The Japanese Flavors That Make Any Dish Irresistible

September 18, 2017

Okonomiyaki, which literally means “grilled how you like it,” is a popular Japanese savory pancake. It's available all over Japan, and the toppings and fillings vary depending on the country’s region.

These pancakes are a classic comfort food, and with good reason: The combination of grilled carbs mixed with vegetables and an assortment of toppings delivers the perfect symphony of crunchy and creamy textures packed with sweet, spicy, and umami flavors. A basic recipe for okonomiyaki calls for a pancake batter with shredded cabbage and Kewpie mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, nori flakes, pickled ginger, and bonito flakes on top.

But okonomiyaki is infinitely customizable. Below, we take a spin on this classic dish, bypassing the flour pancake base to make it even simpler.

First it's vegetables... then it's okonomiyaki—and infinitely more delicious. Photo by Emily Dryden

Choose your favorite seasonal vegetables, or use up those leftovers in the fridge, stock your pantry with a few staple Japanese toppings (or try making your own), and you’re set to riff on okonomiyaki anytime.

the base layer

Starchy vegetables work best, especially those that get crispy when cooked. Or make it a medley for a variety of textures!

  • Potatoes (even tater tots or hashbrowns!)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage wedges
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Corn
  • Squash
  • Asparagus
  • Shishito peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
Boiled teeny potatoes + roasted squash + roasted carrot halves + fried eggs. Photo by Emily Dryden

optional add-ons

Make it a meal with the addition of protein or some leftovers on top of your crispy vegetables.

  • Large omelette or fried eggs
  • Slabs of cooked bacon
  • Leftover grilled meats or tofu
  • Leftover soba noodles or rice
  • Ramen noodles
Grilled summer squash + grilled corn + fresh tomatoes + bacon. Photo by Emily Dryden

Top It Off

  • Furikake seasoning
  • Sliced scallions
  • Chili sauce
  • Sriracha

assemble how you like it

Roasted broccoli + roasted brussels sprouts + seared tofu. Photo by Emily Dryden
  • In a large serving platter (or several smaller platters for different combination options), spread out the base layer of crispy vegetables.
  • Top the vegetables with one or a few of the optional add-ons, if using.
  • Use your artistic side and finish your okonomiyaki by drizzling and sprinkling a combination of the toppings into some type of mesmerizing pattern.

The traditional combination of mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, nori, bonito, and pickled ginger is always a winner, but experiment with what you have on hand too!

Let's take one more look, shall we? Photo by Emily Dryden

How do you like to okonomiyaki? Tell us about your combinations below.

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Photos by Emily Dryden

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Lyna Vuong

Written by: Lyna Vuong

I'm a food studies grad student, cook, and interior designer. (I love a colorful palate/palette!)

1 Comment

Peony September 20, 2017
This is inspiring. Enjoyed okonomiyaki in Japan this summer, just delicious. I've been making Heidi Swanson's version for years and take it in different directions based on what is in the fridge. It reminds me of healthy latkes so I often eat them with applesauce ce.