Recipes from Brixton Village
Okonomiyaki means 'as you like it' and is a type of savoury pancake. Okan specialises in them and owner Moto described them to me in the terms below that can only be described as a love letter.
I grew up with this dish in Osaka.
The sweetie shop on the corner had a little griddle and they cooked a very simple okonomiyaki for the equivalent of 20p as a kids' snack. It was a thin batter and processed ham but with a bit of sauce it was delicious. When I invited friends over my mum always set up okonomiyaki at home so we could cook it ourselves from the age of 8 years old. You cook together, you eat together, you chat and share. It's the best food for that.
Okonomiyaki is a very simple recipe but each shop has a different style and taste somehow. I recently went on an okonomiyaki trip to Osaka to sample them. I thought I couldn't eat okonomiyaki every day, but I did and loved it!
There are over 3000 okonomiyaki shops in Osaka. When we go out for a drink, we eat at the same time and always share plates amongst friends. Osaka people love konamon (flour-based) foods. The character of the Osakans is different to other Japanese cities. People are very direct and not at all shy. We always talk about food, discussing where is good and cheap. It is very important to us that food is not expensive, but is good quality. If it isn't good, then your food business won't survive in Osaka. Customers are very demanding.
I left Osaka 15 years ago, but as soon as I go back and smell 'burnt sauce' in an okonomiyaki shop I always know I am home. I have my favourite okonomiyaki shops. The obachan (an affectionate term for an old lady) who run them always welcome me. The best shops are a bit run down and the obachan talk a lot and are covered with oil. Maybe that will be me one day!
Okonomiyaki are made individually to ensure freshness and that you get your personal choice of toppings. If you are cooking for more than one person, simply use the same proportions given below for each. The traditional garnishes of okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, aonori (green seaweed flakes) and katuso bushi (fermented, dried bonito flakes) can all be bought at the Japan Centre (www.japancentre.com).
You Will Need
Put the grated yam, flour, brown sugar (if you're using it) and baking powder in a bowl with a pinch of sea salt. Add the lightly beaten egg, the stock and 4–5 tablespoons of water, and fold carefully until you have a pourable batter. Do not over mix.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan on a high heat for 5 minutes and then reduce it to a medium heat. While it is heating up, mix the cabbage and spring onion together in another bowl. Add enough batter to make a pourable mixture, folding carefully so as not to lose the air in it – you should have a little bit of the batter left at this stage. All the cabbage pieces should be separate from each other. It's important that you don't over mix the cabbage and batter or leave it too long: if you are making more than one okonomiyaki, mix each portion just before you cook it or it will get soggy.
Put the sunflower oil in the hot pan and make a mound of the cabbage batter in the middle. With a spoon, carefully make into a circle about 12cm in diameter. Arrange your toppings on the top and cook, uncovered, for about 3 minutes.
Drizzle the remaining batter over the toppings to seal them all in and then flip the okonomiyaki over to to cook the other side. Don't push it down. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Turn it again and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes.
Serve drizzled with okonomiyaki 'burnt' sauce, aonori, katsuo bushi and Japanese mayonnaise. If you can't get them, use crumbled nori and soy sauce instead.
Brixton stockists note: You can get aonori in the Oracle Juice Bar on 5th Avenue (Ita-Tunde stocks a small amount of vegan grocery items). Soft yam is widely available at any Caribbean grocery store.