Last week I went to Abeno and ate the above. I've been meaning to go since it opened many moons ago, as the description of the okonomiyaki they sold - a vegetable-based pancake that is cooked on a hotplate in front of you - sounded delicious and different to anything I'd eaten before. Now I've been I could write a big blog post about the place, speaking of the ambiance & the decor, but there's enough far more committed London restaurant food bloggers about so I'll just say it was damn tasty, albeit it a little expensive. Then again all I wanted was a quick lunchtime bite and maybe it's not that sort of place - definitely good food though.
Abeno review out the way let's get onto the interesting stuff, like how to make it yourself. As mentioned okonomiyaki are a Japanese pancake, the base is lots of cabbage and it is studded with seafood and held together with batter that's been flavoured with dashi. If this doesn't sound great enough already whilst cooking it is layered with thinly sliced pork belly or streaky bacon that browns and cooks into the top of the pancake. Once cooked the okonomiyaki is finished with okonomiyaki sauce (thin ketchup-brown sauce like stuff), mayonnaise, powdered seaweed and salty dried bonito flakes. With each bite the quartet of toppings give way to crisp and fatty pork which in turn yields to soft batter, crunchy with cabbage and sweet from seafood. Not subtle but a cacophony of flavours that worked well enough to have me down at the Japan Centre within 2 days of my restaurant visit to buy ingredients for a home repeat
Whilst Chinese supermarkets tend to be pretty cheap that's definitely not the case with Japanese ones and I walked out about £20 lighter of pocket, and with a little more sympathy towards Abeno's prices. Obviously that will make quite a few okonomiyaki - 8 to be precise, with lots of sauce leftover but not quite enough bonito flakes - but this isn't a particularly cheap dish, especially when you consider this didn't include the toppings, as they are purchasable in normal shops. For toppings I went with prawn, squid and pork but once you have your base of batter and cabbage anything goes really - the London Mix in Abeno having bacon, sausage, cheese and an egg. Whatever you go for I'd recommend keeping the pork or bacon as the crisp rashers fried into the batter add so much texture and flavour.
You can make the batter with flour, dashi and grated yam but the pre-made okonomiyaki flour - whilst punchy at over £4 for 400 grams - seems much easier, containing the dashi and the yam starch so all you need to do is take a scoopful and add water and egg.
Makes one that I happily devoured, but with other dishes would feed two
50gr okonomiyaki flour
1 medium egg
150gr white cabbage
3 raw king prawns
50gr squid (or 3 more king prawns)
3 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon, cut in half
1 TB of beni shoga pickled ginger (red sticks rather than the pink slices in sushi)
3gr Dried bonito flakes
Powder nori seaweed
First off mix the okonomiyaki flour, water and egg into a batter.
Finely chop the cabbage (5mm) and spring onion, chop the prawns and squid into 1.5cm bits and add it all, along with the pickled ginger, into the batter then stir till combined.
Heat a large (this thing is going to be near 20cm wide) frying pan over a medium heat then wipe well with oil. or just add oil if you think your frying pan won't handle a mere greasing.
Pour in the mixture and spread to a pancake around 20cm diameter and 1.5-2cm thick then arrange the rashers of bacon on top. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
Carefully turn over and cook for 4-5 minutes. The Japanese have special large okonomiyaki spatulas for this, which they use a pair of, but I resorted to two plates instead. First off place one over the okonomiyaki and then turn the frying pan over. Another plate was then put on top and the okonomiyaki flipped on to that (to get the raw side up again) before placing the upside down frying pan on top and flipping over. A bit of a palaver but I didn't trust keeping it in one piece using spatulas.
Turn over again and give the first side another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Get onto a plate, bacon side up, then swirl with okonomiyaki sauce & mayonnaise then sprinkle with the bonito flakes and some powdered seaweed.