Japanese Street Food - Okonomiyaki (also known as Umamibomb!)
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
This year, my primary culinary focus has been all things Japanese. Partly, because I love the simplicity of the dishes but also because I’m lucky to have access to so many fresh Japanese ingredients — thank you, Melissa’s! In particular, I’m really hooked on umami, a Japanese word that translates to a “savory” or “meaty” flavor, which was identified in the early 1900s and has been gaining in popularity in recent years. The rich, silky taste is associated with glutamate, originally found in a seaweed (kelp) used to make soup in Japan, but which is also found in soup stocks, mushrooms, fermented fish sauce, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and many other ingredients.
Izakaya is a popular Japanese pub-type restaurant where both the atmosphere and the food are casual. Sake, beer and sometimes cocktails are served, and food is served tapas or family-style — for sharing. Whether it’s juicy marinated chicken skewers grilled over a wood fire, savory noodle or rice dishes, miso soup, edamame – it’s hard not to find something to love. These dishes are loaded with umami, and they’re addictive. One of my faves is called Okonomiyaki. This appetizer is a homestyle cabbage pancake made with pork belly or bacon. It’s intended to be savored with an ice-cold beer or chilled sake. While the pancake “batter” is typically moistened with dashi broth, which is loaded with umami from the bonito flakes it contains, my version incorporates umami into the batter from shiitake mushrooms.
For mushroom broth:
1/2 cup very warm water
½ ounce Melissa’s dried shitake mushrooms
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup mushroom broth (see above)
1 large egg
1 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
½ cup Melissa’s Kim Chee, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped bonito flakes, divided
2 teaspoons grapeseed or canola oil
2 slices bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled
1 tablespoons okonomiyaki sauce or barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie)
1 tablespoon Melissa’s sushi ginger, slivered
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro or green onion
Soak mushrooms for 20 minutes or until softened. Remove mushrooms and chop finely. Strain liquid, reserve. (This is the “mushroom broth”).
Whisk together flour, mushroom broth and egg until well incorporated. Fold in cabbage, kim chi, one tablespoon chopped shiitakes and one tablespoon of the bonito flakes. (Reserve remaining shiitakes for another use).
Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet or flat griddle over medium. Spread batter evenly in skillet. Cover and cook until bottom is browned, about 5 minutes.
Slide pancake onto a large plate or cutting board. Place skillet over pancake and, holding plate and skillet firmly together, turn pancake back into skillet to brown the other side.
Cook over medium until and pancake is cooked through, about five minutes longer.
Transfer okonomiyaki onto plate. Drizzle with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. Sprinkle with ground bonito flakes, slivered ginger and cilantro or green onion. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.