While I would love to have the materials to make an authentic Okonomiyaki ready by my side, the total cost of bonito flakes, red pickled ginger, tenkasu (fried bits of flour), aonori (strange flaky seaweed stuff), and yamaimo (mountain potatoes) adds up to quite a bit. In addition, none of those are essential for a good, solid okonomiyaki, so the one I often make is a simple, stripped down version.
The thing that a lot of recipes (a lot of popular Japanese recipe too, I might add) is that they think that a light batter is hard to achieve, utilizing fancy techniques such as the addition of grated yamaimo, or in some extreme cases, adding meringue.
The fact is that to make a light okonomiyaki, the only thing you need to do is increase the amount of cabbage. Having a large amount of batter in the okonomiyaki weighs it down, and also leads to a sad, doughy okonomiyaki that resembles a pancake.
The reason why this cabbage:dough ratio that I propose is not used often is because of the difficulty of flipping. Having more batter leads to a okonomiyaki that resembles a heavy disc of flour, which is very easy to flip. A cabbage heavy okonomiyaki is brittle and delicate, which makes it hard to perform the first flip, yet leads to a light texture.
There’s three things you can do to overcome this problem.
1. Cut the cabbage into long, thin ribbons. Many okonomiyaki recipes call for minced cabbage, but that will lead to a completely destructed dish with my ratio. If you cut the cabbage into ribbons, the cabbage creates an intricate web or nest of sorts, helping in holding the structure.
2. Crisp up the okonomiyaki very well for the first side. I do this by having my cast iron skillet smoking hot, then lowering the heat for a slow and steady cooking session.
3. Use two spatulas. One of them I use the long metal thing that cooks smash burgers with, which is extremely helpful.
Even if your okonomiyaki falls apart, you can always pat it down and reshape on the pan. Cook it for a few more minutes, and nobody can tell that it looked like a sad mess a couple minutes earlier.
So, for one okonomiyaki you’ll need:
about 50 grams of flour (comparable to 1/3 cup plus a bit of flour)
60 mm of fish stock (water with hondashi or water mixed with nuoc mam or other fish sauce)
a dash or two of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
150g or 5 ounces of cabbage (comparable to 1/8 cabbage, but depends on the cabbage)
Additional stuff (cheese, bacon, pork belly, seafood, ham, whatever you have)
Mix your batter. You can do this in advance and store it in the fridge. Try not to overmix it, its ok if its a bit lumpy. Don’t mix your egg in just yet.
Slice cabbages into thin ribbons, and prepare whatever ingredients you have.
Right before you make the okonomiyaki, throw the cabbage into the bowl. Crack an egg on top, and stir everything together. Try not to mix it too much, and try to incorporate air into the whole thing. If you are putting some cheese in, this is when you want to do it.
Dump the whole thing into a heated pan, shape it a bit, and lower the temperature to mid heat.
Put your raw ingredients on top, and leave it for 4 minutes. Don’t touch, pat, or stroke it with your spatula.
After 4 minutes, the outer parts should be solidifying. Flip the whole thing. Don’t hesitate. Just flip. This will probably be the most stressful part of the process. Practice in the corner of your kitchen a couple times, imagining the heft of the okonomiyaki on your spatula, and the disc retaining its shape after a successful flip. It’s like playing pool, having a clear vision of your success will help you in the process.
Leave it for 4 minutes after the flip.
Then flip it again. This time, the okonomiyaki should be pretty solid, and much easier to flip.
Leave it for about 2 minutes.
Then, after 2 minutes, put on the condiments while the okonomiyaki is still in the pan. Mayonnaise with either okonomiyaki sauce, ketchup, or sweet bbq sauce will work. Don’t be conservative with your condiments, the condiments dripping on the hot iron pan, sizzling with the heat and releasing their wonderful aroma is the high point of making an okonomiyaki. Making a charred soy sauce flavored one by drizzling the top with soy sauce and flipping it for about 30 seconds to char the soy sauce is pretty easy and quite delicious.
And then eat.