Okonomiyaki gone Local

We all have our cheap and fast go-to dinner.  Maybe it’s mac n cheese, or breakfast for dinner in the form of some sort of omelette. Why is it that at the end of the day, there are always eggs in the fridge? (…and of course when we’ve decided to bake, eggs are the only thing we’re out of?)

Okonomiyaki are Japanese pancakes – I’ve read that the word ‘okonomiyaki’ means, ‘everything’ or ‘anything.’  I had found a recipe online, and started making these a while ago and whenever the cupboards start to look sparse.  Traditionally, okonomiyaki have some sort of meat, likely bacon, layered underneath, and are served with ketchup and mayonnaise.  I think they are like the beef tacos or kebabs of Japan – late night, greasy, regrettable snacks.

Courtesy of gawd’s Flickr stream
Courtesy of gawd’s Flickr stream

Actually, the last time I was in New York I found out about a quick hole-in-the-wall place called Otafuku that served them, and I had to go.  I’d been making them at home for months, and hadn’t even tried what would be considered the ‘real’ thing. (Though, yes, were in NYC not Tokyo, but it’s still closer to authentic than me in my Vermont kitchen.)
They offer only about 5 things on their menu, and in lunch special packages.
Okonomiyaki with takoyaki (fried octopus ‘balls’) or a sort of udon noodle salad, and any combination of those things you could want.  I did not try to octopus balls, all I wanted was to compare my home-made concoction with what was served here.  I ordered, then waited outside for about 10 minutes while they prepared everything on the iron griddle inside. I did not take the free soda it comes with.  I snuck back in before it was finished, though, to watch.
She topped it with mayo, soy sauce, shiracha and a huge handful of bonito flakes. I almost passed on those, because really, they look and smell exactly like the bonito flakes I fed Phelps (our goldfish R.I.P.).  I had to bring it back to Seb’s apartment (who had gotten food poisoning the day before, sorry Seb!) to check out.
It was more gelatinous than I was used too, and I almost wanted to hate it. It was greasy, but delicious.  There were chunks of pork in there, cabbage and it seemed like bean sprouts.  The toppings were just as large (and important) and the pancake itself. I ate the entire thing, regretting it (but not due to any sort of indigestion, surprisingly!) and realized that my little creation is simply a different animal altogether.

Courtesy of rankun76’s Flickr stream

Okonomiyaki gone Vermont
(Mostly, everything’s optional. Throw in what you have. Even chopped broccoli…tomatoes change the equation, though, I do not recommend them.)

Courtesy of geishaboy500’s Flickr stream

1/2 c. wheat flour (Butterworks Farm)
2 eggs (Steve and Wendy’s?)
Enough cool water to make a pancake batter consistency
Throw in:
1 c. chopped local cabbage (purple is pretty)
chopped onion
shaved carrot or zucchini
and handful of baby spinach
salt and a few red pepper flakes if you’d like

Make sure all the veggies are coated with the batter. Take a medium sized sauce pan and coat with olive oil over med-high heat.
Pour in all of the mixture, and pat down with a fork into a pancake that takes up the entire pan.
Fry for about 7 minutes, then flip the pancake over by sliding it onto a plate first, then flipping back into the pan (you may add a bit more olive oil if you think you need it.) Cook for another 5 or 10 minutes, until you think everything is cooked through, and the pancake stays together.

Slide on to a plate, chop into four large slices (more if actually serving it guests…)  The only traditions I stick with are serving it with a bit of mayo, hot sauce and soy sauce. Jamie HATES mayo, but he will go the soy and spicy route.

Sadly, I do not have any pictures of my creation! BUT I’ve littered the post with others’ so you can get the idea.

I’ll use this as my go-to for a couple of weeks, then shelve it until I crave it again, maybe months later.  Japanese comfort food turned Vermont! Mmm.

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