Asian Foods Ep.5

Asian Foods : Okonomiyaki

by Thomas M. Tillman
Okonomiyaki, sometimes called Japanese pizza or Japanese pancake, is one of the best dishes to make if you're a beginner japanese cook. It exposes you to a lot of classic Japanese ingredients, but it is very easy to make well and is very flexible in terms of what you put in the okonomiyaki. This recipe is inspired by my recent trip to Osaka (see link to my Osaka vlog below), and this particular style of okonomiyaki is a dish that Osaka is known for. It's the perfect combination of salty-sweet-umami-creamy...yum!


  • 100g all-purpose flour (about 1 cup minus 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • A dash black pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp dashi powder (labeled "hondashi")
  • 3 Tbsp grated nagaimo yam (optional, see note)
  • 3 cups finely chopped cabbage (remove the tough center stem)
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 medium sized shrimp, chopped, or any protein of your choice (if using chicken, pork, or beef I recommend cooking and cooling it first so you don't have to worry about whether it's cooked inside the pancake)
  • ½ cup tenkasu (crispy tempura batter, optional)
  • 2 Tbsp beni shoga (red pickled ginger, not sushi ginger, optional)
  • Thin pork belly slices or bacon (cut each strip in half, optional)
Note About Nagaimo Yam: Nagaimo is a type of Japanese mountain yam that is slimy when grated. When added to the pancake batter it does 2 things, 1) It acts like a lubricant in the batter, keeping things moist and even slightly custardy on the inside which is a characteristic of okonomiyaki that I love. 2) The gooeyness of it keeps the batter sticky and stiff, preventing it from spreading away from the filling when you cook it. You could add less water to keep the batter from spreading too much, but naturally that results in a dryer, denser pancake. Nagaimo yam allows you to have a lot of liquid AND not have batter be runny. Substitutes: While I have not tried it for myself, my instinct is to try full fat yogurt or sour cream as these two ingredients are thick, and has fat to keep things moist and tender. I would imagine that the tanginess would be nice in the batter, too. You CAN omit it altogether, but I would add a couple of tablespoons of oil to keep things lubricated. IF you omit the nagaimo, I would make sure to have tenkasu in the mix because it's another ingredient that keeps things light.


  • Okonomiyaki sauce (I use Otafuku brand and it's labeled "okonomi sauce")
  • Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie is the most popular brand, do not use Western style mayo as a substitute)
  • Aonori (crushed seaweed)
  • Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)


Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and black pepper; whisk to combine. 

Grate about 1 inch of nagaimo yam and then measure out 3 Tbsp of the grated yam and add to the dry ingredients.

Dissolve dashi powder in room temp water, then pour mixture into the flour and stir everything just until combined; do not over mix. If you have time, wrap the batter in plastic and let batter rest for at least 30 mins or up to overnight in the fridge.

To the batter bowl, add the cabbage, green onions, eggs, protein, tenkasu, benishoga and any other fillings you’re using except pork belly/bacon. Stir just until mixed.

Preheat a flat skillet over medium heat and add a little oil to coat the bottom. Ladle about one cup of the batter onto the skillet (you should hear gentle sizzling when batter hits the pan, if the sizzing is aggressive, lower the heat). Spread the batter into a circle, and if using pork belly, place it on top of the pancake and press it in so it sticks to the batter. You can also put a little bit of batter around the edges of the pork belly to help glue it down. Let it cook on medium heat until the bottom is a deep golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned, another 4-5 minutes.

Once done, put the okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, aonori and katsuobushi on top. You can also serve a little extra beni shoga on the side. Serve while still hot, enjoy!