Kanako's Kitchen

Okonomiyaki: Osaka-Style Cabbage Pancakes

Posted in main dish, mid-afternoon snack, Recipe by Kanako Noda on January 24, 2010

Some Japanese dishes just defy categorization, and none more so than okonomiyaki. In the West, I’ve seen it described as Japanese Pancakes, Japanese Omelettes, even as Japanese Pizza (huh!?)

Pay no attention. Analogies are only confusing. Okonomiyaki isn’t “like” anything else you’ve tried before. It’s better.

This recipe is for Osaka-style okonomiyaki, the city’s signature dish. I’ve seen fancy London restaurants serve it as an exotic delicacy (and charge upwards of 12 pounds for one!) but, in Osaka, there’s nothing fancy about it: it’s a cheap, filling, flavorful meal young people adore.

I’m a Kansai girl, so Okonomiyaki is definitely “home cooking” for me. Regionalism aside, though, Okonomiyaki travels well. This is the one Japanese dish that just about every western person enjoys. Even Canadian children, who wouldn’t think of eating most of the weird things I put on this blog, seem to love okonomiyaki.

Truth is, okonomiyaki is “B-Grade cuisine” – which is a polite way of saying it’s junk food. And yet Osaka people take their okonomiyaki pretty seriously. Because, while making mediocre okonomiyaki is easy enough, making blockbuster okonomiyaki is the subject of much oneupmanship.

If you find this recipe a little involved, that’s because it’s designed to wow the locals. It shares a lot of little tips and tricks (marked in bold) I’ve learned over the years. Put in the time to follow them, and you’ll make Okonomiyaki better than any foreigner is supposed to be able to!


Ingredients (for two or three okonomiyaki)

  • Cabbage – one quarter
  • Pork – 100 grams
  • Optional: You could make it with squid, a mixture of squid and shrimp, or a mixture of squid and pork. Some restaurants go on to make any number of weird variations, but personally I stick to pork and squid.
  • Optional: Beni shoga – pickled red ginger. Tenkasu – tempura detritus.

For the pancake batter

  • All-purpose wheat flour – one cup (Alternatively, if you want to go all out, make it with Special Okonomiyaki Flour.)
  • Salt – half a teaspoon
  • Sugar – one teaspoon
  • Baking powder – one teaspoon
  • Water – one cup
  • Dashi – two teaspoons
  • Eggs – two

Toppings

  • Okonomiyaki Sauce – Buy this ready-made at an Asian store or online. Look for Otafuku brand “Okonomi sauce”.
    (There are people who want to make the sauce at home, but don’t be ridiculous.)
  • Mayonnaise – preferably tangy Kewpie brand Japanese mayo
  • Aonori – Green nori seaweed.
  • Katsuobushi – powdered is best, but flakes work well too.

Preparation

Make the batter

  1. Heat a cup of water in the microwave and dissolve the two teaspoons of dashi in it
  2. Let it cool to room temperature
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.
  4. Add the dashi’d water slowly to the bowl, mixing thoroughly
  5. Let the batter sit for a good two hours

Prepare the other ingredients

  1. Chop the cabbage into small (but not tiny) squares – maybe 1 cm. by 1 cm.
  2. Wrap the chopped cabbage in plastic wrap, microwave on high for two minutes.
  3. For reasons I don’t really understand, the cabbage you find in the West is noticeably thicker and much harder than the kind sold in Japan, which is why you need to pre-cook it in the microwave. If you’re reading this in Japan, skip this step.
  4. Slice the pork very thin.

Cooking

  1. Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the batter, mix
  2. Add cabbage (and benishioga and tenkasu if you’re using that) to the batter. Toss the mix lightly, not too much.
  3. Heat a large frying pan, add a tablespoon of cooking oil – you need oil even if it’s a non-stick pan.
  4. Add a layer of batter some 3 cm. high to the pan.
  5. Place a layer of pork slices on top.
  6. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Flip the okonomiyaki like you would a pancake. Resist the urge to pat it down – you want your Okonomiyaki as thick as possible, you don’t want it squished down.
  8. Cook over, uncovered, for another ten minutes. You want a thick pancake, and you want it to cook all the way through, so it’s best to do it slowly over low heat.
  9. When the pancake is ready, place on a plate. If you’re sharing, cut it into squares.
  10. Add a generous layer of okonomiyaki sauce on top. Be sure the sauce reaches to the very edge of the pancake.
  11. Add some mayonnaise.
  12. Finally add your katsuobushi and aonori.

Today we didn’t have aonori, beni shoga nor tenkasu, but it was still very good.

When I was growing up, my mom was a typical, strict, health-obsessed Japanese mom, so we weren’t allowed to have Coca Cola or other fizzy drinks at my house. Mom would let us have Coca Cola only when she made okonomiyaki. It was kind of a family ritual, so you can imagine how special the combination of Coca Cola and okonomiyaki was to me.

Even today, I like having a coke with okonomiyaki…but I suppose the more typical way to serve it is with beer.

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41 Responses

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  1. YC said, on January 25, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Hi! I just found your wonderful website when I was trolling around, looking for recipes. Thanks so much for making this site! I’m going to be back here often!

    • kanako said, on January 26, 2010 at 5:56 pm

      Hi, thank you for visiting my site.
      I hope you enjoy japanese cooking!

  2. Kepler said, on January 28, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I have to say this looks weird, but I will try it. So far I have found just excellent receipts here.

  3. Megan said, on February 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    The microwave tip for the cabbage is great! We’ll try that next time.

    A rather unorthodox modification of the okonomiyaki batter is to add crumbled firm tofu. It makes the flavour a bit richer and almost creamier. It’s similar to the effect that you get by adding nagaimo to the batter.

    • kanako said, on February 6, 2010 at 9:34 am

      Adding firm tofu sounds a good idea! It’s difficult to find nagaimo in Montreal and I was wondering another possibility.

  4. Okonomi_Yakity said, on February 7, 2010 at 12:32 am

    Wow, those are fantastic instructions and great photographs! If you are interested in more Okonomiyaki recipe variations and information about Okonomiyaki, check out http://okonomiyakiworld.com – Have fun!

  5. Juan Cristobal said, on February 20, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Going out to the Asian store to get this stuff. Wish me luck Kanako!

    • kanako said, on February 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      We’re waiting for your report! Good luck!

  6. Disco Asian said, on March 10, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Looks very yummy! I tried making okonomiyaki at home as well and it’s quite fun to make 😀

    • kanako said, on March 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

      It’s true, in the end, if you have Okonomiyaki sauce, the taste is always good.

  7. Jenn said, on April 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Kanako,

    I finally got around to trying your recipe. Help PLEASE!

    I just added the dashi liquid to the dry ingredients. Mixed everything together…but my batter is sort of like solid and not liquid like yours. I did 1 cup of dashi and 1 cup of flour (plus sugar, salt and baking powder)…did I make a mistake somewhere? thanks…

    Will still continue on with the recipe….

    • kanako said, on April 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm

      Hi Jenn,
      I don’t know why it is solid and I don’t think you made a mistake, unless you mean 1 cup of dashi as 1 cup of dashi powder. Dashi here should be 1cup of water with 2 tea spoons of dashi….
      Anyway, if it is still solid, just add more water until it becomes liquid like normal pancake batter.
      Good luck!

  8. Jenn said, on April 6, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Kanako,

    Reporting back. My batter was still somewhat solid (not at all liquid) like yours in the picture. Not sure what happened, but I still went ahead of it.

    The okonomiyaki came out pretty nice and resembling your picture, but I felt it was not as fluffy as I would have wanted it. It was a bit doughy. Next time I will add more liquid (or maybe use a bit less flour). Thanks so much for your help.

    • Kanako said, on April 12, 2010 at 7:30 am

      Hi Jenn,
      I’ve been thinking why your batter was solid. And now I think I found the answer. If the batter was doughy, maybe you mixed the batter too much.

      There are a lot of different opinions how to make good batter of okonomiyaki, and one of the tips is “Mix the batter lightly and quickly”. In Japanese it’s said “mix the batter as if you cut it”. Remember how to make a sponge cake: when you mix the egg and flour, you have to mix them thoroughly adding the air into it. (Do you know what I mean?)
      Okonomiyaki batter should be mixed in this way, too.

      I hope the next time it will go better!

  9. Jenn said, on April 16, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Kanako,

    Thanks for the tips. I need to try to make it again to see. Hopefully I will be a “pro” next time and make a better batch! Thank you again.

  10. Ayako said, on April 29, 2010 at 11:24 am

    great recipe! Thanks

  11. Emilie said, on May 8, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Ironically it seems we have swapped places. I come from Canada but now live in Japan.

    I’ve always wanted to hone my Japanese cooking skills but Japanese recipe books often make my head hurt since they assume that you already know the basics to Japanese cooking which I don’t know all of them yet. Your recipes always save me so much trouble and explain things clearly and simply that even someone who is not excellent at cooking like me can make delicious dishes for my Japanese friends when they come over.

    Also my parents appreciate it when I go back home because I can finally have them taste a little bit of Japan without going to a restaurant.

    This recipe is really great! I LOVE Okonomiyaki and had been wanting to make some for quite sometime! Thank you x100times!

    • Kanako said, on May 9, 2010 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Emilie,
      I’m very happy to hear that you appreciate japanese cooking!
      Thank you for your comment. That encourage me a lot!
      I’d like to be work more on this site…

  12. Lam said, on August 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I am really~really bad at cooking. Does anyone know where I can eat delicious Okonomiyaki in Montreal ? I’ll deeply appreciate for ur reply.

    • Okonomi_Yakity said, on August 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

      Hi. There are two spots that apparently serve okonomiyaki in Montreal. Bistro Isakaya and L’Entoilage – detailed contact information on the Restaurants page at http://okonomiyakiworld.com – Good luck!
      (or fly to Toronto, where it’s very well made at Okonomiayki House).

      • kanako said, on August 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

        I didn’t know that you could find okonomiyaki in Montreal. Thank you very much for the information!

      • Lam said, on August 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm

        hey Okonomi_Yakity , thank you very much for the information. I can’t wait to taste Okonomiyaki in Montreal

    • Jessie said, on August 22, 2010 at 1:38 am

      I’ve tried okonomiyaki at l’entoilage.  it’s delicious! light and fluffy with plenty of crispy cabbages. Check this website http://okonomiyaki.blog.com/ and you’ll find more information.

  13. Diana in NYC said, on September 4, 2010 at 1:04 am

    OMG…i had this in tokyo about 10 years ago with pork and squid. this recipe is perrrrfect. thank you for posting this and all your wonderful recipes. i can not wait to try them. :))

  14. Chris said, on October 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I made this a few times before and want to share a tip. I know it’s a little odd but I made a mistake of adding furikake into the mixture once and it turned out excellent. Gives a little extra kick I think.

  15. Jennifer said, on March 7, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Found a recipes for this last year now I make this for weekend lunch where before I would of cooked pancakes, feel this is much better and healthy I don’t cook the cabbage before hand and I make my own sauce as I couldn’t find it in the shop where I live. Try bok choy if you find the European cabbage too hard.

  16. Delphine said, on May 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    You can also find some at Kazu on Ste-Catherine near Guy.

  17. kate said, on July 21, 2011 at 5:26 am

    I had some left over cabbage in the fridge and I thought I would cook some Okonomiyaki. It’s been years since a Japanese friend taught me how to cook it (not a fan of cabbage generally I guess 🙂 ) and my memory needed refreshing so took up trawling the net. After many awful, awful recipes, I found yours; thank you!

    Reminded of me of Osaka and old friends, awesome recipe 🙂

  18. Louise said, on August 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I just found your site via CHOW-Tofu-Menuism Blog. I’m delighted to find a Japanese source-cook-Montreal-based! Your blog on tofu was full of good arguments (I liked the one that the Japanese people could not have being eating it for centuries if it was yucky…) I can’t wait to explore your sites.

    I have being “experimenting” with okonomiyaki recipes for almost a year now (it has become our thursday night dish almost every week…) I was lucky since my selected first recipe was one of the best choice on the web (according to 2 Japanese friends who tasted it).
    On my 7th or 8th try, I used red cabbage. Big mistake: its color seeps unevenly (not attractive) and change to blue upon contact with (acid?) things… But the worst is that red cabbage is more fibrous, so harder pieces are not cooked enough when the cooking time is up. Removing the main stem was not enough…
    Since my first tries, I had had Okonomiyaki flour to work with, so I count myself lucky. But I was looking for alternatives: in my parents’ town, there were no japanese ingredients except for nori, gari and wasabi, so back to the cooking board. When I was there, I made replacement for okonomiyaki sauce based on Worcestershire, a recipe I did find on the web: too strong… The taste and texture of Kewpie mayonnaise was also something I failed to reproduce to my satisfaction. But, for the batter, it was suggested to replace the grated japanese root (for stickiness) by grated potatoes (for starch) and it worked well.
    Not one of the alternate recipes with regular flour did have baking powder like yours, but I will add it next time I am working with regular flour. Great idea.

    I was wondering what would be the result with wheat flour? (taste, texture)
    Also, you dissolve dashi before using it in the batter, while one japanese small-resto-cook acquaintance of mine is putting the little granules of Hondashi directly in the batter: do they have time enough to dissolve (give their best) while mixing and cooking? Is it why you dissolve yours in advance?
    I was also wondering if I still should continue to work as fast as possible (cooking) after the mixing because the “salt” in the batter makes the cabbage loose its water (it gets lumpier with time, changing the texture of the finished dish), or is it an acceptable texture too when the mixture stands for a while?

    I still have to try okonomiyaki in Montreal’s restaurants… just curious…

    • kanako said, on October 5, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Hi Louise,
      first of all, if you don’t find Kewpie mayonnaise, you can just add a little bit of vinegar in normal mayonnaise. I’ve used that one for long time when I lived in Italy. It’s not the same as Kewpie mayo but I find it acceptable.
      However, okonomiyaki sauce is really difficult to make yourself.

      The result of batter with wheat flour before adding egg and cabbage is kind of liquid, but after letting it sit for a while it turns quite thick and heavy. However, when you add egg and cabbage, it turns back to the texture you want. It’s not too heavy but not too liquid.

      Talking about dissolving dashi before using it in the batter, I always dissolve dashi powder in the water before using. I thought it didn’t dissolve well if you put it directly in the batter. But I’m not sure about that…

  19. Shenji Lim said, on November 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Why would you say “huh??” after someone says okonomiyaki is like pizza? If you can’t understand the analogy, you need to open your mind a little. But anyway, no matter what you compare it to, okonomiyaki is delicious.

  20. Japan Australia said, on February 6, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Okonomiyaki or Osaka soul food as it is also called in Kansai is a festival favourite and so easy to make at home yourself. Thanks for sharing this great recipe 🙂

    Japan Australia

  21. Kyari said, on July 26, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I have to say that this is the most delicious flippin’ batter I’ve ever had. Its got flavor — its quite gentle and mild enough not to over power the other flavors but bold enough to still be tasted. I’ve tried using regular water and was always, ALWAYS displeased with the batter flavor. It just was so bland I’d have to drown the okonomiyaki in sauce.

    Now I don’t have to, but I do anyway. 😀

    • kanako said, on July 31, 2012 at 8:35 am

      Hi Kyari,
      thank you for your comment. I’m happy you liked this recipe!

  22. Kay said, on March 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Hi Kanako, I was delighted to find your recipe for this dish which was recently cooked for us by a Japanese home stay student visiting us in New Zealand. He didn’t tell us the name of the dish, or leave us the recipe (although fortunately he left us the leftover Okonomiyaki flour and sauce :-)) but we all loved it and wanted to try it again, so i was great to find your site by Googling Japanese cabbage pancake.

    I have 2 questions: what sort of quantity of beni shoga would you add if you were using it? And, our student served us a noodle dish with the Okonomiyaki which used the rest of the pork and a soy dressing and was also delicious – is this a common accompaniment and do you have a recipe for it?

  23. Keili said, on August 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I love your site! Lots of great stuff here. I was glad to read all the way to the end to see what you said about Coke. My mom was the same way–we only had Coke when we had pizza, and now the combination is sacred to me. Also, I lived in Taiwan for five years and I always had Coke with hotpot, and so I feel unsatisfied if I drink anything else with hotpot now. Much easier than finding a good wine pairing. 🙂 Thank you for this post; I am going to use your batter recipe.

  24. Nathan said, on May 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    i do have one quick question. my mom was going to try this, however, she’s can’t stand fish. would it be possible to make this without the dashi, and instead just use regular water?

    • Nathan said, on May 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      also, i saw a a recipe that put bacon in the pan, then the batter on top of it, so when the okonomi was done cooking, the bacon-side could be served up. if i were to do that, would the bacon grease replace the oil?

    • Francisco Toro said, on May 22, 2014 at 7:18 am

      I would just lie to mom about what’s in Dashi.

      It’s made from fish, but really it doesn’t taste like fish. It’s just a way of adding a bit of smoky, naturally derived MSG to the batter.

      I definitely wouldn’t make it without some kind of umami-containing something in the batter. Kelp dashi could work. Or just straight out industrial MSG.

      But the optimal solution is to just use normal dashi and pretend you didn’t it!

  25. ruka said, on August 13, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Hi Kanako, I love your blog. I’ll try it for my daughter’s lunch box. 🙂


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