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!

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Yaki-udon: Stir Fried Udon Noodles

Posted in main dish, Recipe, today's meal by Kanako Noda on October 30, 2009

yakiudonLike everybody else in Kansai, I’m udon-crazy: there’s no udon dish I don’t love. This particular way to make udon – basically a fast noodle stir fry – is as unpretentious as Japanese cooking gets: a casual dish served to the hungry masses, typically  for lunch.

Usually, you would make yaki-udon with yakisoba sauce – a sweet-and-savory concoction close to the type of sauce we put on Japanese pancakes.

For this recipe, though, we do something a little different, relying on dashi. To make the seasoning, what we did is take some katsuobushi bonito flakes and some konbu and throw them in the blender!

Very easy…surprisingly delicious.

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Gyoza: Meaty Potstickers

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on October 25, 2009

Here’s a recipe that doubles as a communal activity: Gyoza are labor-intensive little packets of flavor that you can make together with your friends and family.

You’ve probably already run into Gyoza: they’re commonly available as an appetizer in sushi places these days. Turns out you can make those at home! While they’re certainly a bit of work, you can also save a lot of money if you skip the restaurant bit.

Kids love Gyoza, and as a kid I used to love making Gyoza as well. So consider pressing your little ones into service here: their gyoza may not be the most symmetrical but they’ll love it, and gyoza-making is a skill they’ll be glad to have for the rest of their lives.

This is another dish of slightly questionable Japaneseness: Gyoza are strongly rooted in Chinese cooking. But that’s a historical footnote: Gyoza are so firmly established in the Japanese Kitchen these days, it’s absurd to think of them as “foreign” anymore.

You can find ready-made Gyoza pastry shells in most Asian stores. Buy a packet and then all you have to do is mix the filling and start folding…it’s fun!

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Tonkatsu: Japanese Style Pork Cutlet

Posted in main dish, Recipe, today's meal by Kanako Noda on October 16, 2009

tonkatsuEverybody loves tonkatsu. Seriously, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t. What we have here is a kind of souped-up Wiener Schnitzel with an Asian twist: a family treat everyone looks forward to.

In fact, this is one of these dishes that seeped into Japanese cuisine from the West over many decades. Ton=pork, and the “katsu” comes from “katsuretsu”, which is a corruption of “cutlet”! Wherever it came from, ton-katsu is now firmly established in the Japanese repertoir.

Granted, nobody would confuse this for a simple recipe. There are a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, and it makes a big mess in your kitchen. Trust me, though, it’s worth it. And I’ve made sure this recipe is full of little kitchen secrets that will allow you to make “real Japanese ton-katsu”.

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