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Okonomiyaki

Food

This afternoon Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura are back with one of Japan’s most distinctive and popular dishes – Okonomiyaki!   Literally translated as ‘what you like’ (okonomi) and  ‘cooked’ (yaki), it’s a perennial crowd pleaser, and can be made in endless variations to suit your taste, with or without meat.  For this version, Julia wowed us by adding fresh squid to the batter, which she prepared from scratch!  TOP EFFORT.

14th October, 2014

Okonomiyaki with all the trimmings!  Large plate by Valerie Resterick from Craft Victoria.  Small carrot chopstick holder – Julia’s own.  Flower-shaped ceramic ‘1616 Arita Japan Palace Plate’ from MINAMI. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

Nori perfects the golden fried Okonomiyaki! Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

My beautiful piece of honed carrara marble still smells like squid after this photograph.  I’m not kidding.  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

We were INSANELY IMPRESSED by Julia’s seemingly effortless ability to prepare this squid from scratch, including removing the weird internal bone.  Julia, we salute you!  Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

Okonomiyaki with all the trimmings!  Large plate by Valerie Resterick from Craft Victoria.  Small carrot chopstick holder – Julia’s own.  Flower-shaped ceramic ‘1616 Arita Japan Palace Plate’ from MINAMI. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura, Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura & Norihiko Nishimura
Tuesday 14th October 2014

There are as many versions of okonomiyaki as there are vending machines in Japan, which makes sense, seeing that ‘okonomi’ means ‘what you like’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘cooked’. The mixture varies from region to region, as do the toppings. In Hiroshima, they layer up the savoury pancake with noodles and other ingredients, whereas in the Kansai region, they tend to keep it a bit simpler and go for an all-in-one batter. Nori’s Mum often made it with thinly sliced pork belly, which is tasty too!

This dish is super popular in Japan – there are Okonomiyaki restaurants everywhere. My favourites are the ‘grill-it-yourself’ establishments – after choosing your fillings, your batter is delivered to the table where you then cook your own on communal hot plates. Because not everyone has one of these grill plates hanging around the house, you can either use the hotplate on your BBQ or a fry pan, like we do. If you’re using a frying pan, it’s best to keep the pancake relatively small to make for easy flipping.

We add chopped calamari to ours which adds a nice texture, but you should embrace the meaning of ‘okonomi’ and literally add what you like, which could include: thin slices of pork belly, octopus or more vegetables would be delicious too. You can easily make okonomiyaki vegetarian by using a dashi stock made from mushrooms or kombu and omitting the calamari and bonito flakes. The pancake is then smothered in okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and topped with things like nori, bonito flakes and spring onions – DELICIOUS!

Oh, and I should also mention that you need to pay close attention to the bonito flakes when they hit the steamy pancake, or YouTube ‘Bonito flakes dancing’ – my number two reason why I love okonomiyaki. Number one is, of course, the taste!

Ingredients (Serves 2 - 4)

For the Okonomiyaki

  • 180g plain flour
  • 260ml dashi stock
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 300g white cabbage, shredded
  • 2 spring onions, roughly sliced
  • 20g beni shoga (a type of pickled ginger available from Japanese grocers)
  • 150g fresh calamari or squid, roughly chopped
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

To serve

  • Okonomiyaki sauce (available from Japanese grocers)
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Spring onions, finely sliced
  • Toasted nori, shredded
  • Bonito flakes

Method

The first thing you need to do is make your pancake batter. To do this, put the plain flour in a mixing bowl and slowly add the dashi stock, whisking until it becomes a smooth mixture. Now you add the rest of your ingredients – so add the eggs, cabbage, beni shoga, spring onions and calamari and mix well to coat. Season with salt.

Heat a fry pan over medium heat and add a small drizzle of the vegetable oil. Spoon in half or a quarter of the batter, depending on what size you are making, and flatten with a spatula, but don’t press too much as you don’t want the pancake to be dense. If you’re adding pork belly you can lay it on the top of the pancake at this stage.

Cook the pancake for about 4 minutes until just beginning to set and the underside is golden. Flip the okonomiyaki over and cover with a lid. Cook for a further 4 minutes. You may need to adjust the cooking time for bigger pancakes to ensure it’s cooked all the way through as there is nothing worse than a floury okonomiyaki!

Repeat with the remaining batter.

To serve

To finish the okonomiyaki, drizzle over the okonomiyaki sauce and then the Japanese mayonnaise. Scatter over your toppings of spring onions, shredded nori and bonito flakes

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