Friday, November 5, 2010

Konbanwa! Okonomiyaki! Grasshopper, do not dishonor me! Sayonara!

I've been fighting off a case of the flu for the past couple of days, and what is it they say? Starve a cold, feed the flu? I think that's it... Anyway, I first found out about Okonomiyaki, a specialty of Osaka, Japan, a couple years back by way of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Then, yesterday, I stumbled across a pretty funny YouTube video about making it, and decided this would be as good a way as any to try and knock the bug out of my system, and use up some of these eggs the chickens keep laying (aren't they supposed to be molting by now?) in the process. Some of the ingredients might be a little challenging to track down if you don't have access to a decent Asian market, but there's always the Internet, or in a pinch, substitutions can be made. Here's what you'll need:

One cup Okonomiyaki flour
Two extra large, or three large, eggs
Enough dashi to make 2/3 cup of miso broth
Two cups cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
Seafood, chopped, about one cup
Bacon, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
Nagaimo (Japanese mountain yam), grated, about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup Bonito flakes
Okonomi sauce
Salt and pepper
Canola oil

Okay, now for the substitutions, just in case you live in the sticks: For Okonomiyaki flour, you can substitute all purpose flour. Add a pinch of salt, a pinch of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of tapioca starch or corn starch; If you can't find dashi, you can use water with a little fish, chicken or beef boullion instead of miso broth; If you don't have access to Nagaimo, add a tablespoon of tapioca starch or corn starch to the flour; For Bonito flakes, there isn't really any substitute, so just go without, it'll be fine; For Okonomi sauce, you can substitute a 2:1 mixture of A1 steak sauce to ketchup, with a little sugar added.

First, heat about a tablespoon of canola oil in a large fry or saute pan, and cook the chopped bacon over medium heat. Place the bacon on a paper towel to drain, and reserve the canola oil and rendered bacon fat. Now, put the flour in a bowl, add the miso broth, grated nagaimo (this stuff, by the way, grates down into a really nasty slimy paste that begins to oxidize and turn slightly pink almost immediately; just giving you fair warning...) and eggs and whisk together until smooth:

Add the bacon, cabbage (I used Napa cabbage, but regular cabbage is fine as well), green onion and seafood (I opted for a mix of shrimp, scallops and squid), along with a little salt and pepper. Continue to mix until everything is evenly incorporated:

Now, it's time to get that pan hot again. Heat one tablespoon of the reserved canola oil/bacon fat to the pan over medium heat, and pour in enough of the batter to make one pancake (the pancake, by the way, can be as big or as small as you want; I went a bit on the small side for ease of flipping):

Using a spatula, flipper or pastry blade, manage the edges of the pancake and form it into a round shape. After four minutes, flip it:

Continue to cook for another four minutes. Then, plate it and top with the Okonomi sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes. And enjoy: