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Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Okonomiya - the name of the dish that took me a long time to remember and twice as long to pronounce properly. My fondest memory of this dish is eating it in Osaka and Tokyo's Ueno where the cook beckons me with "Oishi ! Oshi !" and I played along like an obliging happy tourist. To me, Okonomiyaki is a word that ends with a smile ( try saying it and you will see! ) because of that happy Japan trip.

And from that, I had many thoughts about the nature of Okonomiyaki, which I will refrain from telling lest I get didactic. Now back to the dish proper.

This is a meal on its own, whether as a snack or a main meal. It is best made when you are clearing the fridge ! Okonomiyaki is a very forgiving dish because there are no standards in the accompanying ingredients that go with the cabbage.

You can have all the major food groups in a single dish and what's more, there's only 1 big plate to wash after the feasting.

If you wish for some color, toss in shredded carrot and some corn. In Japan, they paint Worchester-like sauce onto the pancake before adding the topping. Whatever the arrangement, its riot of texture is sure to please even little children ( especially mine ).

Prepared Okonomiyaki powder comes seasoned and no additional salt need be added. Season according to preferred taste when using plain wheat flour. Traditional preparation uses wheat flour and freshly grated mountain yam ( called Huaisun in Mandarin, yamaimo in Japanese ). I have tried using both types of flour and frankly speaking, other than the level of saltiness, the outcome is similar.

Here goes. Makes 2 big pancakes, as a main dish.

1 cup plain flour or okonomiyaki flour from any Japanese / Korean store
1 cup grated mountain yam ( optional ). Add 1/2 cup potato starch if this is lacking. The stickiness holds the cabbage and meat together.
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup water

2 handful crab stick / octopus / prawn /sliced sausages / pork or any ingredients you fancy. The options are inexhaustible!
300g shredded cabbage

Topping - optional :
Mayonaise, bonito flakes

Mix flour, water, yam, seasoning until smooth. Beat in eggs.
Add meats, cabbage into mix.
Stir well but do not over handle batter. In 2 separate batches, ladle mixture onto well oiled pan and fry for about 3 minutes for each side. Use a plate to help flip the pancake if the task gets intimidating.

Remove pancake by sliding it out from fryingpan onto a serving plate. Paint top with Worchester sauce or shoyu .

Sprinkle with toppings of bonito, seaweed flakes depending on the artist in you.

Serve immediately to enjoy its crispy texture.

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