Okonomiyaki, which basically translates to “as you like it”, is a savoury fritter like pancake that’s sometimes referred to as the pizza of Japan. The similarity being the round disc shape and the fact that you can basically put anything you fancy into an okonomiyaki. The batters and toppings vary from region to region but the basic principle is the same; finely shredded cabbage and any other vegetables you like are added to a thin batter. You can include meat and seafood if you wish and a combination of dried bonito flakes, green onion, pickled ginger and tempura crumbs (I used panko bread crumbs instead) are added to boost the flavour. The mixture is then fried until golden and topped with mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce, which is similar in taste to barbecue sauce. This version, which is topped with slow cooked sticky pork belly with crispy crackling, takes okonomiyaki to a whole new level. This was the first time I’ve cooked okonomiyaki. I’ve ordered it many times but for some reason I didn’t think it could be easily replicated at home but I was wrong – this was just as good, and dare I say better, than many okonomiyakis I’ve had at restaurants. You don’t need to top the okonomiyaki with the pork belly if you don’t wish (but trust me it’s gorgeous with it), as the names says you can make it as you like and I’ll certainly be making these regularly. This is a fun dish to experiment with, changing the toppings and fillings to suit whatever you have on hand or are in the mood for – I find this is a great recipe to use when you have leftover bits and pieces sitting around in the fridge and vegetable drawer.
Ingredients – Serves 2-3 Inspired by a recipe in Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine
For the Okonomiyaki
250g finely shredded Chinese cabbage (napa cabbage)
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
4 spring onions, white and green sections, sliced
1 tablespoons pickled ginger, sliced
1 cup self-raising flour
¼ cup rice flour or potato flour
1 teaspoon dashi powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup panko bread crumbs – use tempura crumbs if you have them
⅔ cup water
For the Soy Pork Belly
750g piece of boneless pork belly, with the skin on and scored
1½ cups chicken stock
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
Sea salt flakes
Finely sliced green onions
To make the pork belly, preheat oven to 250C. Place the stock, soy, honey and ginger into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Dry the pork well and place it into a snug fitting roasting pan and season the skin of the pork generously with the salt flakes. Place in the hot oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the crackling has started to crisp up. Carefully pour the stock mixture around the pork, leaving the top skin dry. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C and cook for a further 2½ hours or until the pork is very tender. At this stage the cracking should be sufficiently crispy, but if it’s not increase the oven temperature and cook for a little longer at high heat until it crisps up to your liking. Remove the pork and let it rest for 10 minutes uncovered. Strain any fat from the sauce in the pan and set aside.
To make the okonomiyaki, mix the two different flours, the dashi, salt and water in large bowl. Add the cabbage, carrot, spring onions, ginger, panko crumbs and eggs. Stir until just combined, don’t over mix. Heat a small non-stick fry pan (about 15-20cm diameter) over medium heat. Add a small amount of vegetable oil and when hot add enough of the batter to make a fritter that covers the base of the pan and is about 1.5cm thick. Cook until it’s golden on the base and beginning to set, about 6-8 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until it is cooked through about another 6-8 minutes. Remove and place on a baking tray and keep in a warm oven while you make the rest. Repeat the above process until all the batter is used – you should be able to get 2-3 pancakes, depending on the size of your pan and the thickness of the okonomiyakis.
To serve, place an okonomiyaki on each plate and drizzle the Japanese mayonnaise in thin stripes over the pancake. Cut the pork belly into thick slices and place some pork and crispy crackling on top of each pancake. Top with some of the reserved cooking juices and sliced spring onions.