The first time I tried okonomiyaki was in Tokyo. I’d never heard of it before and as far as I’m aware it’s not the kind of thing you tend to find on the menu of Japanese restaurants outside of Japan itself. Which is a shame, because these fried savoury pancakes are one of the tastiest things I ate over there.
The recipe varies as the name essentially means “grill what you like”, and many places, like the one we visited in Tokyo, let you order a variety of ingredients and then cook them yourself on a hot plate in the centre of the table.
Imagine my delight when we went for lunch at a Japanese friend’s house last week and I found out that she was going to make okonomiyaki for us. She even had her own electric tabletop pan! Apparently there are specialised shops in the major Japanese airports selling devices like these adapted for US and European voltage so that expats can be sure to have a taste of home whenever they want.
Takae had prepared a mixture of shredded cabbage, onion, eggs and flour which she poured on top of the bacon she’d already allowed to brown in the bottom of the pan. She added a layer of cheese, then more of the mixture.
Serve cut into small squares, drizzled with okonomi sauce (a thick, sweet sauce like a cross between Worcestershire sauce and British brown sauce) and/or mayonnaise, and sprinkle with katsuobushi flakes. These wafer-thin slices of dried fish add a decorative touch as well as a sharp, salty flavour. One of my happiest memories of staying with a family in Tokyo is the night they prepared okonomiyaki and I watched the flakes gently dance and wave, moved by the rising heat of the freshly prepared pancakes.
Crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside, delicious all the way through. Oh god, I can taste it now just looking at the photos.
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