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Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake. It is very popular in Kansai and Hiroshima regions of Japan. The name comes from ‘okonomi’ which means ‘what you like’ and ‘yaki’ which means ‘cooked’ or ‘grilled’. The Okonomiyaki recipe is a versatile one which suggests the use of different types of batter and toppings, and finds many variations across Japan. The dish is also called ‘Japanese pancake’ or ‘Osaka soul food’.

History of Japanese Pancakes

The dish is said to have its origin in the Osaka city of the Kansai region, where it is traditionally prepared by frying in a pan, just like a pancake.

Okonomiyaki Recipe Overview

The Japanese pancake is made in various ways, and the most popular version, called Kansai or Osaka version, is discussed below-

Ingredients: Ingredients required to prepare the dish include flour, yam (grated), shredded cabbage, eggs, dashi or water, onion, pork or bacon, shrimp, squid, octopus, kimchi, vegetables and mochi or cheese.

According to the Okonomiyaki recipe, all the ingredients are mixed together and grilled on a special hotplate call teppan. In Osaka, which is the biggest city in the Kansai region, the dish is prepared like a pancake, by mixing the ingredients and frying on both sides in a pan. Once prepared, the pancake is topped with Otafuku sauce, which is a thicker version of Worcestshire sauce, bonito flakes, seaweed flakes, ginger pickle and Japanese mayonnaise.

Serving Okonomiyaki

The dish is available in a grill-it-yourself setup in many restaurants. The raw ingredients are served to the customer in a bowl, and the customer mixes them and grills the dish on hot plates which are available at the table itself.

Other establishments may have the grilling process done at counters visible to the customers.

Variants of Japanese Pancake

Okonomiyaki has many variants across Japan. Here are some of the most common ones-

  • Hiroshima-Okonomi or Hiroshima-yaki is a version from Hiroshima, which is very widely eaten, and is made by layering the ingredients rather than mixing them. The layers consist of batter, pork, cabbage and sometimes octopus, squid and cheese. The pancake is topped with noodles, fried eggs and okonomiyaki sauce. The layers of this dish may vary in terms of order of layers and ingredients from one recipe to the other. The standard recipe for this variant suggests use of large amounts of cabbage, which, though in the form of a large heap when raw, decreases in volume during cooking.

  • Modanyaki is a dish consisting of Japanese pancake layered with fried noodles.

  • Negiyaki is a thinner form of the pancake that contains a large number of scallions. It is similar to the green onion pancake made in China.

  • Hirayachi is another thinner variant of the dish from Okinawa region.

  • Pickled diakon is an additional ingredient added to the dish in Hamamatsu.

  • Monjayaki is a liquid variant of okonomiyaki, which is prepared in the Japanese capital Tokyo.