Kitchen hour: quasi-Osaka Okonomiyaki

    When I walked down that aisle, I beamed with pride. In my hand, a bag of okonomiyaki flour, a bag of katsuobushi, bottles of sauces and aonori. Kristen took care of the cabbage and meats. Pancake day. Osaka style. At least that was the plan.

    We didn’t plan on being authentic. We couldn’t. An American-born Taiwanese and a Vietnamese who haven’t lived in Japan at all are not gonna make an “authentic okonomiyaki” on first try. That’s why we chose premixed okonomiyaki flour instead of grating a nagaimo, bottled mayonnaise instead of whipping up eggs and oil ourselves. But just the thought of making our own okonomiyaki in whatever shape we want and however we want it, not having to go anywhere and regretting over soggy, over-salted mashes called okonomiyaki, generated the we-can-own-this attitude that guaranteed pride no matter what the outcome. It’s a sort of defiance after too many letdowns. Instead of mixing flour with water, we boiled roasted corn and mixed flour with corn tea.

    Apart from that and the avoidance of green onion (I’d add green onion if I’m making pajeon – green onion pancake, but not okonomiyaki), and impatience – pouring more corn tea than I should, then the batter was too thin and I added some more flour and the batter went too thick, eventually I got double what I intended for, which also helped because we had a lot of cabbage – we followed the Best Okonomiyaki recipe pretty closely until the next-to-last step. Once I made too big a pancake, so when I flipped it, only half got flipped. I got omelet instead of okonomiyaki, but shape doesn’t matter, right? Ah, there was also a time when I forgot to layer the bacon on top of the pancake before flipping it, so the bacon was added to the bottom instead of the top, but that’s just a matter of perspective. 😉

    Quasi-Osaka Okonomiyaki (serving 2)
    [adapted from Best Okonomiyaki recipe]

    1 cup okonomiyaki flour (100 g)
    2/3 cup corn tea
    2 eggs
    1/5 head of cabbage, sliced into 2-mm-thick strips
    9 strips of fresh bacon, cut into 3-inch-long (8 cm) pieces or however you like
    100g raw shrimp, peeled and diced
    Kewpie mayonnaise
    Okonomiyaki sauce
    Aonori (seaweed flake)
    Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

    Boil the roasted corn kernels to make corn tea (옥수수 차 oksusu cha). I just take a handful and throw in a pot of water, you should rather go heavy than light on the kernel, it makes the tea sweeter. Let the tea cool.

    Chop the cabbage. Time to show your prowess of chopping without looking, which I can’t do. You’d end up with a LOT of cabbage. Make cabbage salad with kimchi.

    Mix flour with corn tea.

    Add cabbage, diced shrimp and eggs into the flour. Mix like you never mix before.

    Plop some of the mix onto a hot, lightly oiled skillet and spread it into whatever shape, canonically a disk. Four inches across will make it easiest to flip and big enough to be a meal.

    Layer bacon strips on top. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat.

    Flip. And DO NOT PRESS it down. You want the air in there for crunch. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.

    Spatula it out onto a plate. Sprinkle copious amount of aonori and katsuobushi (which we forgot to do! But we used tempura shrimp to make up for that later). Squeeze mayonnaise and okonomi-sauce into your desired pattern. Or make a heart-shaped pancake, like Kristen.

    Here, a lesser writer would put something cliche like “this is the best okonomiyaki I’ve ever gulfed down”.

    This is the best okonomiyaki I’ve ever gulfed down.

    If you bought extra shrimp, make shrimp tempura. We decided this on a wimp and protected ourselves from flying oil with plastic bags. Recommended for entertainment. 😉

    With leftover batter after deep frying the shrimps, make fried dough. Drizzle syrup and eat them as dessert. Can you see the shrimp imposter? 😉

    Future prospects: grating nagaimo, making our own sauce, other styles of okonomiyaki.

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