Sunday, July 20, 2014

Okonomiyaki Japanese Savoury Pancakes

Our local Japanese restaurant has okonomiyaki or Japanese pancakes on the menu. We have been curious about them but can never quite go past the sushi and order one so I looked up how to make them at home. They were delicious and my husband told me to add them to the favourites list which is the ultimate compliment in our house!
I thought the kids might like them too as long as I let them choose their own vegetable combinations, and it turned out they were a hit! I chopped all the ingredients and layed them out in plastic bowls on the bench where everyone could choose their own. I then poured the batter over each individual bowl of vegetables and cooked up each pancake in a frypan (I had a few frypans on the go to speed things up). One of my daughters picked her ingredients and just wanted to eat them not in a pancake so I just fried up a bit of the pork for her.
You can buy okonomi sauce at Asian supermarkets. There a lots of recipes on the web trying to imitate it, apparently none of them quite match it, but I enjoyed the version I made although it was a bit runny. My version had quite a few Japanese ingredients that I generally have in the cupboard. If you don't, just google a simpler version based on ketchup, soy and worcestershire.
I looked at lots of recipes but based mine on this SBS recipe, I didn't bother with the crispy noodle cakes this time but did include the instructions below. There are several websites devoted entirely to Okonomiyaki recipes, such as this one.
Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancakes)
serves 4
Okonomi literally means "what you like" so feel free to add whatever fillings and toppings you like.
vegetable oil                                                                    
225 g (1 1/2 C) plain flour
3 eggs
2 tsp instant dashi powder
225 ml water                                                                    
220 g cabbage, finely sliced
8 spring onions, finely sliced, plus extra to serve
1 carrot, coarsely grated or sliced julienne
2 tbsp red pickled ginger
½ cup tempura batter bits (tenkasu) (optional)
8 peeled green prawns
150 g pork belly, thinly sliced (it is much easier to slice if you half freeze it)
Variations: cooked octopus, chinese sausage
60 ml tomato sauce/ketchup
2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking sake
1 tbsp mirin
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar or honey 
2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce                                                                        
1/2 tsp grated ginger (optional)
Japanese (Kewpie) mayo
Bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
Nori (seaweed), finely chopped
Spring onions, finely chopped
Pickled ginger
Noodle cake (optional)
200 g cooked yaki soba noodles (thin, yellow egg noodles) 
In a large bowl combine the flour, eggs, dashi powder and water and whisk just until smooth. The batter should be thin but not watery.
Combine the cabbage, spring onions, carrot and pickled ginger. Season to taste, add the batter and mix until well combined. If you are making these for picky eaters you can make up individual bowls of vegetables to each persons taste and divide the batter between them.
Heat two large non-stick frying pans over medium-high heat, add a small amount of oil. Add a quarter of the cabbage mixture to each frying pans. Shape into rounds then, using a spatula, flatten each round, pushing any escaping mixture back against the edges. Cook for 4 minutes. Put two prawns on each pancakes and push gently into batter. Cover the prawns with the pork belly. Carefully flip the pancakes over and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the pancake again, reduce the heat to medium and cook for a further 3–4 minutes until cooked through to the centre.
Cover generously with okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonaisse. Top with noodle cake if using, then nori, extra spring onions and pickled ginger.
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce with 2 tbsp of water and bring to a boil, let it simmer for about 10 mins or until it thickens. Set aside
Noodle cake
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add a quarter of the noodles, toss to coat in the oil then shape the noodles into a round the same size as the pancake. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 1½–2 minutes until the underside is crisp. Carefully flip the noodle cake over and cook the other side for 1½–2 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove from the wok and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining noodles.