This is from a guest blogger, Kelly, who also happens to be my best friend. Kelly recently traveled to Japan where she discovered this fun dish that you cook yourself.
Thursday night, Lauren and I made okonomiyaki, which is a traditional Japanese dish ("okonomi" means "whatever you like, and "yaki" means "cooked"). Some people call it "Japanese Pizza", but really, it's more of a non-breakfast pancake. In an okonomiyaki restaurant, you place your order (you can get almost any kind of filling) and they bring the uncooked ingredients to you in a big bowl. You mix it up and grill it yourself on the hibachi grill they have at every table, and then you and your friends can cut and eat it straight off the grill.
Although we don't have our own hibachi grill, we decided to make do with a frying pan and try our hand at making okonomiyaki Richmond-style. I was able to find okonomiyaki mix, bonito flakes (little fishy flakes that curl as they heat up), tonkatsu sauce (a veggie and fruit condiment vaguely like ketchup) and Japanese mayo at Tokyo Market in Carytown. We also picked up cabbage, onions, corn, and bacon to add to our dough. You can also try adding squid or other seafood, roast chicken, pork, or beef, kimchee, mushrooms, carrots, scallions--anything you can chop up into little bits, you can add to the batter. Other great toppings include aonori (dried seaweed flakes), sakura-ebi (tiny dried shrimp), and beni-shoga (diced pickled ginger). You can also serve it with sauteed soba noodles--that's Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.
Neither of us was really sure how to make okonomiyaki, but we found a recipe online and cobbled together instructions from that. First up, Lauren chopped the veggies while I mixed up the dough. Then we heated up the bacon and onions a bit in some sesame seed oil. We added everything else to the mix and threw it into the pan on top of the bacon and onions, shaping it into a pancake. After about 5 minutes, the pancake was solid on the bottom so we flipped it and cooked it for another 5, until the dough was cooked through.
After that, we threw it onto a plate and brushed on the tonkatsu sauce, then the mayo. The bonito flakes went on top of it all, and once that was done, we were ready to dig in. We were a little anxious about how it turned out, but it was delicious and flavorful--not bad for a first try! Sadly we weren't able to find any Kirin Ichiban to go with it, but the sake we picked up served as an acceptable stand-in. We'll definitely be making this again and spreading the okonomiyaki love to our friends. Thanks to visualrecpies.com and Kyomi for the recipe!