Japanese Cabbage Pancake, also known as Osaka Okonomiyaki is a popular dish from the Kensai region of Japan.
Okonomiyaki translates to “as you like it,” in Japanese and is often regarded as Japan’s take on pizza. It is one of the rare authentic Japanese dishes where diners have a choice to select the toppings they prefer.
Popular travel destinations across Kansai including Nara, Kyoto and Osaka, each serve their own unique regional interpretation of Japanese cabbage pancake.
The savoury dish is often served at late night restaurants and snack bars, popularly paired alongside a pint of local beer.
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Travel to Japan by Cooking Osaka Style Okonomiyaki at Home
After my contract ended in Seoul I travelled throughout Asia for 6 months, visiting Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.
What Is Okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese cabbage pancake containing a variety of ingredients cooked on a sizzling griddle in a wheat flour batter.
The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like it,” and yaki meaning “cooked.” Japanese cabbage pancake is often known to foreigners as Japanese pizza, as it allows diners to chose the toppings they prefer. It is also sometimes referred to as a Japanese omelett or Osaka soul food.
Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kansai and Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available across the country. Topping and batters vary by each region, so it’s worth traveling across Japan to experience the dishes diversity. In Hiroshima for example, local okonomiyaki chefs add noodles to the okonomi batter, a technique you’d never see in Osaka.
Osaka-style Okonomiyaki is the most famous version of the dish. The batter is often made of wheat flour, grated nagaimo (a Japanese yam), dashi, eggs and shredded Chinese cabbage. Traditional toppings, typically fried into the pancake on a hot griddle include green onion, pork belly, octopus, squid, shrimp or cheese.
Once the Japanese cabbage pancake is cooked to perfection it’s placed on a sizzling platter and topped with okonomi sauce, kewpie mayo, shredded seaweed, bonito flakes and sliced green onions.
Best Okonomiyaki in Osaka
Some Osaka okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself establishments, where the server produces a bowl of raw ingredients that the customer mixes and grills at tables fitted with teppan, or special hotplates.
They may also have a diner-style counter where the cook prepares the dish in front of the customers, like at Benihana.
If you’re traveling to Osaka and looking to enjoy the best Japanese Cabbage Pancake try eating at local favourites such as Mizuno, Okonomiyaki Momiji, Houzenji Sanpei, Kiji Umeda, Tsuruhashi Fugetsu or Okaru Nanba.
My Family Loves Japanese Cabbage Pancake
When I announced to my parents that I’d be moving to Seoul for one year to teach English they decided to plan their first vacation to Asia.
They started their adventure exploring Japan, encountering Osaka’s addictive Japanese Cabbage Pancake with glee. They finished their tour in Korea where I took them to visit the tropical island of Jeju, south of Busan.
My family fell in love with Korean and Japanese food culture and now enjoy recreating Osaka-style Okonomiyaki at home. In Toronto, our favourite Japanese Cabbage Pancake restaurants are Okonomi House, Koyoi Japanese, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Hapa Izakaya and Kingyo.
Tips For Cooking Japanese Cabbage Pancake
I spent years ordering Osaka Okonomiyaki at Japanese restaurants before attempting to cook them at home.
I initially couldn’t easily find some of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Once I sourced the ingredients and learned to make my very own homemade okonomi sauce I realized how quick & easy it is to make Japanese Cabbage Pancake for friends and family.
If you’re following a Keto diet or looking to cook gluten free okonomiyaki, many recipes utilize potato flour or a gluten-free flour instead.
If you’re hosting a dinner party let vegans known the dish isn’t suitable for them (you can’t omit the eggs in the batter). You can make the recipe vegetarian friendly by omitting the bacon and adding sliced scallions or cheese to the top of the pancake instead.
Be sure to slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. You don’t want large chunks of cabbage in your batter. If you can’t find daishi powder you can simply replace with water and a pinch of salt.
We think the best Osaka Okonomiyaki is topped with thick slices of pork belly or bacon. If you don’t like pork you can substitute for other traditional ingredients like octopus, squid or shrimp.
If you have a griddle in your kitchen you can cook two large Japanese Cabbage Pancake at a time. We use a large non-stick skillet to cook our Osaka-style Okonomiyaki, one at a time.
Authentic Japanese Cabbage Pancake are served topped with savoury brown okonomi sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, sliced scallions and shredded seaweed. If you have trouble finding all of these ingredients, at the very minimum top the pancakes with our savoury okonomi sauce and homemade kewpie mayo.
What To Serve With Japanese Cabbage Pancake
In Osaka, Japanese Cabbage Pancake are typically served with a bowl of rice, pickled ginger and a pint of beer or sake. Since Okonomiyaki is an affordable dish, it’s popular with university students at late night beer bars.
If you’re planning a Japanese themed menu, you might want to serve the pancakes alongside steamed gyoza, miso soup, seaweed salad and a selection of sushi and sashimi.
Since Osaka Okonomiyaki is carb and meat heavy dish, we suggest serving with a selection of fresh salads. Some of our favourite salad recipes include Goi Ga Vietnamese Salad, Vegan Chinese Cucumber Salad, Carrot and Tahini Salad with Crispy Cumin Chickpeas and Pistachios, Cherry Pecan Kale Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Healthy Garlic Lemon Chickpea Avocado Salad, The Best Canadian Salad Recipe, Sweet Potato Rice Pilaf and Roasted Vegetable Couscous.
Can You Make Osaka Style Okonomiyaki in Advance?
What we love most about this Japanese Cabbage Pancake recipe is that you can easily fry the Osaka Okonomiyaki in advance.
We love making this recipe for dinner parties as you can fry all of the pancakes in advance and store them on a baking sheet in the fridge covered in plastic wrap until moments before you’re ready to eat.
Twenty to thirty minutes before you expect to sit down to dinner, bake the Osaka Okonomiyaki in a 350F oven until warm and crispy.
If you’re friends are foodies, we suggest setting up a DIY okonomi sauce and topping station. If you’re playing host, demonstrate to your guests how to slather the okonomi sauce on the pancake, squirt the kewpie mayo in a zig zag motion and sprinkle with nori, scallions and bonito flakes.
We find guests enjoy the fun of decorating their own dinner. It’s also a helpful process if you have picky eaters on your guest list, as they may only want to add a small amount of raw scallions or fishy bonito flakes rather than a towering heap.
How To Store Japanese Cabbage Pancake
Whenever we make this Japanese Cabbage Pancake we typically double the recipe so we can enjoy leftovers for lunch or dinner that week. Simply store the cooked Osaka Okonomiyaki in an airtight container or large zip lock bag and store in the fridge for 2-3 days.
We do not suggest reheating the leftover Okonomiyaki in the microwave as they will get soft and mushy. Instead, reheat the pancakes in a toaster oven or convection oven until warm and crispy.
Do not store leftover Japanese Cabbage Pancake in the freezer as when they thaw they often get mushy and lose their desired texture.
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Best Japanese Cabbage Pancake Recipe
Japanese Cabbage Pancake Recipe
- French knife
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- Wooden spoon
- Mixing bowls
- Non-Stick Skillet or Griddle
- baking sheet
Japanese Cabbage Pancakes
- 2 cups All purpose flour
- 1 cup Dashi
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 2 tsp White Sugar
- 1 lb Napa cabbage coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup Green scallions chopped
- 4 Eggs
- 1/4 cup Sesame oil
- 8 oz Bacon
- 1 1/2 tbsp White sugar
- 2 tbsp Oyster sauce
- 4 tbsp Ketchup
- 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Kewpie Mayo
- Dried Bonito Flakes
- Dried Seaweed
- Green Scallions
- Pickled Ginger
- To make the batter, mix together the flour, dashi, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.
- Add the chopped cabbage to the batter and mix well for at least 30 seconds, until fully combined. Add the eggs and mix, for about 15 seconds.
- Preheat a non-stick pan at medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, making sure to coat the entire surface of the skillet.
- Cook the Okonomiyaki in batches. Spoon the cabbage and batter mixture into the skillet to form a pancake about 6 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Don’t push down on the cabbage as you want to achieve a fluffy pancake. Gently lay bacon slices on top of the pancake. Do not overlap.
- Cook the pancake for approximately 3 minutes. Use a long spatula to carefully flip the pancake, so the side with the pork belly is now facing down. Gently press down on the pancake with the spatula. The bacon will get crispy and cook into the pancake.
- Cook for 5 more minutes, then flip the pancake again, so the side with the bacon is now facing up. Cook for about 2 more minutes. When it’s ready, the pancake should be browned on both sides. The bacon should be crispy and the cabbage inside will be soft and tender.
- Transfer the pancake to a plate, pork side up, and add the toppings of your choice. Serve immediately.
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