Oglobal reputation konomiyaki leans more towards snacks – a great way to make up for a night of beer and cocktails. But when Taichi Kitamura grew up in Kyoto, savory pancakes were the staple of many families. These days, the chef and owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake makes a batch at home about once a month: “I make a few for my family and freeze the rest to eat for lunch.”
His okonomiyaki is teeming with veggies (namely cabbage) and visual drama courtesy of all the classic garnishes. In the final moments of cooking, Kitamura adds sauce, seaweed, drizzles with mayonnaise, and lightly whips up the bonito flakes. The pan works just fine, but “if you do it on a flat lid grill, it’s pretty fun” for others. Adults appreciate the abundance of cabbage and green onions; Kitamura’s daughter to a lesser extent. Now she’s ready to eat half the pancake, he says, “with lots of mayonnaise.”
- Garlic or other bows
- Spaghetti ramenfresh or dried
- hearty greense.g. cabbage, chicory, chard or kale
- Other vegetableswhat is in the fridge
- Your choice of umami or spicese.g. fish sauce, coconut amino acids, curry or chili paste
- eggsone per person or per serving of noodles
- fresh herbs e.g. basil or cilantro, maybe a few crunchy vegetables (carrots, radishes, etc.) cut into matchsticks
- chili crispyend
- Cabbage1 big head
- green onion2 bundles
- Seafoodabout 1/2 cup (usually squid, but boiled shrimp meat works great)
- All purpose flour1 cup
- Dashi (water works too), about 3/4 cup
- Neutral oil
- Bacon or thinly sliced pork belly1/4 pound raw, chopped or minced
- side dishes (See below)
- cut cabbage lengthwise and cut out the core. Grind the remainder until it is as fine as a coleslaw. It doesn’t have to be uniform.
- Chop the green onion. Mix them in a bowl with cabbage and seafood.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour and water until you get the consistency of pancake or pancake batter. (Make it too thick and the pancakes will come out fluffy.)
Mix the dough with seafood and vegetables and mix everything thoroughly.
- Add eggs and stir. Kitamura likes eggs to be a bit uneven; over-mixing will make the pancakes tough.
- Scoop up approximately one cup of dough onto a greased skillet or flat surface. Try to keep it a little thick as the cabbage will cook through; aim for a five-inch cake, something you can easily flip with a spatula. At Kitamura’s house, he usually cooks two pancakes at a time.
If you are using pork belly or bacon, put some on top of the pancake. Let it simmer over medium heat for about five minutes.
- Use a spatula bottom check. Flip the pancake when the underside is golden brown. If you flip the pancake ahead of time, it will tear.
- When everything is ready, flip. Now that the meat side is face down in the pan, the fat will melt and fry the pastry until crispy. Cook until pancake is golden brown and pork is almost crispy.
- Flip pancake again so that the other side can soak up some of the pork fat and become crispy.
In these last minutes cooking, lightly drizzle the pancake with tonkatsu sauce. If there are some splashes on the sides and into the pan, it’s okay. If it burns a little, it will create a nice smoky caramel flavor.
- Turn off heat. Now it’s time for the garnish. Drizzle mayonnaise on top, then add aonori flakes and bonito if using.
- Shift pancakes on a plate or cutting board. Cut them into small pieces for serving
Kitamura admits that everyone in Japan is buying shop tonkatsu sauce. “It’s like no one here makes Tabasco sauce.”
Any American mayonnaise will do, but best with Japanese kewpie mayonnaise. Squeeze it onto the pancake directly from the tube.
Okonomiyaki calls for a pinch of powder or finely chopped seaweedrather than the more familiar nori sheets.
Bonito flakes (also known as Katsuobushi)
Delicate dried, smoked fish flakes add a spicy note. “You put it on top and it kind of dances on top,” Kitamura says. “Kids love it. It’s mesmerizing.”
Wrap the okonomiyaki individually to freeze. When you need a quick lunch, remove one, place on a plate and microwave for four minutes until the center is hot. Kitamura likes to add his sauce and mayonnaise and then reheat them briefly in the microwave again. “I like my sauce warm.”