Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fun Times: Making Okonomiyaki

What do you get when you put 4 friends in a kitchen attempting a dish that requires more flips than a gymnastics routine? You get Okonomiyaki.

The dish we are going to attempt

Ever since I posted my pictorial on it, a friend has hounded me to attempt making it in India. Since I love the dish, you can imagine I did not need much persuasion to give it a shot. After 2 months of delay, we finally decided to bite the bullet.
The characters in this play include:-

Mr. Joydas Mukherjee : My Sous-Chef and our host for the evening.

 Anu: Pancake consultant and muse

Aditya: Apprentice and Gopher

But we quickly ran into a hurdle. Nowhere in India do you get Okonomiyaki sauce. Time to innovate. Searching for an alternative, we arrived at the following concoction:-
1 cup of Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup of Teriyaki Sauce
1 cup of Tomato puree,
3 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons fish stock.
2 tablespoons corn flour.
1 tablespoon of honey.
Salt to taste.

The fish stalk that I used was a small packet of Tsuyu fish stock. I by chance got it at Godrej Nature's Basket, but if you cannot get it, you can replace it by half and half fish sauce + oyster sauce.

Be careful, this sauce has some serious kick to it. If it gets too spicy, you can increase the tomato puree. However, the spice goes perfectly with the vegetables and noodles in the okonomiyaki, so dont worry about it too much. 

The remaining ingredients are easy to find:-

For the batter:-

2 cups of all purpose flour.
750 ml of water
salt, sugar to taste.

For the filling:-

3 large heads of shredded lettuce or cabbage
100 grams of Bean sprouts
100 grams of Button mushrooms
Your choice of meat. We chose chicken-bacon strips.
1 egg per finished okonomiyaki.

We served it on a base of udon noodles so get a packet of those as well. We added cheese slices and Nori as a garnish, so feel free to add that on.

This is a dish that really requires mis en place. It does not take very long to cook, but the prep can be time consuming.
Aditya, who instigated this little cook-off, revealed to us that he is a kitchen virgin. He has never spent much time cooking so we decided to take him under our wing and ease him into the cooking process by making him chop our vegetables.

and also to prep our mushrooms.

 In the meantime it was left to me to prepare the sauce. You start of with your three ready-made sauces which are the Worcestershire, the Teriyaki and the Soy.

Add them to a pot and turn on the heat. Add in your tomato puree, your corn flour and fish stock.

We added some honey to give it a nice mix of sweet and spice. You can add normal sugar, but I felt that honey would have a nice earthy taste with all the vegetables in this dish.

Just simmer the sauce on medium heat. You are aiming to reduce it to a slightly thinner than ketchup consistency. Stirring it constantly was the job given to Aditya once he had finished cutting the veggies.

We decided to pan fry the chicken-bacon strips and keep them ready.

The batter was simple as mixing the flour, water, salt and sugar. You want a consistency like a pancake batter. You cannot leave it too thin, else you wont get a firm pancake.

Next was to get on with the noodles and keep them ready. Now normally these should be served warm with the food, but since this was experimentation time, we decided that we would sacrifice warm noodles for sanity.
Start off by getting some water on the boil in a large pot. When it boils, throw in your noodles with some salt. Cook in boiling water for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cook in the water on its own for about 5 minutes. (These were the instructions on my packet of udon noodles. Follow whatever is written on yours).

Just to give it a bit of flavour, we threw in some olive oil in a pot and gently fried the noodles for a short time.

Once the noodles were cooked, we mixed in some of the sauce we had made and kept them on the side.

Now everything was ready and it was time to attempt our first okonomiyaki.

Our first attempt was an aesthetic disaster. We made the pancakes too thin, did not cook them long enough, and tried too much flipping.

We were, however, quite buoyed by the taste. It was delicious. It reminded me quite a bit of my travels in Japan. So we analysed the steps we did and came up with a second attempt.

First we heated the pans up for a while before adding in any batter.

We threw on some oil and spread the batter for a thicker pancake. It was almost 2 mm thick on the pan.

A this point of time, you need to let it cook for almost 2 minutes. Just sit back and relax in the mean time. After this, add on the Lettuce.

Throw on some bean sprouts.

We added mushrooms just for taste. They were not part of the recipe I had in Japan, however the fun part of this dish is that you can add almost anything to it. Feel free to experiment. 

Layer on the meat.

We threw in some of the sauce onto the fillings and let it soak through them whilst the pancake was cooking.

Now, traditionally this pancake would have been flipped over onto the other one. These were acrobatics that got us into trouble with the first attempt, so we went with the mundane approach. Put pancake number 2 on pancake number 1.  Now take your spatula and compress them down. You want to concentrate all those flavours in as thin a pancake as possible.

Once this was done, it was far easier to flip them from one pan to the other.

Keep cooking and compressing for a while. You want both sides to get this nice rich brown colour.

On the side, put some oil on a pan to fry your egg. Just break the egg over the pan, and break open the yolk with your spatula.

Now plate up. Get your noodles on a plate. Layer your pancake over and above that. Place your egg over your pancake. Get some cheese slices and put them on top of all this, smother on the sauce, and sprinkle some crushed Nori (sea weed) as a garnish.

Ok, so maybe we did not get the clean edges and the absolutely picture perfect okonomiyaki. However I think it was more because we were too hungry to spend time making it camera friendly. It smells and tastes absolutely delicious.
To celebrate, we decided to open up a bottle of Shochu that I got from Japan.

A fantastic meal, fantastic time, fantastic atmosphere. They say the fun of cooking is to see the smiles of the people you serve the food too. There is even more fun in cooking with a group of friends, experimenting with your food, attempting something outrageous, and laughing through the whole thing.
Here's to many more cook-offs and fun times.


  1. aww, the last line is even more heart melting than the effect that food had on my senses.

  2. Please make this for me! And looks like you got your mom on your side finally with non-veg in the kitchen! :)


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