Okonomiyaki are delicious savory Japanese pancakes that can be made with a variety of fillings and toppings. The standard method is to mix cabbage into the pancake batter and top with bacon or pork belly, but most often, I use kimchi instead of cabbage, and skip the bacon altogether. The reason I use kimchi is because the first okonomiyaki I ever had was kimchi and cheese, and while it sounds a bit nasty, it is actually REALLY good. I just got hooked on using kimchi in okonmiyaki after that.
Now, I should give a little back story. I usually try to avoid talking too much about myself on the blog because I figure people come here for cooking ideas and not long winded stories about my boring life. However, since my discovery of okonomiyaki happened on such an unusual day, I thought the story may bear repeating. (Feel free to skip ahead if you are just here for the food!)
While I was living in Japan, I had the opportunity to participate in a festival called Kitsune no Yomeri Matsuri, which basically means “Fox Wedding Festival.” Participating meant that I would have to dress up in traditional kimono and walk in a parade around a small, traditional Japanese mountain town for several hours before ending up at a big riverside ceremony. Umm, yeah…count me in!!!
The day of the festival came, and after the very lengthy and elaborate process of dressing and having my makeup and wig done, I was ready to roll. And by roll, I mean walk very, very slowly in traditional shoes, kimono, and giant and heavy wig. It was pretty uncomfortable head gear, but the festival was so cool, it really was a highlight of my stay in Japan.
I couldn’t find any of my pictures but hopefully these will give an idea of what the festival is like (the pics below link back to their original source):
If you are wondering why the ladies seem to have their hands scrunched up weird, it is because they are trying to imitate fox paws!
So, how does okonomiyaki tie into all this? Well, it was on the long drive back from the festival that I first had a chance to taste okonomiyaki. I was already a big fan of chijimi, which are Korean style savory pancakes that are sold in many places in Japan, but somehow okonomiyaki had flown under my radar until that day. As I mentioned before, after much convincing, I ordered the kimchi and cheese okonomiyaki. It is safe to say that I was hooked from the first bite.
Fast forward a few years to B and I moving into our current home. We made a trip to the nearby Mitsuwa Market to stock our kitchen, and lo and behold, I discovered they sold okonomiyaki mix! I was ecstatic. B was not so convinced, but having had the same reaction the first time I heard someone suggest eating kimchi and cheese together, I fully understood his apprehension. After much discussion, he finally decided to give it a shot.
However, it would not be easy. The okonomiyaki mix sat on our shelves for months, and every time I would suggest it, I would get met with a , “Ehhhhh….” response. Finally one day I just decided to go ahead and make it. Since I knew the cheese and kimchi combination was not really appealing to B, I ended up using kimchi and baby shrimp. The smell drew him into the kitchen, and after he had sampled about a half dozen okonomiyaki, B decided he had a new favorite food. I was not surprised that he always wanted to buy okonomiyaki mix when we went to Mitsuwa after that. Nor was I surprised that he wanted to buy fresh from the griddle okonomiyaki when they had a pop-up kiosk at Mitsuwa. I was shocked beyond all belief, though, when B told me that he likes my okonomiyaki WAY better than the authentic and fresh pancakes we got at Mitsuwa. He might be the only person on the planet who agrees, but hey, I will take that compliment! It is nice to hear that someone likes my cooking! 🙂
A quick look at the process. These pics are not my best work but hopefully they get the job done.
The okonomiyaki mix, okonomiyaki sauce, and kimchi. (Although I buy all these pre-made, if you are particularly ambitious, they can all be made from scratch. recipes can be found at the following blogs: Lovely Lanvin – Okonomiyaki, Japanese Savory Pancake, Osaka Style; Cookpad – Homemade Okonomiyaki Sauce; Chow: Basic Napa Kimchi.)
Once the batter is mixed and the shrimp and kimchi are blended in, it is time to drop some batter on the hot cast iron griddle. I generally keep the heat on medium high.
The pancakes fry up pretty quickly, depending on thickness. Generally, the thicker the pancake, the more times I flip it to make sure it is cooked through.
I tend to make my pancakes on the thick side, so I press them down with a spatula to flatten them out more after they have been flipped. This usually results in a little bit of undercooked batter oozing out, as seen on the first pancake below:
The finished product, shrimp and kimchi okonomiyaki, topped with okonomiyaki sauce. Mayonnaise is also a popular topping, but not one of my favorites.
So there you have it…simple, delicious okonomiyaki! Yum!
- 1 package Otafuku Okonomiyaki flour mix
- 3 cups water
- 2 eggs
- 10 ounces Napa Kimchi, chopped (approximately)
- 1 lb. frozen baby shrimp, thawed (approximately)
- Canola Oil
- Okonomiyaki sauce
- In a large bowl, mix okonomiyaki flour, water, and eggs, until flour is dissolved.
- Stir in kimchi and shrimp and mix together gently.
- Drop approximately ½ cup okonomiyaki batter onto hot, oiled griddle.
- Cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until pancake starts to brown on underside.
- Flip and fry for another 3-4 minutes. If the pancakes are particularly thick, this process may have to be repeated a few times to ensure they are thoroughly cooked.
- Once okonomiyaki are finished, top with Okonomiyaki sauce and whatever other toppings you'd like, and enjoy!