Okonomiyaki is a sweet, salty and savory Japanese cabbage pancake with a craveable flavor and unique texture – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, packed with just-cooked cabbage and bound together with a batter of Japanese mountain yam (to give it its characteristic texture) or wheat flour, dashi, and eggs.
“Okonomi” in Japanese is a word meaning “as you like,” with “yaki” meaning cooked on a very hot griddle. The dish is hugely popular and has many regional variations. At bars and restaurants in Japan, guests can choose their mix-ins, and cook their own okonomiyaki on a hot plate in the middle of the table, much like Korean Barbeque, and then add an assortment of toppings such as bonito flakes (very thinly shaved smoked fish), nori, pickled ginger, and always Kewpie mayonnaise and Okonomi sauce.
Seasonal vegetables like cabbage and corn are at their peak right now in Georgia, so this recipe marries the Southern tradition of buttermilk cornmeal pancakes with okonomiyaki flavor and creative spirit. Make it “as you like”!
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon mirin (or substitute 1 tablespoon rice vinegar + 1 teaspoon sugar + pinch salt, microwaved for 10 seconds and stirred to dissolve sugar)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, divided
- 2 ½ – 3 cups chopped or thinly sliced cabbage
- 1 ear fresh Georgia sweet corn, kernals removed (about 1 cup), divided
- 4 ounces peeled shrimp, chopped into small 1/4 inch pieces
- Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- Toasted sesame seeds, for serving (optional)
(adapted from Just One Cookbook) – This is optional, and not an exact replica of bottled Japanese okonomi sauce, but provides a savory, sweet and tangy counterpoint.
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, hoisin sauce with ½ tsp fish sauce, or vegetarian stir fry sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar (adjust sugar if the combined sauces you have used are too sweet)
- 3 tablespoons mayo
- 1 tablespoon sriracha, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- Whisk to combine.
- Combine cornmeal, flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk eggs until beaten in another bowl. Add buttermilk, soy sauce and mirin (or vinegar mixture) and whisk to combine with eggs.
- Let rest in the refrigerator at least 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sriracha mayo and the okonomi sauce.
- After the batter has rested, fold in the cabbage, shrimp, half of the fresh corn, and half of the scallions. Add a tablespoon or two of flour if the mixture needs more binding. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 9-inch cast iron or regular skillet over medium heat.
- For two large, more traditional style pancakes, heat the cast iron skillet with the oil, pour in half of the batter and use a heatproof spatula to gently distribute across the entire surface. Cook about 5 minutes until the bottom side is golden and the top is almost set, then place a dinner plate upside down on top of the skillet and, using one hand to hold the dinner plate, flip the skillet over onto the plate. Slide the pancake back into the pan to cook the other side, about 5 minutes more. Once pancake is fully cooked, flip the skillet with the pancake onto the dinner plate again to serve. Repeat with the other half of the batter.
- While the skillet is still on heat, sauté the reserved corn until fully cooked. At this point you can brush some of the okonomi sauce over the top, drizzle with Sriracha mayo and more okonomi sauce, and top with reserved scallion, sautéed corn, and sesame seeds. Cut into wedges and serve.
- For smaller pancakes, scoop about ½ cup of the batter mixture and pour into the center of the skillet; if needed, distribute mix-ins evenly on each pancake with a heatproof spatula for uniform thickness. Cook until several bubbles form on the surface and the batter is set in the middle, then flip and cook on the other side until slightly golden – the pancake should be mostly cooked by this point. Continue in this way with the rest of the batter until all of it is used up. Drizzle okonomi sauce and sriracha mayo, and top with sautéed corn, scallion and sesame seeds.