Okonomi Yaki is a Japanese stuffed savoury pancake.
When people say stuffed, they mean either that the other ingredients are folded into the batter, or that other ingredients are put on top the pancake and then more batter spooned on top of them.
The other ingredients can be anything from seafood to meat to veg.
The batter has yamaimo yam in it, which binds moisture in, making the pancake juicy, and giving it a soft, fluffy texture, like a dumpling.
You don’t eat them with chopsticks. There is a special, flat, iron spatula called a “kote” in Japanese to eat them with.
They are served with a sauce such as tako yaki or tonkatsu. Worcestershire sauce & mayonnaise are also traditional (sic), but now a special thick, brown sauce called “okonomiyaki sauce” has also been developed.
At Okonomi Yaki shops in Tokyo, they are cooked right in front of you on grills.
The Osaka version of Okonomi Yaki is the most prevalent outside of Hiroshima. They are made from a thick batter, often with grated yamaimo in it. The added ingredients can be those such as cabbage, pork or seafood. In Osaka, the habit developed of spreading a sweet sauce on top to serve.
To make Osaka-style Okonomi Yak, you use a couple cups of shredded cabbage, two or three tablespoons of wheat flour, 1 tsp of instant dashi powder, 1 egg, and grated yamaimo (using about 1 inch / 2.5 cm of a yamaimo.) Mix, adding just enough water to make it liquid. It should end up far thicker than regular pancake batter, and a bit lumpy.
Osaka home-town boosters will say that Okonomi Yaki developed in Osaka, but it actually arrived there from Tokyo quite recently, after WWII.
Hiroshima-style Okonomi Yaki uses less flour, and the individual ingredients are more visible. Ingredients such as cabbage, pork or seafood are put on top of the batter as it is cooking, rather than folded in. It also adds yakisoba noodles, uses more batter, and has an egg cracked on top. Any ingredient mixed into the batter is called “gu.”
Hiroshima-style emerged after WWII.
You can’t substitute the yams that are known in the West. Find instead one of the recipes that don’t call for yamaimo (there are some), or use okonomiyaki flour.
Okonomi Yaki probably developed from funo-yaki, sweet dessert pancakes made from the 1500s on.
Food writers speculate that it and other yakis developed from a crepe that a man named Senno Rikyu made for his tea ceremonies during the Azuchi-Momoyama era (1568-1600.) The crepe was cooked thinly, then brushed with miso, and rolled up and served.
Okonomi Yaki emerged around the 1930s, probably from Dondon Yaki, as more ingredients were added.
The name Okonomi Yaki means “as you like it.”
Lapointe, Rick. Okonomi-yaki, as you like it, and you will. The Japan Times. 28 July 2002.