Japanese Cabbage Pancakes (Okonomiyaki)

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If you read my last post, you know I recently got back from Tokyo. It was a whirlwind 3-day trip, and there were only so many meals I could cram into 72 hours. Regretfully, okonomiyaki was not one of them. I’m a sucker for savory pancakes so this cabbage and pork belly version is something I’ve been craving ever since I missed the chance to eat them in Japan.

I was stoked when I came across a whole chapter on okonomiyaki in my newest cookbook, Japanese Soul Cooking. This book leaves sushi at the door and highlights those fried-curried-noodley-sauced dishes that fill you up and make you feel all is good in the world.  Okonomiyaki fits that bill. I’ve never actually eaten okonomiyaki, so I didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like. The name literally means, “What you like, cooked,” so I figured if I thought it was delicious then it turned out right.  

Everyone loved it, so it turned out right in my book. It was actually so good that I made it three times last week. It was as easy as making a batter, adding cabbage, topping with pork belly, and cooking until done. Then came the fun part, adding all the toppings that make this dish quintessentially Japanese: sweet brown Okonomi sauce, Kewpie mayo, powdered nori (aonori), and bonito flakes (katsuobushi). I can tell that okonomiyaki is going to be a mainstay at home, but I can't wait to go back to Japan and try it!

Click HERE for the Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki Recipe from Japanese Soul Cooking

Recipe Notes:

  • You can add anything you want to the batter in addition to the cabbage (hence the name ‘what you like, cooked). I added shrimp and crab, but be creative and add anything that'll make you happy. I think I’ll try corn and scallops next time.
  • The recipe called for coarsely chopped cabbage, but I preferred shredded cabbage. It cooked more evenly and was easier to eat.
  • The recipe calls for 10 cups of cabbage, which seemed like too much. The cabbage to batter ratio was off. I cut back to 5-6 cups of shredded cabbage and the pancakes turned out perfectly. 
  • I cut the pork belly into 1-inch pieces before I laid them on the pancake. This made a knife unnecessary, and you could eat them with chopsticks.