Okonomiyaki... you know you want some... so just admit it already...
A recent theme for one of our Chef Night debaucheries was the egg, and all it's glory. The assignment was everyone bring a dish, or the ingredients thereof to assemble on sight, centered on the egg. While Raquels Sans Rival, a Phillipino desert that's little more than egg white, sugar, butter, crushed nuts, and alchemical magic may have completely stolen the show, my Okonomiyaki was a contender. This is a little known food here Stateside, so let me explain...
In Japan there are regional cuisines that differ as widely as what you'll find in France and Italy. Most of my Japanese inspiration would be considered firmly Tokyo derived. The flip side of that, and some say the superior one, (though to me it's apples and oranges) would be Osaka style cuisine. In Osaka there's a very heavy and dedicated food culture, with much more emphasis on street food than in Tokyo. Okonomiyaki falls into this category. Osakan street food, and as we found out, it may well be the perfect drunk food (sliders aside), and it absolutely LOVES a good beer! It is essentially a pancake with a laundry list of additives.
The ingredient list may be extensive and intimidating, but don't let that scare you off! It's very simple, rather quick, and astoundingly good! Though you WILL need to become friends with someone at the local Japanese market to get the right items if you're not familiar with them already, but trust us... it's worth it! If you really can't find some of these ingredients, don't stress and give up on Okonomiyaki. Most of it's ingredients are easily substituted, and, in fact, mine was just created from what I had to work with at the market (extensive though it was). Toward that end I will indicate with a "*" which items are essential, the rest are interchangeable with whatever suits your mood, your market, or your budget. Also of note, quantities are VERY approximate! This is a real "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" kinda dish, as long as you have enough batter to coat what you throw in it, you'll be fine!
Enough with the babbling, here's the recipe for my version of Osakas favorite dish, Okonomiyaki.
1 cup sliced Shiitake caps (I used the plump Japanese kind, but the flatter variety found in most grocery stores will do)
1 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup chopped Mizuna (Japanese Frisee, more or less)
Half pound of Bay Scallops (the little guys)
Half pound of Shrimp tails (cleaned, deveined, and chopped)
Half pound of large diced cooked Octopus tentacles
Half cup dried Baby Shrimp
*Enough bacon or sliced pork belly to cover one side of each pancake
*1 cup sliced scallion
*Half cup grated Yamaimo (Japanese mountain yam, cornstarch in a little water might get you there, but I doubt it)
*Half cup Pickled Ginger baton cut (not the thin sliced kind served with sushi), or to taste
*1 teaspoon Baking Powder
*1 cup Flour
*1 cup water
*1 oz. bonito flakes
*1 small strip of Konbu
*Okonomiyaki sauce (it might simply be called "Okonomi Sauce" at the market)
Ao Nori (powdered dried seaweed)
Ikura (Salmon roe)
Quail eggs (we used them raw, but fried over-easy would be awesome too)
the batter before the guts are added
Start by making a small batch of Dashi stock. Put one cup of water in a pot and add the Konbu. Bring to a simmer and add 1/2 an ounce, or one tightly packed Tablespoon Bonito flakes and steep just below a simmer for 20 minutes. Kill the heat, add the dried shrimp, and allow to steep until you need it. Now do all of your knife work. Chop the Shrimp, clean the Scallops, shred the Napa, slice the Shiitakes, ect. Pull the Konbu out of the Dashi stock (leaving the Bonito flakes and dried Shrimp) and in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients add the flour, grated Yamaimo, baking powder, and dashi stock together. Mix until smooth. Now add everything else but the bacon/pork belly.
the finished batter, ready to cook
Preheat a nonstick pan with a little oil (sesame oil would be killer, but not needed) over medium high heat. Once heated, ladle 8 oz. or so of the Okonomiyaki batter into the pan and spread it out with the back of the ladle. Lay strips of the bacon/pork belly on top and lightly cover with some of the liquid batter. When browned, flip over and brown the other side. When browned well, flip back over and cook a little longer to ensure the batter is cooked through. Remove from the pan, add a little oil and repeat until you've used all of the batter.
batter down, laid on the bacon, and lightly coated with additional batter
While still hot, spread mayo over the entire surface, drizzle on the Okonomi sauce, sprinkle with scallion, Ao Nori and the rest of the bonito flakes. Here's where we diverged from the traditional with the raw Quail eggs and the Salmon roe... but we're just crazy like that...
flipped and almost ready to greedily devour!
As I said before, PLEASE do not let the ingredient list or detailed preparation scare you off. This was stupid good, way easier than it looks and loved just about every beer we threw at it!
If you're still intimidated, I'll include a link to the Youtube video that inspired me to make this mind-blowingly simple and damn good Japanese street food favorite! She makes hers with instant Dashi, but that was unacceptable to me since it's so easy to make fresh. I should also mention that even though some of the ingredients are rather exotic, and some are downright obscure (Yamaimo? Mizuna? really?) the finished product is in NO way offensive to the western palette. So hunt these things down and give it a try! If you don't love it you should stop trying to cook and just stick to Banquet frozen whatever and TGI McKnucleheads...