How About a Meal-in-One Pancake?
By “Awake!” correspondent in Japan
WHAT cook is there who has not wished for a recipe that is different, easy to prepare and does not require a lot of expensive ingredients? If that sounds like you, and if you are adventurous, then why not try Japan’s popular o-konomi yaki.
The name means “cooking to suit one’s fancy.” It can best be described as a cabbage pancake with meat or anything that ‘suits your fancy.’ If you think that sounds, well, different, the many o-konomi yaki-only cafés in Japan testify to its popularity with young and old alike. Shall we give it a try?
Using the basic ingredients in the recipe, first mix the flour, egg and salt. Add just enough water so that the batter is not too thin. Remember that the cabbage will add more moisture. Next, stir the shredded cabbage into the batter, making sure it is well blended. Now, heat the oil on a griddle or in a frying pan. When it is very hot, lower the heat and pour on half of the cabbage batter, tilting the pan so that the batter spreads. Lay the strips of meat (or other ingredients if you prefer) on the pancake and pour on the rest of the batter. Then just relax and let it cook until done, turning it over once.
Here are a few tips for the first-timer. Be sure the cabbage is as dry as possible. Water left on from washing will make the batter too thin and difficult to control. The cabbage and batter should be mixed just before cooking. If you can cook only one pancake at a time, mix just enough for that and prepare more as you go. Some prefer to put all the batter down and lay the meat on top. There is nothing that says it cannot be done that way.
Now, what about the “fancy” element? Though beef and pork are common, in Japan seafood is more popular. So shrimps, oysters and squid are often used. For variety, try bacon, ham, carrots, onions, spring onions or leeks. Even cheese, garlic or bean sprouts can be used for their distinctive flavor.
For extra flavor, dashi-no-moto, or dried fish flakes, are often added to the batter. If that is not available, a small bit of bouillon cube or meat extract will do just fine. A dash of ginger can also be added for piquancy.
As finishing touches, sprinkle the pancake with shredded dried seaweed, if you like the taste, and dress it up with a dab of sauce of your choice—Worcestershire, catsup, mustard, mayonnaise. Then sit back and join us in relishing this Japanese meal-in-one treat. Bon appétit!
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O-konomi yaki (one serving)
1 cup of flour
1 cup of shredded white cabbage
2 or 3 slices of pork or beef (see article)
Salt, water and cooking oil