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Okonomiyaki (Japanese Veggie Pancakes)

Serves 2 
Takes 30 minutes, though it’s better if the batter can stand for an hour. You’ll need a frying pan with a lid

Shortly before our first trip to Japan, we read in a guide book about Okonomiyaki, thick batter and veggie pancakes, a speciality of Hiroshima, but popular throughout the country. So when we saw, in Hiroshima, an Okonomiyaki restaurant just down the road from our hotel, we had to give them a try. And we were very glad we did, they are a wondrous thing, especially cooked in front of you on a plancha, by a chef who’s proud of his or her art. They’re tasty and satisfying, surprisingly complex and sophisticated, with crunchy, caramelised cabbage on the surfaces and round the edges, and a light, flavoursome, quite fluffy batter within. Some places added cooked noodles or fried eggs to them, some added bits of cooked chicken or ham or belly pork or beef; we've added finely spiralised kohlrabi and it was lovely, grated would work fine for it too. In Japan they were always served with Okonomiyaki sauce (not unlike HP sauce, though if you really want to be authentic you can either buy some from the Japan Centre or mix 3 tbspns tomato ketchup, 1 tbspn Worcestershire sauce and 1 tbspn soy sauce), there was usually some powdered seaweed nearby, and there was always one of Nik’s favourite Japanese condiments, Kewpie Mayonnaise, on the side too.

The choice of cabbage is important here, it won’t work with savoy or white or red cabbage, they all have too-thick leaves; the cabbage we’re using here has quite thin, tender leaves which cook quite quickly without losing their bite

The batter:-
2 eggs
60g plain flour (we’ve made it with Doves Gluten Free Flour, and it worked a treat)
100mls nage
3 desert spoons  dark soy sauce eg. Shoyu

The veg:-
200g pointed cabbage eg. hispi or Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
2 tspns chives, finely chopped

To serve:-
Powdered seaweed (such as Hanabishi Aonori Powdered Seaweed from The Japan Centre)
HP sauce
2 tspns sushi ginger, finely shredded 

  • Beat together the egg, flour, stock, and soy sauce. If you have time, leave the batter to sit for an hour 
  • Stir the cabbage and chives into the batter. Heat a dessertspoon of vegetable or groundnut oil in a frying pan, then spoon in half of the veg/batter mix. Press it down and inwards so it becomes a disc about 14cm in diameter and 3cm thick. Turn the heat down to a low medium, put a lid on the pan and cook for 5 minutes 
  • Carefully turn over (it should be golden brown underneath, with crispy caramelised bits around the edge), put the lid back on, and cook for another 5 minutes. Slide onto a plate, and keep warm while you cook the other half of the mix. Scatter each of the Okonomiyaki with the sushi ginger and a sprinkle of seaweed powder and serve