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Okonomiyaki

The season here in Hakuba, Nagano Japan had a very slow start.  Some of the town elders have said it’s the worst they have ever seen.  Now after Fernie’s dry season last year I started to think James and I had some bad karma or something. Then slowly day by day (and I mean slowly) the snow started accumulating.  Like Mother Nature was trying to teach me a very valuable lesson about patience and appreciation for what we have.  Day by day the grass slowly disappeared, the brown coloured town turned white and the snowbanks got a tiny bit bigger than the day before. New ski runs started to open, new chairlifts woke from their extra-long summer slumber.  Skis in the lift lines got fatter and the stance on the snowboards moved back to keep the ever patient shredders afloat on the long awaited Japan powder or as it’s often referred to as Japow.  This slow and steady shift of seasons has made our pace of life peaceful and relaxing. I have opened books that have waited months to devour my imagination again and after eating some local ethnic cuisine I decided to make my own version of them, one of my favourite being Okonomiyaki. 

Everybody loves having breakfast for dinner, Instead of the normal bacon, eggs and pancakes we are going to spice it up a little, Japanese style.  I ‘m pleased to introduce you to Okonomiyaki, pronounced Oh-kon-o-mi-ya-ki. It is a Japanese savory pancake or a cabbage pancake.  I realize that doesn’t really sell it unless you love cabbage, but I assure you, we Canadians are truly missing out.  This dish has two sauces; mayonnaise and this sweet and savory okonomiyaki sauce, a Japanese BBQ sauce, a combination that sounds so bizarre but is actually the perfect finishing touch to this dish.  Don’t knock it before you try it, it’s one of those dishes that people fall in love with in Japan. These delish pancakes are a work of art when they are done. Typically the two sauces are drizzled in a crisscross design and then topped with bonito flakes (fish flakes) and parsley.  The bonito flakes dance back and forth as they are exposed to heat – very magical but these are hard to find in Canada so I left them out. 
The name Okonomiyaki is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki meaning "grilled" or "cooked". This dish is most popular with the Kansai or Hiroshima regions, western part of the main island of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country. 
Each prefecture has their own spin on it with different toppings or batters, most likely due to the different varieties of vegetables/ meat grown/raised in that particular area.  
Typically in restaurants you are given all the raw ingredients and you make it just as you like it on these special hot plates built right into the table. I’m especially keen for interactive food so it’s great for large groups and perfect for even the pickiest of eaters. You can really be adventurous with this recipe and add whatever veg you like – I see it like an elaborate omelet.  As long as the egg binds the vegetables together, you win!  This is my very own spin on Okonomiyaki – replacing most of the flour with winter vegetables.  If you make too many – they freeze well and can be baked at 350 in an oven or thrown in a toaster oven as a quick bite.  Enjoy and most importantly have fun making and eating it!

Find this and other great articles in the Fernie Fix Magazine!

Okonomiyaki

  • 8 eggs
  • 2/3 cup gluten free or whole wheat flour
  • 7 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced kale
  • ½ cup thinly grated carrot
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • ½ cup kimchi* (a Korean spicy picked cabbage)
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional but delightful)
  • 8 sulfite free or locally sourced bacon strips, cut in half to make 16 slices altogether (optional)
  • Mayonnaise, Veganaise or avocado with sea salt (for topping)

Okonomiyaki Sauce (you can sub with a sweet BBQ sauce)

  • 3 Tbsp organic ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp onion powder

Beat eggs together in a small bowl. In another large bowl place all sliced vegetables with kimchi and cheese.  Add the eggs and flour to the vegetables and mix until a batter is formed. The consistency of the batter is like egg coated vegetables, the veggies being the star of the dish.  You can adjust the batter if necessary adding more egg and flour until you meet the described consistency.  If you are going to add your own veg stick to the ratios in the recipe.

Heat oil in a large pan or griddle over medium heat. Using a soup ladle, scoop a small pancake size out and place it on the pan.  Take a spatula and pressing on the top, spread the pancake to ¾ of a inch thick – the trick is to get them thin to all the veggies and egg cook through but not too thin so you end up making a ton. Place two slices of bacon on top of each pancake.  Let the pancakes cook for approximately 5 minutes each side, if it starts burning your pan is too hot.

Remove when the vegetable pancake is cooked through and each side is golden brown and the bacon cooked.

Pour the sauce on top like you would maple syrup on a pancake and top with a dollop of mayonnaise or avocado with sea salt.  Have fun making designs on top!

*You can find Kimchi in the produce section typically near the Asian vegetables.