May 20, 2009


When I went to Tokyo two summers ago, my friend/host said I had to try Okonomi-yaki. It was my first introduction to Japanese food that wasn’t sushi or soba. We went to a restaurant that had flat stovetops in the middle of each table and we had to mix the batter and ingredients ourselves. Par for the course at an Okonomi-yaki restaurant, but I didn’t know that then. It was a lot of fun! I returned to California packing Okonomi-yaki flour and bonito flakes so I could give my boyfriend a taste of Tokyo. Despite being weirded out by the way the fish flakes come to life when sprinkled on top of hot food, he liked it—which means it’s probably safe for picky eaters everywhere.

Yesterday I had a craving. But my leftover flour was 2 years old, which meant a trip to the Japanese market for supplies. After a lot of hesitant searching, I found my flour (a mix of yams and fishy things that our American flour can’t quite replicate), bonito dashi (fish soup stock), and genuine Okonomi sauce—I had to make that from scratch last time. Here is my recipe with alternatives for the harder to find ingredients. But you have to try to find bonito flakes, because there’s no substitute and they’re way too entertaining to leave out. It’s common to put mayonnaise as a topping with the Okonomi sauce, but that sounds disgusting. Feel free to try it-let me know how it goes.

The beauty of Okonomi-yaki is that it literally means “what you like-cooked.” You can put almost anything in here, and there are a ton of regional variations. I like mine with seafood. Shrimp and squid go particularly well, but I could only find shrimp at the store.
4 servings (or 2 large pancakes)

1 cup okonomi-yaki flour (you can also use basic pancake batter or flour)
3/4 cup bonito dashi (or chicken or veggie soup broth)
1 egg
2 handfuls shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix has carrots already in it)
(optional) 1 carrot, grated
½ bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup crab meat
10 shrimp

Top with: okonomi sauce*
Dried bonito shavings, aka. fish flakes
1. Mix the flour, dashi, egg, crab and cabbage in a large bowl.
2. Heat some oil in pan and cook 5 shrimp until both sides are pink but the interior is still translucent.
3. Pour in mixture and top with the bacon slices.
4. Cook on medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 5-15 minutes per side.
5. Top with okonomi sauce and bonito flakes.

*If okonomiyaki sauce is hard to come by, here is an easy recipe. Mix:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon soy sauce

The other thing I came back with from Tokyo—besides good Sake from Nikko—is the love of my life: my Nikiri Bocho. A Japanese vegetable knife bought on Kappabashi Street. I love my blades, but I haven’t once glanced at my 10” Henckel chef’s knife since I started using my Japanese blade. If you make it to Tokyo, you have to get one of these. And some fish flakes.

1 comment:

Pocketmouse said...

I really want a damn good knife to use here. I hate my shitty cuisinart. Wait, it's not even mine.

I might have to go to Tokyo just to get a damn knife!!

Also, wow I want to see those fish flakes "come to life" sounds entertaining!