) into a thin circle about 6 inches wide. Place a handful of cabbage (approximately 1/2 cup) on top of the batter. Place 3 slices of pork on top of the cabbage, cutting the pork into smaller slices if that better fits the shape of your okonomiyaki. Drizzle some batter (no more than a few tablespoons) over the ingredients. Flip over the okonomiyaki with two spatulas. Turn the heat to low. Cook until pork is crispy and cabbage is soft.
3. Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon of oil to the opposite side of the griddle or the second skillet. Add one quarter of the noodles and green onions. Pan fry until the noodles begin to turn crispy, approximately 5 minutes. Season lightly with okonomiyaki sauce (about 1 tablespoon or to taste). Shape noodles into a circle about the same size as the okonomiyaki. Lift okonomiyaki with spatulas, place on top of noodles, and press on the top firmly.
4. On the now empty half of the griddle or in the empty fry pan, crack an egg, break the yolk with spatula, and spread out egg to the same shape as the okonomiyaki. Place the okonomiyaki on top of the fried egg and again press on the top firmly.
7. With two spatulas, remove okonomiyaki from the pan and flip onto a cutting board with the egg side up. Brush a thick layer of okonomiyaki sauce across the surface, squeeze mayonnaise liberally over the top***, dust aonori over the top, and finish with a handful of katsuobushi. Either serve one okonomiyaki per person or slice into quarters like pizza and eat in rounds. Repeat this process 3 times until you've used all your ingredients.
*To make dashi:
Heat 2 cups of water until small bubbles form. Remove from the heat and add a 4-inch piece of kombu (dried kelp) and a half-cup-packed dried bonito flakes. Let the kombu soak for about 15 minutes. Drain but don’t squeeze the kombu and bonito. (Do freeze the kombu and bonito in a zip lock for another batch). Store the dashi in the refrigerator. Will stay fresh for 1 week.
**To make okonomiyaki sauce:
You can buy okonomiyaki sauce at any grocery that carries standard Japanese ingredients. But you can also make it easily! In a saucepan over low heat, combine 1/4 cup ketchup, 1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons mirin, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
***To decorate your okonomiyaki in a fancy way:
If you want to try your hand at some very fancy mayonnaise work, you'll need to use Kewpie mayonnaise in a squeeze bottle or place mayonnaise in a squeeze bottle or bag with a frosting tip. After brushing on okonomiyaki sauce, squeeze a thin, straight line of mayonnaise horizontally across the top of the okonomiyaki and then curl back, like a switchback on a steep trail, half an inch below. Move the line in the opposite direction. Continue working down the okonomiyaki, back in forth, until you reach the bottom. Stop the flow of mayonnaise. Using a tooth pick, drag a line through the mayonnaise from the top to the bottom on the far left side. Repeat, this time going from the bottom to the top, half an inch toward the center. Continue alternating from top to bottom then bottom to top in evenly spaced lines until you reach the opposite side. The mayonnaise should have a nice marbled effect.