So it’s the 26th of December, and yesterday you ate yourself well into a food coma from which you thought you’d never be able to recover. But, it’s getting towards lunchtime, and the feelings of hunger are starting to return in force. Fortunately, the fridge is stuffed with Christmas leftovers from dinner, and you just need to find something to do with them. But don’t worry, I’m not going to do a Jamie Oliver and tell you to make a turkey curry (again, and again, and again). Let’s go Japanese and have okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), which translates to ‘grilled as you like it’, and guess what? You definitely will. Check out our other festive offerings here.
So what is okonomiyaki, and why is it going to be the saviour of your Christmas leftovers? At its most basic, okonomiyaki is some vegetables (usually cabbage and yam), meat (often pork belly) mixed into some batter (usually flour, egg and water) and fried in a giant pancake type thing, before being slathered in sauce and gobbled. Japan is full of regional variants, although the Osaka and Hiroshima styles are the most popular. Tokyo even has a liquidy version, which sounds a little odd I have to admit.
Because there’s so much variation in accepted styles of okonomiyaki, it means that it’s the perfect vehicle for using up your Christmas leftovers in a tasty package that you actually want to eat. The only real main ingredients I would say that you need to make a successful okonomiyaki are flour, eggs and raw cabbage, everything else is a bonus. In the photos here I’ve used the leftovers from our alternative Christmas dinner, with duck, carrots, cabbage and potatoes, but you can just use whatever you want. I’ve made the recipe relatively generic, so you can follow with whatever you have to hand and still make something great.
So now you’ve wrapped everything up in a bit tasty bundle we get to my favourite part of okonomiyaki, the toppings. The sauce traditionally served with these is straightforward to make as it only has three ingredients which are combined in equal quantities, tomato ketchup, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Together you get a great balance of sweet, salt, acid and almost spiciness; a perfect combination. Add the sauce and mayonnaise in a traditional criss-cross pattern and then sprinkle liberally with bonito flakes (explained here), dried seaweed and spring onion for the perfect Japanese answer to the age-old Christmas leftovers problem.
Notes on Cooking
The recipe below is pretty generic in terms of its components but is extremely flexible. Start off with the recommended amounts of flour and water, and you can always adjust later on depending on how much filling you have included with the batter (that’s what I had to do). Just remember that it will thicken up a bit more once the eggs are added. You’re looking for a final consistency which is thick and not at all runny; look at the photos to see what to aim for.
Okonomiyaki is infinitely adaptable to whatever you have in the kitchen. Just finely chop everything and mix it with the batter. For example, when making it with our leftovers, I used the carrots, cooked cabbage and roast potatoes (all finely chopped) alongside the raw cabbage. I then finely sliced the leftover duck meat and placed it on the top instead of the pork belly. We also didn’t have any dashi, so we replaced it with water, and didn’t have any aonori so left it off. Just do what’s right for you with whatever you have around, and it’s going to be great (as long as your flavour combinations aren’t bizarre; I’m not being held responsible for anyone going totally crazy and creating something inedible).
It can be hard to think of something inspiring to make with all of you your leftovers from Christmas dinner. Go Japanese with okonomiyaki, the perfect pancake-like receptacle for everything tasty. Served with a variety of delicious toppings.
- 120 g plain flour
- 140 mL dashi or water
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 large cabbage cored and finely sliced
- 300 g yam or potatoes peeled and grated
- 3 large spring onions finely sliced
- 2 large eggs
- 250 g meat (pork belly is traditional) thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Okonomiyaki sauce
- Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
- Aonori (seaweed flakes)
- Spring onion finely sliced
- Pickled ginger or radish
Whisk the flour, dashi/water, baking powder and salt in a large bowl to form a batter.
Add the vegetables to the batter and mix well to combine, before adding the eggs and mixing thoroughly again. Add more flour or dashi/water here to achieve the right consistency, don’t worry about small clumps of flour that are hard to incorporate properly.
Lightly grease a frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the batter, making a pancake about 2 cm thick. You may have to make two depending on the size of your pan. Flatten out the top using a spatula, but be careful not to apply too much pressure or it will be too dense inside.
At this point, lay your meat out on top of the okonomiyaki in a single layer, pressing gently into the batter.
Cook until the bottom is well-browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Turn down the heat if it begins to burn quicker than this.
Time to flip the okonomiyaki! Put a dinner plate over the top of the pan, and very carefully invert the pan so that the proto-pancake ends up on the plate. Slide back into the pan, meat-side down and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, until well-browned.
Mix the ingredients together.
To serve, remove the okonomiyaki from the pan in the same manner as before, so that it is served meat-side up.
Drizzle with the okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise in a criss-cross pattern of lines.
Sprinkle with the katsuobushi, aonori and spring onion. Slice into wedges and eat with pickles.