A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Kitchen as Chem Lab: Okonomiyaki Take 1

 (This is what it is supposed to look like)

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style pancake which has at its core (no pun intended), lots of chopped up cabbage, which in our health-conscious times is possibly quite laudable. According to one of a host of You Tube videos demo-ing this dish, it is a very popular children's dish. So to the mothers among us I say this: Having trouble getting the kiddies to devour greens? Here's another trick for your bulging sleeve. This could be a possibility amidst a myriad of possibilities.
Frankly speaking, I could care less which demographic this is supposed to appeal to... Food is food... generally speaking... and as long as it tastes good... I have few prejudices. However, I will strenuously continue to object to dead animals that remain mostly uncooked.

But my interest in food has more to do with avarice than health. And my interest in Okonomiyaki has more to do with how good it tastes than the fact that there's lots and lots of health brimming cabbage cleverly concealed within. Which would be a point in its favour if I had a conscience to appease.

I'm always game to try new foods... and once I ordered this delectable dish from a stall selling Chinese hotcakes of all things... there was no turning back.  But eating out is a rich man's game these days so it's in the kitchen I go to satisfy my multicultural appetites.

When asked, a Japanese friend suggested that it would be better if I bought the commerically prepared Okonomiyaki flour mix. My initial reaction was deflation, finding out that I could've gone into an Asian supermarket months ago and picked up a conveniently packaged packet of flavoured flour and short cut the entire process... Boo hiss...
But of course, it's never that straightforward...

The commercially prepared stuff, is unfortunately ridiculously unhelpful... unless you know a bit Japanese. It took a bit of finding and with help from the owner of the establishment, we managed to dig it out.
This is what it looks like when the bag was emptied into a mixing bowl. There were seaweed flakes and fishy looking bits and pieces which I am unable to identify just by looking.

Thankfully, plastered on the back is an ingredients label... printed in English... Looks like its mainly, flour, fish and a couple of seafood type things pulverized to its present form. But no instructions... nothing about water proportions and extra ingredients that I could decipher.

In my desperation I go to You Tube, which was both helpful and confusing. It gave me ideas but I became discombobulated by the variety of methods Okonomiyaki could be made, depending on the region of Japan etc.

I'm not sure if this was entirely necessary but as it turns out, it was quite helpful in the scheme of things. Tastes like barbecue sauce with a dash of tamarind. Something fruity anyway.

Fortunately, someone had the notion to print directions in English so I was at least able to have some sense of where to go with all the goodies.

In this attempt, I included bacon which went down well with my brood. Not that you have to have meat really... but the standard thing to do is to add strips of meat or seafood or vegetables to the mix. One of the 3 You Tube videos I raced through suggested using bacon so I thought, well, I have some sitting in the fridge, why not? I used about 6-8 slices of these middle bacon rashers here.

The recipe I was following suggested 4 eggs but I used 5 eggs here because the mixture looked a bit watery.

Cabbage was chopped up into square like flakes.
Flour and water (1 cup of flour to 250ml of water)

Bacon went into the fry pan to be pre-fried.

All ingredients dumped in together. Gave it a good stir.

I heat up the oil in my non-stick wok and pour some of the mixture in.

Flipped the pancake over with my giant spatula. Okay, it's not a perfect circle. But I don't do perfect circles.

Okay my first attempt mayonnaise zig-zagging could do with a bit of work. Looked balefully like childish scribblings. But it was a bottle on its last legs so I had to squeeze pretty hard. I should say though that the Japanese mayonnaise is the thing to use here. Kraft or Praise or No Frills mayo won't cut it. They don't taste the same.

 The Terrifyingly Talkative Two broke pancake together

 The Talkative Two heartily approve (so they say, anyway)

Verdict: To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed... Superficially it bore some resemblance with the original and was tasty in an omeletty, seafoody sort of way BUT it didn't have the crispy texture that I remember from my previous eating adventures. My family liked it... bless them... but it wasn't Okonomiyaki.

I'm not one to give up after one attempt. I'm aiming to try again. This time, I've bought my own tempura flour and bonita flakes to mix it up myself. I think it works out to be cheaper. I'm going to use the easy recipe I saw on You Tube instead.
The sheer arrogance of me...


  1. It is... quite yum...
    But not the real thing unfortunately.

  2. Looks like you did a good job. Don't worry, I don't do perfect circles either...

  3. Well, it was edible... more than edible really. But I'm trying desperately to recapture that texture that I loved the first time I ate it.


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