Okonomiyaki is one of Japan’s popular drinking foods because it nourishes, satisfies the munchies, and pairs well with sake, beer, and natural wine. You can make okonomiyaki at home with this okonomiyaki recipe with dashi broth, umami-rich bonito flakes, and smoky Bourbon Barrel Foods Smoked Togarashi spice adding another layer of flavor.
Exploring Japanese Drinking Foods in Osaka
While I was visiting my daughter and her BF in Osaka, we made it a point to try as many of the popular street and drinking foods as possible.
Kushi-Katsu: Deep Fried Pork Kabobs
Kushi-Katsu – originally street food, kushi-katsu, or deep-fried pork kabobs, are served everywhere now. You can find it at street stands in Dotonbori or served at trendy izakayas and casual restaurants around Osaka. We went to the Sinsekai area where nearly every restaurant specializes in kushi-katsu.
Kushi-katsu is perfect beer food! We ordered avocado, quail egg, eggplant, sweet potato, chicken thigh, bacon, camembert, shiitake, and two salads for a fresh component to balance the fat. You can get almost anything on a stick – it’s like being at the fair… but in Japan. There are also unfried options like rice, yakisoba, and other simple Japanese fare.
Takoyaki: Fried Octopus Balls
Takoyaki – a diced piece of raw octopus is mixed with a batter of flour, onions, and various other ingredients is cooked in a special pan similar to a large aebleskiver pan. The perfectly-shaped round balls are drizzled with a special takoyaki sauce and topped with a mound of salty dried bonito flakes. The snack can be found in most Osaka casual restaurants but tastes best when purchased from street vendors.
Known for having the best food in all of Japan, Osaka’s culinary scene explodes with variety and flavor attracting food lovers from around Japan and the world. To fully experience Osaka’s street food scene, head to bustling, colorful Dotonbori. It’s easy to identify the specialty of each restaurant or stand by the eye-catching, cartoonish 3-D imagery. Look no further than the giant red octopus for a taste of okonomiyaki!
What is Okonomiyaki?
The name okonomiyaki is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like”, and yaki meaning “cooked” (usually fried). Originating in Osaka (the largest city in the Kansai region), the Kansai-, Osaka-style okonomiyaki is widely available throughout Japan but the batter and ingredients vary by region.
Okonomiyaki is a savory, umami-packed pancake. The batter is made of flour, water or dashi, eggs, and shredded cabbage. Other ingredients such as green onion, meat (usually thin-sliced pork belly, often mistaken for bacon), octopus, shrimp, squid, vegetables, mochi or cheese are added.
Some okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself teppan-style where tables are fitted with a teppan or special hot plate and the server brings the raw ingredients to you. These restaurants may also have a diner-style counter where the cook prepares the dish in front of you.
Japanese Okonomiyaki Recipe
In this recipe, adapted from Food & Wine, I substituted bacon for pork belly and added two of my favorite artisan products from Kentucky: Bourbon Barrel Foods Smoked Togarashi spice for a subtle smoky flavor and the Bourbon Barrel Foods sweet, tangy Barbecue Sauce in place of prepared Okonomiyaki sauce. Hopefully, you have an Asian market near you where you can purchase dashi broth (or powder), Kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, nori, and pickled ginger. If not, some of these ingredients are available on Amazon.com.
You can use American mayonnaise, but you would be missing out on the fabulousness that is Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. By adding a dash of sweetener, a little rice vinegar, and a dab of mustard, you can make your own Kewpie mayonnaise from regular mayo as I did in my Japanese Potato Salad recipe.
Impress your party guests when you serve Okonomiyaki, a popular Japanese drinking food that is essentially an umami-packed, savory cabbage pancake.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4-1/4 oz.)
- 1 cup prepared dashi*
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp Bourbon Barrel Foods Smoked Togarashi
- 1/4 cup chopped bonito flakes
- 4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (about 10 oz.)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 slices bacon, cut in half
- 3 Tbsp Bourbon Barrel Foods Barbecue Sauce**
- 2 Tbsp mayonnaise* (preferably Kewpie)
- 3 Tbsp ground bonito flakes
- 2 Tbsp slivered beni shoga (Japanese pickled ginger)
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced nori
Fry the bacon (not too well done as it will be cooked again).
Whisk together the flour, dashi, eggs, and Togarashi spice until well incorporated. Fold in cabbage and chopped bonito flakes.
Melt butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet or flat griddle over medium heat. Spread batter evenly in skillet and top with cooked bacon slices in a single layer. Cover and cook until bottom is browned. 6-8 minutes.
Slide pancake onto a large plate, cutting board, or cookie sheet. Place skillet over pancake and, holding plate and skillet firmly together, invert pancake into skillet, bacon side down. Cook over medium heat until pancake is heated through, about 10 minutes.
Invert okonomiyaki onto a plate, bacon side up. Brush or drizzle with barbecue sauce, and dollop or drizzle with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with ground bonito flakes, beni shoga, and nori. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
*I used a powdered sozairyoku dashi (no salt or MSG added) dissolved into 3 cups of heated water.
** Instead of prepared Okonomiyaki sauce which is high in sodium, I substituted Bourbon Barrel Foods Barbecue sauce for its sweet, tangy goodness, and only 100 mg of sodium per 2 Tbsp.
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