Sometimes a recipe just up and takes over your life.  That’s what happened with this one.  I tested it first just a month or so ago, and now I’m having Osaka-style okonimiyaki for breakfast literally 6 days out of 7.  Life used to be so simple.

The book:  Japanese Soul Cooking, by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat (10 Speed, $27.50)

The recipe:  Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki

Why I tried it: I first tried okonomiyaki, the savory Japanese pancake,  in London in 2006, while pregnant with my second child, and I never quite got over it.  I’ve tried a couple of different recipes in the years since, but this is the one that really lit my fire.

Why I loved it:  The height! The textures! the just-cooked vegetables! The crisp, porky exterior!  The sauce-delivery properties of the surface!  In the 20 or 30 times I’ve made it since discovering the recipe, I’ve added some tweaks.  For added aeration I double the baking powder in a single serving and use seltzer instead of dashi. I plaster the top with bacon or shiitakes or whatever else I have around instead of just pork belly.  I finish it with a mirin-tamari glaze and sesame seeds and togarashi.  Sometimes I fry it in ghee.  And – best of all – I stole the bottom of a 7-inch tart pan and use it to invert the pancake rather than flipping with a spatula.  Much easier.
Also, something about starting your day with a lot of vegetables, a little protein and a little carb just seems to make everything afterwards go that much better.

Estimated preparation time:  About 25 minutes.  You could maybe measure out the dry ingredients and chop the vegetables the night before if you wanted to shave off a bit of time.

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Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki
Serves 4  (If you want to make a single serving, just scale everything except the baking powder down to a quarter.  You can scale the baking powder down to a half (see my tweaks above).)

2 cups flour
1 cup dashi or water, cold or at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound cabbage, coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
4 eggs
14 cup toasted sesame oil
8 ounces fresh pork belly, thinly sliced

Toppings (all optional, or come up with your own)
Okonomiyaki sauce
Kewpie mayonnaise or other mayonnaise
Aonori (powdered nori seaweed)
Dried, shaved bonito (katsuobushi)

To make the batter, mix together the flour, dashi, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cabbage to the batter and mix well for at least 30 seconds, until all the cabbage is coated. Add the eggs and mix, lightly this time, for about 15 seconds, or until the eggs are just combined with the cabbage.

Preheat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet for at least 5 minutes on medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, making sure to coat the entire surface of the skillet. Cook the okonomiyaki in batches. Spoon the cabbage and batter mixture into the skillet to form a pancake about 6 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Don’t push down on the cabbage; you want a fluffy pancake. Gently lay about one-fourth of the pork belly slices on top of the pancake, trying not to overlap.

Cook the pancake for about 3 minutes. Use a long spatula (a fish spatula is ideal) to carefully flip the pancake, so the side with the pork belly is now facing down. Gently press down on the pancake with the spatula (don’t push too hard, you don’t want batter spilling from the sides). Cook for about 5 more minutes, then flip the pancake again, so the side with the pork belly is now facing up. (If the okonomiyaki comes apart when you flip it, don’t worry; use a spatula to tuck any stray ingredients back into the pancake.) Cook for about 2 more minutes. When it’s ready, the pancake should be lightly browned on both sides, the pork cooked through, and the cabbage inside tender.

Transfer the pancake to a plate, pork side up, and add the toppings. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of okonomiyaki sauce onto the pancake, in long ribbons. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise onto the pancake, also in long ribbons. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of aonori over the pancake. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of dried, shaved bonito over the pancake. (Add more or less of any topping, to taste.) Cut the pancake into quarters and serve immediately.

Repeat with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and pancake batter.

Reprinted with permission from Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono &  Harris Salat, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.  Food photography credit: Todd Coleman © 2013

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