Some twelve years ago when I first moved to Melbourne, Daimaru was one of the biggest Japanese Chain right in the CBD. To be specific, it used to occupy the majority of Melbourne Central. Why did I bring a shopping centre into this picture? Well, anyone still remembers the Okonomiyaki they used to serve at their food section? That has to be one of my tastiest memories when it comes to Japanese food. You see, growing up in Bintulu, my knowledge of Japanese food was limited to sushi, and expensive seafood. There wasn’t even one Japanese restaurant back home (there are a couple now, I believe), so when my friend brought me to try this Okonomiyaki during my first couple of months of settling in Melbourne, it was a revelation. To be honest I have already forgotten what made their version so good, but I’m sure a few Melbournians are still nodding your heads right now… right? By the way, Daimaru closed down the same year I moved to Melbourne, so I had to resort to other places, but never had one as good as theirs.
Literally, Okonomiyaki means “Grilled what you like”, it’s almost like a Japanese version of Pizza (although the consistency is probably more like pancake), where you can choose a variety of toppings. Cabbage is usually the main ingredient and I have seen Bacon being used in most recipes. Although the ones I used to buy in food courts in Melbourne are largely meat free.
Since we kicked off the Asian Food Fest (organised by Wendy again following the very successful Malaysian Food Fest) with Japan, I thought I would share this recipe with you. I have kept it really simple and used special Okonomiyaki flour which you can now buy in most supermarket (so I don’t have to get everything else separately and end up not using them). To me, Okonomiyaki means convenience, so I allow myself to ‘cheat’ a bit here.
50g Okonomiyaki Flour (if not using special flour, use all purpose flour with some dashi powder, bonito flakes, tempura bits)
1/3 cup of Water (or Dashi stock)
Cabbage, around 150g, cut into small strips
3 stalks Spring Onions, finely chopped
3 strips of Bacon
Handful of Bonito Flakes
Okonomi sauce, to taste (easily found at the Jap food section of your supermarket)
Kewpie Mayonnaise, to taste
Optional: Prawns, Chinese Sausages, Benishoga (Pickled Ginger)
In a large bowl, whisk together Okonomiyaki Flour and Water until smooth
Add Eggs, Cabbage, Spring Onions and mix, but don’t over mix.
Heat a bit of oil in the large skillet and add Okonomiyaki mixture.
Using a spatula to flatten and form pancakes until around 1.5cm (3/4″) thick. Add Bacon pieces to cover top of each pancake.
After about 3 minutes, flip over pancake (bacon side down) and cook for 4 minutes. You might want to flip to do the other side if it’s not fully browned.
Remove to plate and drizzle with Kewpie mayonnaise, okonomi sauce and sprinkle with more Boniko flakes.
It’s not the most elegant dish, but I suppose it’s more of a comfort food. At least for me.
I love the complexity of the flavours despite using very few ingredients. Fun textural contrast between the pancake, slightly crunchy cabbage and crispy bacon. I did have to split this into 2 portions though (still recovering from my illness so appetite is not quite there yet). I might try a salmon version next time, or mentaiko. Yum.
What is your favourite Okonomiyaki topping? Do you have a favourite Japanese dish?