Dive into a tasty midweek meal with the Japanese pancake, okonomiyaki. This easy okonomiyaki recipe is made with pork and cabbage and drizzled with mayo.
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If you love pancakes and fritters, then okonomiyaki, the immensely popular Japanese savoury pancakes, are for you! The name translates to “things you like” (okonomi) and “cooked/grilled” (yaki), which reflects the various methods and ingredients used. The simplest style, sometimes called Kansai or Osaka okonomiyaki, but found across Japan, is traditionally made with sliced cabbage. The egg and flour batter is fried on a grill plate and the cooked okonomiyaki finished with various toppings, such as okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and seaweed flakes. Another well-known version is Hiroshima okonomiyaki, in which the ingredients are layered into the pancake in several stages, as the pancake is flipped during cooking, rather than being mixed together at the start. This style often includes a layer of cooked noodles. Both types end up with a delightfully crunchy outside that contrasts perfectly with cabbage-filled interior and the criss-cross of mayo on top. Traditional okonomiyaki are often made with pork – sometimes in the batter, sometimes on top – but you’ll also see beef or seafood, and there are vegetarian versions, too. These make a great mid-week meal, as they are so fast to make, and they are also a good way to use up small amounts of meat or vegetables.
Like sweet pancakes, where you can make everything from chocolate pancakes to vibrant green smoothie pancakes by changing what you add to the mix, or our vibrant veg-packed rainbow fritters, a great okonomiyaki starts with flour and eggs and adds various “things you like”. Think of your okonomiyaki batter as a blank canvas with which to create a delicious masterpiece. You want the batter to be thin enough to spread a little in the pan, but thick enough to form a pancake. There is a third style of okonomiyaki, sometimes called Tokyo-style, that uses a thin, more liquid batter, which is poured onto a pile of cooked ingredients, but for this recipe, where cabbage and pork is added to the batter, you need a medium consistency – which is just what the recipe creates.
Cabbage is the other must-have in an okonomiyaki. We’ve used the classic green variety, the cannonball-shaped green and white drumhead cabbage that we all know so well, but you can also make a fun okonomiyaki with purple cabbage, savoy cabbage, or wombok. We’ve also used fine cut coleslaw mix – the texture is different, but still delicious. If you buy a whole cabbage and you’re looking for a great recipe to use up the rest, try this satay beef with cabbage salad – a fantastic slow cooker recipe – or a crunchy slaw with yoghurt and chilli dressing.
Traditional recipes often use grated Japanese yam in the batter, which adds volume and creates a lighter texture. Here, we’ve used self-raising flour to give a little bit of fluffiness to the pancakes.
While this recipe uses pork mince in the batter, you can also use the batter as a base for other variations. Try cooking off some bacon instead of pork, or use up leftover cooked meat – dice it up, and add at the stage where you would have added the cooked pork. You could also add in some thinly sliced spring onion. And while leftover cooked vegetables might not be traditional, this style of pancake is endlessly versatile, so you could use that instead of the pork, too.
One of the great things about this recipe is how fast it is to make – you can have dinner ready in less than half an hour. First, get the ingredients ready: slice the cabbage and spring onion and cut up the carrot. Make sure the pan is hot and then cook the mince over high heat, stirring to break up the lumps, until lightly browned. Add the soy sauce and cook for a few more minutes, then transfer the meat to a bowl. Wipe out the pan and turn the heat to medium. Prepare the batter with the flour, eggs and then chicken stock and add the mince and half the cabbage, then season with salt and pepper.
Cook the pancakes, following the recipe instructions, brushing with Worcestershire sauce. In Japan, a special okonomiyaki sauce, which has a flavour somewhat similar to Worcestershire sauce, is used. If you’d like make your own, try the sauce in Tasia and Gracia Seger’s prawn okonomiyaki recipe.
Once your okonomiyaki are cooked, it’s time to add toppings. Start with a generous drizzle of mayonnaise. This is usually added in a zig-zag line – easiest done with mayonnaise in a squeezy bottle, but mayo added with a spoon will taste just as good! We’ve used two kinds of mayonnaise, but use whatever you have. Kewpie mayonnaise, a Japanese style of mayo with a rich, tangy taste that you’ll find at the supermarket, is especially good for okonomiyaki.
Then divide the remaining cabbage and the carrot and spring onion between the pancakes. Serve with the shredded nori, pickled ginger and wasabi paste, so those eating can add as much as they like of these tasty extras.
Once you’ve tried these, they are likely to become a new favourite midweek meal because they are so quick to make. Indeed, one of the great things about pancakes, and fritters too, is how fast and easy they are – how about zucchini and pea fritters, ready in 25 minutes; or gluten-free ham and corn fritters (which are great to make ahead for lunchboxes), done in 20 minutes. Avocado pancakes are not only quick, but striking – serve with a poached egg for a great breakfast.
If making okonomiyaki has inspired you to cook more Japanese recipes, how about quick ramen soup with spicy chicken, Japanese-style potato and teriyaki pancakes (these make a great weekend breakfast); or miso chicken with edamame salsa (made with just five ingredients). If you have a slow cooker, Japanese-style pork noodle soup is great comfort food, with pork belly and noodles in a rich, tasty broth. And finally, if you have Kewpie mayo and you’re wondering what else to serve it with, try these sesame-coated tuna croquettes with chilli slaw.
Energy: 2319kJ/555 Cals (27%)
Protein: 24g (48%)
Fat: 28g (40%)
Sat fat: 7g (29%)
Carb: 50g (16%)
Sugar: 8g (9%)
Fibre: 4g (13%)
Sodium: 1705mg (85%)