What is okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki (a.k.a. savory Japanese pancakes, Japanese cabbage pancakes, or Japanese pizza) are traditional Japanese pancakes. They evolved from simple thin pancakes during the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868) into a thicker mix of ingredients during the late 1930’s in Osaka. During World War II, the supply of rice dwindled and the Japanese needed to make use of the ingredients that were commonly available. Out of necessity, okonomiyaki was born.
These are not your typical breakfast pancakes covered in syrup. They are served as a savory meal. The most common components include cooked batter, shredded cabbage, and either seafood or meat covered in okonomi sauce and mayonnaise which are topped with seaweed and bonito flakes.
professionally-made at Chinchikurin (Little Tokyo)
Okonomi means “whatever you like” and yaki means “grill.” So, technically, there is no one way to make this dish; it depends on whatever the diner (or chef) wants to put in it. However, there are a few ways these savory Japanese pancakes are typically made, based on their origin:
Kansai or Osaka style (Kansaiyaki) – This method mixes all the ingredients together with the batter and grilled on both sides on a hot surface.
Hiroshima style (Hiroshimayaki) – This method cooks a thin pancake first, then layers other ingredients (including a thick foundation of shredded cabbage) on top. Nikutama (a.k.a. Nikudama) is a Hiroshima style of Japanese pancake that uses fried noodles like yakisoba or udon.
Tokyo-style (Monjayaki) – Monjayaki uses finely chopped ingredients common in okonomiyaki. It is shaped into a ring to hold the batter which has a more liquid consistency than other variations since extra dashi or water is added. It is eaten directly from the grill using a small spatula.
Modanyaki (derived from “modern yaki”) – This version is often confused for Hiroshimayaki since has noodles, but it actually is made Osaka style with all the ingredients mixed in.
Where can I get it?
You can find okonomiyaki at many authentic Japanese restaurants (especially izakayas) that aren’t limited to serving sushi or ramen, or places that specialize in okonomiyaki itself. Here are several locations that are known to serve this savory pancake.
Chicago, IL: Tsukiji Fish Market
Honolulu, HI: Chibo Teppanyaki & Okonomiyaki
San Diego, CA: Tajima
Los Angeles, CA (Little Tokyo):
Chinchikurin Hiroshima Okonomiyaki
New York, NY: DokoDemo
San Francisco, CA: Okkon Japanese Street Food
Seattle, WA: Yoroshiku
Looking for more places that serve okonomiyaki? You can find them on Glutto right here.
How can I make it?
If you want to try making okonomiyaki yourself, this is a simple recipe that you can use as a guide and modify with “okonomi.” ?
- 1 cup okonomiyaki flour (with nagaimo/ yamaimo)
- ¾ cup dashi or water
- ¼ cup tenkasu
- ½ cup protein (optional): pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, octopus, scallops, or eggs
- 1 head green cabbage (minced – optional)
- yakisoba noodles (cooked – optional)
- other suggested ingredients (optional): cheese, green onions, kimchee, potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, etc.)
- oil spray (to grease pan)
Tip: you can also buy okinomiyaki kits that include all the main ingredients
- First, mix the okonomiyaki flour with the dashi (or water) in a large bowl.
- Gently mix in the green cabbage, noodles and other ingredients (minus the toppings) until even.
- Scoop out the mix and place in a greased frying pan on medium-high heat. Shape into pancakes of desired size.
- Heat each side (using wide spatula to flip) for 3-5 minutes or until light brown.
- Place the cooked okonomiyaki on a plate and top generously with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and bonito flakes. If you have a small spatula, use it to cut into the okonomiyaki and serve yourself. Enjoy!
Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.