Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) Cabbage Pancake

2013_04_06b‘Okonomi’ means “what you like,” and ‘yaki’ means “grilled” or “cooked.” But the basic is a simple flour batter with shredded cabbage and either seafood or pork. This dish has many variations especially depending on the region of Japan as well.

You typically cook these at the table at home or out at a restaurant, and eat them as they are finished. I’ve had this once before in Japan at a restaurant but never at home.

I got out my old electric pancake skillet and we decided to cook them at the table to make it fun. I just learned that Aya’s mom has never made it before(she said “I’m from the East side.  That’s a West side thing”). Aya has never made it, and only had it at a restaurant. I was really going into uncharted territory when deciding to make this.


You can use squid, octopus, pork, scallops, shrimp, etc when making this. I decided on just using shrimp. Then it’s topped with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried fish flakes, pickled ginger, and ao nori (dried nori flakes).


It’s not one of my favorite dishes, mainly because the flavors are so unique. Pancakes with cabbage, fish, seaweed, and mayo? Yes, that’s pretty much it. We had fun making it at the table and Ellie loved the shrimp. And since the cabbage was in pancake form, she was more open to eating the cabbage. This step-by-step guide really shows the process quite well.

Considering I didn’t totally know what I was doing, I did pretty well.


Okonomiyaki (Cabbage Pancake)

*Recipe from the book Japanese Cooking by Emi Kazuko


3.5 cups plain all-purpose flour
3 cups water
2 large eggs beaten
1/4 tsp salt
4 sprigs scallions, roughly chopped
14 oz white cabbage, sliced very thin
vegetable oil for frying
Japanese okonomiyaki sauce
Japanese mayonnaise
ao nori (dried seaweed)
pickled ginger
1 lb of fresh raw shrimp, peeled and shells removed

Mix flour, water, eggs, cabbage, and shrimp together like you would pancake batter. Make sure all of the cabbage is evenly coated.

Heat skillet and pour batter in pancake shapes. If the batter is too thick, spread it around a little bit to make a circular shape.

Cook for 2-3 minutes and then flip. Make sure shrimp or other fish/pork you may use is fully cooked.

Cover pancake with okonomiyaki sauce then drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise. Cover with fish flakes, seaweed, and pickles ginger. You can put as much or as little as you want on.

Nimono (Simmered Tofu w/ Vegetables)

2013_03_30aThis is mostly vegetarian/vegan, except that the broth that everything cooks in is a fish base broth. Aya did say there are seaweed based broths available if you really wanted it to be true vegetarian.

When we sat down to eat, Aya said, “This tastes like Japan.” I took that as a good sign.

It’s a lightly flavored broth with a little soy sauce and rice wine. So the vegetables don’t really have a strong flavor. But from what Aya says, it’s very Japanese.

Aya said dishes like this with simmered vegetables are very common for a typical dinner in Japan. It’s usually accompanied by soup, rice, and two other small dishes. I served it with gyoza, and a daicon salad.



Nimono (Simmered Tofu w/ Vegetables)

*Recipe from the book Japanese Cooking by Emi Kazuko

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1lb daikon
2 atsu-age (fried tofu) 7oz. each
3/4 cup cut green beans
1 tsp rice
4oz. carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm thick slices
11oz. baby potatoes, unpeeled
3 cups dashi stock
2 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp mirin

Soak the dried shiitake in one cup of water for 2 hours. Drain and discard the liquid. Remove and discard the stalks.

Peel the daikon and slice into 1cm discs. Plunge into cold water.

Put the atsu-age in a sieve, and wash off the excess oil with hot water from the kettle. Drain and cut into pieces of about 1 x 2 in.

Boil the green beans for 2 minutes and then drain them, cooling them under running water.

Cover the daikon with water in a pan and add the rice. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes, then drain. Discard the rice.

Put the atsu-age and the mushrooms, carrot and potatoes into the pan with the daikon. Add the dashi stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Regularly skim off any scum that comes to the surface. Add the sugar, soy sauce and sake. Mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Cut wax paper into a circle smaller than the pan lid. Place the paper inside the pan to seal the ingredients (I didn’t do this part). Cover with the lid and simmer for 30 minutes or until sauce reduces by half. Add the green beans for two minutes so that they just warm through.

Remove the paper and add the mirin. Taste the sauce and adjust with soy sauce if required. Remove from the heat.

Arrange the ingredients attractively in groups on a large servings plate. Pour over a little sauce and serve warm or cold.


Grilled Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune) つくねやきとり

2013_02_07aI’ve made a pledge to cook Japanese at least once a week. Either for lunch or dinner. Since we are raising Ellie to be bilingual and bicultural, it’s important to us that she is familiar with, and exposed to Japanese food. I just wasn’t sure where to go to find recipes that Aya didn’t have to always translate for me.

My mom had gotten me a Japanese cookbook when Aya and I were dating in college that I had never opened. Until now. So far it’s turned out to be a great resource and Aya just fills in where I have questions. So first up from this cookbook is grilled chicken balls cooked on bamboo skewers. The Japanese name is tsukune which is a type of yakitori (skewer grilled chicken; think Japanese kebobs). Yakitori (tori means bird) is pretty much a Japanese version of shish kebobs. It’s a very common bar food but not limited to that. You can use just about any part of the chicken to make yakitori. Breasts, thighs, wings, heart, liver, gizzard, cartilage, and skin(Aya’s favorite…yup). I’ve had most of these, but I prefer the breast, thigh, and wing meat best. But tsukune are chicken meatballs. Ground chicken wasn’t on sale so I actually used ground turkey instead, shhh.

What’s great about these is that you can make the meatballs in advance and then grill later with the sauce. You could even freeze them. I made mine in one swoop.

Aya was impressed I made these (so was I) and loved them. So did Ellie. I served it with miso soup, brown rice, stir fried renkon, daicon salad (Japanese radish) and o-hitashi (spinach with toasted sesame seeds).


2013_02_07bTsukune (Grilled Chicken Meatballs)

Ingredients: (I made a double batch)

11 oz ground chicken (I used turkey)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp flour
2 tsp cornstarch (potato starch is more common in Japan)
6 Tbsp dried bread crumbs (panko)
1 in. piece of fresh ginger


4 Tbsp sake
5 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch blended with 1 tsp water

Soak bamboo skewers in water overnight. Blend all ingredients for the chicken balls except the ginger in a food processor. With wet hands, scoop about one tablespoon mixture and form into meatball (Will be about half the size of a golf ball). Makes 30-32 meatballs. (My double batch made 34 meatballs, so I think I made mine a little too big.

Grate the ginger and add the the ginger juice to a pot of boiling water. Add the chicken balls and boil for about 7 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Remove meatballs and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, mix all the ingredients for the sauce, except for the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Add the cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Remove and put in small bowl.

Thread 3-4 meatballs on each skewer. Brush with sauce and cook on a medium grill or on a barbeque (I put mine in the oven under the broiler on low). Rotate and add more sauce.

2013_02_07cO-hitashi (Spinach with Toasated Sesame Seeds)


1lb fresh spinach
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Blanche spinach in boiling water for 15 seconds. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out excess water by hand and compress spinach into a ball. Place ball of spinach in a bowl with soy sauce and water. Let soak 15 minutes or longer.

Drain spinach and squeeze out excess liquid by hand. Roll spinach into a cylinder log shape about 2 inches in diameter. Cut it into 4 pieces. You will have 4 small cylinders now. Dip one end in sesame seeds and serve on plate. (I really should have taken pictures of the process). It is supposed to be cold. If you want more flavor you can pour ponzu or soy sauce on the spinach too.

Udon Noodles

2012_12_13This is a really easy lunch to throw together. I love noodles and so does Ellie so it’s a win win.


Udon Noodles


350ml water
2.5Tb soy sauce
1tsp mirin
1 tsp dashi no motto (It’s a powder to make Japanese broth. We got ours at a Japanese grocery store)
1/2tsp sugar

Add all ingredients and cook noodles in the broth. I garnished mine with chopped green onions. We bought frozen noodles from the Japanese grocery store, but you can also buy them uncooked. Uncooked noodles usually takes about 15 minutes to cook all the way through.

Yakisoba (やきそば) and Oden (おでん)

We had our friend Mike (my IT guy for this site) over to celebrate his birthday. We decided on a Japanese menu of oden, yaki soba, and gyoza. This was a big deal for me because I’d be cooking things that Aya has never made. But luckily what we picked is pretty simple.

Oden is a very traditional winter Japanese food which ingredients consist of hard boiled egg, konnyaku, daikon radish, and various processed fish cakes cooked slowly in a light soy flavored broth. Japanese Seven Elevens sell this instead of hot dogs. It’s also a very common bar food. To be honest, this is far from my favorite dish, but to me as an outsider, this tastes and smells like Japan.

Yakisoba is a stir-fry noodle dish with sauce that has many variations. Some with or without meat, and all kinds of vegetable variations. We used carrots, cabbage, onions, and pork. You can buy packages than come with sauce, or you can make your own.



(Ingredients and quantity vary)

1 konnyaku
6 chikuwa (ground fish cake)
3 gobo maki (ground fish cake)
4 boiled eggs
1/2 medium size daikon radish in 1 inch slices
1 package of oden soup mix

This was easy. I bought a package that all I had to do was add water to make the broth. I boiled the eggs, sliced the daikon radishes, cut the fish cakes, tossed them all in the pot and let it cook on low for a few hours.


3 packages of yakisoba cooked noodles (just follow the instructions on the package. Some noodles are already cooked and some you need to cook. The pack we used were already cooked)
3 carrots cut matchstick style
1/4 head of cabbage sliced
1 onion sliced
2 pork filets sliced thin lengthwise

Sauce (we tripled this for three servings, so adjust accordingly)
2Tbs Worcester sauce
2Tb tonnkatsu sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce

Saute pork, carrots, cabbage, and onions with a little oil. Set aside. Heat 1 table spoon of oil in pan on medium-high. Add noodles and cook for a few minutes. Turn heat to low and add vegetables and pork. Stir in sauce and serve. We served ours with a fried egg on top garnished with beni shoga (pickled ginger) and aonori (seaweed powder. It’s the Japanese equivalent of garnishing with parsley).