Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Okonomiyaki, A Japanese Pancake

Japan is my favorite place.  It’s a magical combination of temples and thousand year old soaking tubs, modern technology, awe-inspiring landscapes and delightful food.  I lived there for about a year, first with a wonderful family an hour outside of Osaka, and later working in Tokyo one summer.

One of the first words I taught myself while living with my home-stay family was “Oishii” or delicious.  I remember specifically looking up the translation in my pocket size Japanese-English dictionary after my Okasan ("mother") cooked her signature eggplant and rice dish for the first time.  It instantly became a favorite meal, and I will re-create it here when eggplants arrive.

What is amazing about Japanese food is the wide variety.  Sushi, a Western favorite, is a small slice of the palette. Takoyaki, Ramen, Robatayaki, Tofu, amazing pastries… I could hop a flight today just to eat!  If you are headed there, I love this article from Food & Wine detailing a food adventure.  All this Japan talk leads me to today’s CSA food recipe, Okomomiyaki, the Japanese pancake.  Not the sweet breakfast kind, but the savory kind...chock-full of veggies, protein and goodness.

Prefectures in Japan each have their own versions of Okonomiyaki, cooked and prepared differently.  From the cabbage-filled Osaka style, to the noodle laden Hiroshima version, I sampled and adored them all. 

When I saw Midge's recipe for Osaka-style Okonomyaki on the wondrous site, Food 52, I could not wait for my CSA cabbage to arrive. 2-3 savory pancakes, dipped in the zesty sriacha mayo sauce make for a hearty, quick and intensely satisfying mid-week meal.  I cooked mine on a favorite kitchen pan, the Le Creuset Cast Iron reversible grill/griddle.

Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki
  • ½ cup vegenaise (mayonnaise will do)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons sriracha / hot chili paste
  • 5 organic eggs
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat or white flour
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 1 bunch spring onions / scallions
  • 3/4 cups (roughly) chopped shrimp
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1-2 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • (optional) bonita flakes

  • To make the sauce, whisk the vegenaise, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce and the sriracha. Add more sriracha to taste. Set aside.
  • To make the pancake batter, whisk the eggs, remaining soy sauce, sesame oil and salt.  Add in the flour until mixed, and finally fold in the cabbage, onions/scallions and shrimp.  
  •  Heat the canola oil in skillet over medium heat.  Laddle the pancake batter and cook for about 3 minutes each side.
  • Keep pancakes covered under tinfoil, or in the oven, while finishing.
  • Top with sesame seeds and serve with sauce on the side. 
  • Traditional preparation includes a sprinkle of bonita flakes which add a nice fishy taste.  I was out, and enjoyed these just the same. 

About Napa Cabbage 
Napa Cabbage, also known as Celery or Chinese Cabbage, dates back to the fifth century AD and is lighter in flavor, color and consistency than other cabbages. Here are eight great uses.

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