Possibly one of the most enjoyable ways to eat cabbage is in okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style savory pancake. In Japanese, okonomi means “how you like it” and yaki means “grilled” or “cooked.” Okonomiyaki is customized to what you like or what you have on hand, but alway includes cabbage. The batter is made with flour, eggs and dashi, a fish stock, but poultry or beef stock work great, too. Use any raw or cooked meat you like—ground pork, sausage, sliced bacon, or cooked chicken or duck.
Traditionally, the pancake is topped with a tangy sauce, mayonnaise, bonito fish flakes and aonori seaweed flake. You can buy bottled okonomiyaki sauce (or make your own), bonito and aonori at Berkeley Bowl or a Japanese market like Tokyo Fish Market in Albany. Okonomiyaki is a typical homestyle dinner in Japan, but I love making it on a lazy Sunday morning with whatever bit of meat I have in the fridge.
This recipe is very flexible. The instructions below use half the batter per pancake and will yield two very large pancakes. You can feed two very hungry people or cut into wedges to share with a crowd. Alternatively, you can use a quarter of the batter for 4-inch pancakes and make four individual servings. Adapted from Japanese Cooking 101.
For the Pancake:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cup meat stock or dashi (more if needed to thin batter)
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cabbage head, grated or thinly sliced
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 8 oz. meat, chopped or shredded (can be raw or cooked)
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. lard, duck fat or cooking oil
- 6 Tbsp. ketchup
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Mayonnaise (optional)
- Bonito Flakes
- Aonori (seaweed flakes) or chopped nori
In a small bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking powder with a whisk. Add broth and milk and whisk gently until just combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile make the okonomiyaki sauce by mixing ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust to taste.
Mix eggs, cabbage and green onions into batter.
Heat oil in a skillet (cast iron works well), pour half of the pancake batter into an 8″ circle. Lay a thin layer of meat on top. Cook at medium heat until the bottom becomes golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
Flip to fry the other side until the meat becomes crispy, about 5-7 minutes. If using raw meat, be sure to let it cook through.
Flip one more time, meat side up, and drizzle Okonomiyaki sauce and mayo on the pancake.
To serve, move the pancake to a plate, sprinkle a pinch or two of dried aonori seaweed and small handful of dried bonito flakes over the pancake.
Eat immediately and watch the bonito flakes dance!