Ivan Orkin's Savory Pancakes (Okonomiyaki)

January 15, 2020
5 Ratings
Photo by Food52
Author Notes

If you're familiar with okonomiyaki, chances are you know it as a clean-out-the-fridge-franken-pancake stuffed with cabbage and a multitude of other ingredients, such as onion, scallions, pork belly or bacon, seafood, fish cakes, udon, mochi (rice cakes), and/or basically anything else you can think of. (As you might guess it's usually something you scarf down during a night of drinking.) Okonomiyaki are well loved all over Japan, but Hiroshima and Osaka are especially famous for their regional versions. There, these pancakes can grow to several inches in thickness and normally come garnished with copious squiggles of Kewpie mayo and Bull-Dog sauce, as well as katsuobushi (bonito flakes) that wave and wilt in the steam , as thought they have a life of their own.

We lived in Tokyo, where the okonomiyaki tend to be a more spartan affair. This version is made only with cabbage and thin slices of pork belly, but feel free to gussy it up with whatever you like (or make it vegetarian by omitting the pork belly and katsuobushi). It's mercifully simple and can be prepared with minimal fuss, even after partaking of a couple adult beverages.

Recipe excerpted with permission from The Gaijin Cookbook, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019, RRP $30.00 hardcover. —Food52

Watch This Recipe
Ivan Orkin's Savory Pancakes (Okonomiyaki)
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4 as a drinking snack
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus an additional 2 tablespoons if making a vegetarian version)
  • 2 1/4 cups tightly packed shredded green cabbage
  • 11 ounces thinly sliced pork belly or uncured bacon
  • Garnishes
  • Kewpie mayonnaise
  • Bull-Dog tonkatsu sauce
  • Aonori (powdered dried green seaweed)
  • Chopped scallions
  • Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
In This Recipe
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg and 1 tablespoon oil together with 3/4 cup water in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix briefly until most of the lumps of dry flour are gone. Fold in the shredded cabbage.
  2. Set a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and lay 3 strips of pork belly or bacon next to each other in it. Once the pork begins to sizzle, let it cook for 2 minutes to render some of the fat. Spoon half the batter on top and spread into a 1/2-inch-thick layer. (If you're making a vegetarian version, coat the pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil before adding the batter.)
  3. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then sneak a peek underneath. Once the bottom is crisp and brown, give the pancake a flip with a spatula. Do it confidently and quickly to avoid making a mess. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the okonomiyaki is golden brown on both sides. The inside should be cooked through, but it's fine if it's still a bit moist—the cabbage will give up a fair amount of water.
  4. Slide the okonomiyaki onto a plate and top freely with squiggles of Kewpie mayo and Bull-Dog sauce. Sprinkle with aonori, scallions, and a big handful of katsuobushi (unless you've made a vegetarian version). Serve immediately, then use the remaining pork and batter to make and serve the second okonomiyaki.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mrs Currie
    Mrs Currie
  • Kristen Kidd Donovan
    Kristen Kidd Donovan
  • Laurie in Petaluma
    Laurie in Petaluma
  • arcane54
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10 Reviews

arcane54 March 26, 2021
I’m trying to link to Midge’s recipe and I keep getting this one! What gives Food52???
Kristen K. April 1, 2021
Same! I've been off shrimp for a few years and tonight Midge's pancakes were going to put that bad shrimp in the rearview mirror.
Laurie I. April 25, 2021
This is very disappointing. I got cabbage in my CSA this week and bought shrimp to make this recipe (Midge's version.) I especially don't like clicking on a link to Midge's recipe and being taken here. Bad move Food52.
Vbrigham May 1, 2021
Same! I was going to send it to my daughter. Luckily for me, I’ve made the recipe enough to remember the broad outlines: 5 eggs, 1/3 c flour, 1 t salt, 1 t soy sauce, 1 t toasted sesame oil for the batter. I use whatever veggies I have on hand, but usually cabbage and onions, and whatever else seems good for variety. The sauce is 1/2 c mayo, 2 T soy sauce, 2 t sriracha. And a big downvote to Food52 for the bait and switch.
judy July 23, 2020
So good. A good batter for just about any veggies in the fridge. I also like green onion in this. A riff on Chinese scallion pancakes. All the various accompaniments make a variety of options reasonable. Thanks.
George S. April 16, 2020
This recipe omits the water!!!
Rochelle March 18, 2020
Delicious! I've deleted my other Okonomiyaki recipes. The only topping I didn't have was the Aonori. Very easy to make, and will do again.
Mrs C. January 23, 2020
I just made these with several substitutions (red cabbage, home cured bacon, leek greens, nori, homemade 'Bull Dog Tonkatsu sauce' etc...).
I DID have seconds & I'll be heading out to the local specialist markets to source Ivan's ingredients for the authentic version very soon.
I can't thank you enough!
Jdtirado January 26, 2020
How was it?
Mrs C. January 26, 2020
Delightful and interesting. I might have had the mixture spread a little more deeply in the pan than would be ideal. I'll change that next time. Papa Bear was enamoured.
Very simple to make. They were great when reheated in a skillet the following day.
I haven't reached the specialty markets to get Ivan's ingredients yet.
First draught was VERY nice though.