The okonomiyaki of Osaka is the style that defines this dish. Here, ingredients are simply mixed together with batter and griddled. Cabbage is the mainstay, and there’s usually pork. We use fresh pork belly, but ground pork is common, too (more old-fashioned, but delicious). In Osaka, you can also find okonomiyaki cooked with octopus, squid, shrimp, sliced chicken, just veggies, scallions, or kimchee. So feel free to mix and match.
A few things to keep in mind: while green or savoy cabbage is best for this dish, just be sure to remove the thick veins from the leaves. And don’t chop the cabbage too finely; you want about 1/2-inch square pieces (more or less, don’t sweat this). It seems like a lot of cabbage at first, but the leaves cook down quickly—and cabbage is what this dish is all about. Cook the okonomiyaki one at a time (make four pancakes). To eat, cut into quarters and use chopsticks.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup dashi or water, cold or at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 pound cabbage, coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 8 ounces fresh pork belly, thinly sliced
- Okonomiyaki sauce
- Kewpie or other mayonnaise
- aonori (powdered nori seaweed)
- dried, shaved bonito (katsuobushi)
- To make the batter, mix together the flour, dashi, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cabbage to the batter and mix well for at least 30 seconds, until all the cabbage is coated. Add the eggs and mix, lightly this time, for about 15 seconds, or until the eggs are just combined with the cabbage.
- Preheat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet for at least 5 minutes on medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, making sure to coat the entire surface of the skillet. Cook the okonomiyaki in batches. Spoon the cabbage and batter mixture into the skillet to form a pancake about 6 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Don’t push down on the cabbage; you want a fluffy pancake. Gently lay about one-fourth of the pork belly slices on top of the pancake, trying not to overlap.
- Cook the pancake for about 3 minutes. Use a long spatula (a fish spatula is ideal) to carefully flip the pancake, so the side with the pork belly is now facing down. Gently press down on the pancake with the spatula (don’t push too hard, you don’t want batter spilling from the sides).
- Cook for about 5 more minutes, then flip the pancake again, so the side with the pork belly is now facing up. (If the okonomiyaki comes apart when you flip it, don’t worry; use a spatula to tuck any stray ingredients back into the pancake.) Cook for about 2 more minutes. When it’s ready, the pancake should be lightly browned on both sides, the pork cooked through, and the cabbage inside tender.
- Transfer the pancake to a plate, pork side up, and add the toppings. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of okonomiyaki sauce onto the pancake, in long ribbons. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise onto the pancake, also in long ribbons. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of aonori over the pancake. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of dried, shaved bonito over the pancake. (Add more or less of any topping, to taste.) Cut the pancake into quarters and serve immediately.
- Repeat with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and pancake batter.
Variation: Substitute 8 ounces ground pork for the pork belly. Add the pork to batter after adding the cabbage and mix well. Then add the egg, and mix lightly, to prepare the batter.
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