Have you ever tried Japanese pancakes? Okonomiyaki. Well I hadn’t until yesterday when I decided I must try out the pancake mix bought from this Japanese supermarket by Mr.Scott along with a few other treats recently. Okonomiyaki are savoury Japanese pancakes which are griddlled on a hot plate.
Okonomiyaki translates as “anything you like, cooked”. Popular ingredients used in the making of these savoury pancakes are cabbage, spring onions, prawns, chicken, pork. They also have a tradition of topping okonomiyaki with Kewpie mayonnaise, a smooth and creamy mayo that uses less oil than a regular mayo as well as apple and malt vinegars. It is sold in a squeezee bottle for easy squirting. Other popular toppings are shaved bonito, a rich brown sweetened sauce (similar to Tonkatsu) or powdered seaweed.
There was one issue with my okomiyaki. No English translation. I had to look up how to make up the batter before constructing my Japanese pancakes. One other thing. I have no idea what my pancakes were flavoured with as I couldn’t translate the ingredients. They tasted like there was some form of seaweed flavouring in them. If you have any idea or have made these before from the same packet then please let me know!
Before I go on to give you the recipe I wanted to share the delights of some amazingly good Japanese food that I was treated to at an event I attended a few weeks ago. I can only share in words as I did not get advanced permission to take photos. The event was held at The Japanese Embassy. “Pairing Sake with Japanese food” (No links anywhere to be found but it did really happen ;-)). Sake expert Natsuki Kikuya explained the history of Sake, how it is made, when to drink it and with what food to enjoy it. Akemi Yokoyama from the Sozei cookery school demonstrated dishes that work particularly well with Sake focussing on unfamiliar Japanese ingredients.
Below is the menu and the accompanying Sake:
Deep fried marinated flatfish with Myoga ginger served with Premium sparkling Sake Suzune Wabi produced by Ichinokura.
Slivers of fish were coated in potato starch powder and fried. The fish was then steeped in a stock made up of rice vinegar, Mirin, dashi and sugar. The hot stock was poured over the fish and left to absorb the flavours along with finely sliced onion, peppers, chilli and Myoga, a Japanese ginger of which the flower buds and shoots are eaten. It has a crunchy texture, a floral light gingery taste and is quite exquisite. The dish was paired with a chilled sparkling Sake with a lightly sweet, softly acidic taste.
Chicken meatballs with Hatcho miso sauce and Sansho pepper served with White label “Hakuruyu Daiginjo” produced by Yoshida brewing company.
Hatcho miso is very dark, thick powerful and intensely flavoured miso which is aged for 2 years before eating. It was served as a generous topping to the delicate meatballs (flavoured with leeks, Mirin and miso) and certainly adds an impact in taste and flavour much in the same way that eating Marmite for the first time does. A real taste sensation which was totally new to me. The Sansho pepper added a lemony note to the dish. It also has the same tingly sensation you get from eating Szechuan pepper but with a citrus hit. The Sake pairing was creamy with tropical notes of mango and coconut and very smooth.
Japanese Wagyu fillet with Shiokoji served with Manabito Ginjo produced by Hinomaru Jozo.
The rich buttery flavour of this highly marbled beef is something to marvel at. It is no exaggeration when I tell you it melts in the mouth like no other meat I have eaten. It has only recently been allowed into the UK for import but is incredibly expensive to buy. Interestingly the fat in the beef is mono-unsaturated, so it is better for you. The meat was marinated in Shiokoji, a fermentation culture that aids in breaking down materials or in this case, meat fibres. The koji (fermentation culture) is fermented in shio (salt) hence the name shiokoji. It can be bought with varying salt contents and adds a wonderful umami flavour to the meat here. The Sake pairing was clean, fresh and light. The strong acidity content and zesty flavour helped to cut through he richness of the meat.
Stuffed squid with rice garnished with cherry blossom served with Sho Chiku Bai Shirabegura Kimoto Junmai produced by Sho Chilku Bai Shirabegura.
A Paella-like rice mixture was stuffed into baby squid and then poached for a few minutes in a stock with kombu, Sake, sugar and Mirin which apparently masks the aroma of fish and meat as it is cooking. It’s garnish was pickled cherry blossom which has the most amazing flowery perfumed notes. I ate it separately to the squid so that I could appreciate it’s flavour. It is something to behold and again, is now available here in the UK. The Sake pairing here had a distinctive banana flavour. A sweet nose with a lactic acidity associated with this particular Kimoto Sake.
Tofu cheesecake with Umeboshi pickles and apricot puree served with Umenoyado Aragoshi Umeshu (Plum wine) produced by Umenoyado brewery.
Another taste sensation. A not too sweet, light and refreshing cheesecake topped with a perfectly balanced apricot sauce. This is a dish I would love to replicate. I have always appreciated how versatile Tofu is as an ingredient and this dish highlights that. I could have eaten a huge slice and not felt bloated or weighed down by dairy overload. The benefit of tofu being very low in fat. In fact, it isn’t really a fat it is a protein. I bet it would make a delicious savoury cheesecake too. I have sampled this plum wine before. It is nectar like and so juicy and aromatic in flavour. I love it. Plums (ume) are matured in Sake and sugar, then grated and blended which gives the wine a full-bodied texture and golden apricot colour.
As I have always believed, Japanese food is probably one of the most delicate and refined in terms of taste, presentation and tradition. The food I sampled at this “Pairings of Discovery” highlighted how little I truly know about Japanese food and how much more I would like to learn.
I would like to thank The Japanese Embassy for inviting me to this event. All opinions expressed above are my own.
Now my humble Japanese pancakes may not measure up to the quality of the dishes I was served at the Japanese Embassy, I know, but I would still like to enter them into a few challenges this month:
Here are some fellow blogger Japanese themed recipes for you to enjoy:
Simple Miso Cod – Kavey Eats
Making Japanese Yakiniku (grilled meat) at home – Kavey Eats
Green beans with a tofu miso & sesame dressing – Kavey Eats
Yakitori chicken kebabs – Greedy Gourmet
Sakura (Cherry blossom) cupcakes – Botanical Baker
Please note that this recipe is my interpretation of Okonomiyaki. I have decreased the size of the pancakes, which is not traditional and I have chosen to add my favourite sauces to serve alongside them. My personal method of cooking the pancakes is not really authentic either but this recipe is the real thing. What do you think and which would you prefer? Next time, I am lowering my water content to make the pancakes more about the filling than the batter. And I will let you know how I get on. These moreish little numbers are simply smashing. As is all Japanese food.
Japanese Pancakes - Okonomiyaki
- 200 g Okonomiyaki pancake flour mix
- 200 ml Water
- 2 Eggs whisked
- 150 g Cabbage sliced thinly
- 1 Carrot peeled and grated
- 1 Courgette grated
- 3 Lrge spring onions finely sliced
- Salt & pepper
- Oil for frying
- Chipotle chilli sauce & Chipotle chilli mayo to serve with the pancakes
Make the pancake batter by placing the okonomiyaki flour, water and beaten eggs into a bowl and whisking together as you would for regular pancakes then set aside while you chop the veg.
Chop up all the vegetables then add then to the pancake batter along with some salt and pepper,
I mixed the vegetables into the batter using a silicone spatula as you do not want to over mix the batter which will cause it to become tough on cooking,
Using a large frying pan, pour 3-4tbsp of oil into the pan and heat up the oil. Place 3 ladels of okonomiyaki mix into the pan and turn the heat to medium and cook the pancakes until they are golden on the bottom,
Flip the pancakes using a fish slice and continue to cook for a few minutes until the other side of the pancake becomes brown and crisp,
Remove the pancakes and place onto a baking tray in a low oven while you continue to cook the other 3 pancakes in the same way,
Serve with chipotle chilli sauce and chipotle chilli mayo (my personal favourite) or with regular mayo and a traditional okonomiyaki sauce (similar to tonkatsu with a flavour not dissimilar to Worcester or HP sauce in my mind!)
Japanese tradition serves these pancakes as larger (pizza sized) and then cut into 4 segments. I have chosen to make smaller pancakes.