Okonomiyaki for Beginners with Mountain Yams
Some call them Japanese Pizza. Others call them Japanese Savory Pancakes. Most know them as the delicious Osaka-dish called Okonomiyaki. The name itself is the amalgamation of the two words «okonomi» and «yaki», which loosely translates to «what you like» and «fried».
I never tried homemade Okonomiyaki before I moved to Tokyo, and I also didn’t realize that it could be made easy and just as delicious with alternative ingredients. If you can track down Japanese Yams, or some good alternative, these homemade, gluten free Okonomiyakis are to die for.
Be aware that because we substitute flour with yams in this recipe, the pancakes will become flatter and less fluffy than your standard Okonomiyaki. The flavor on the other hand, is just as delicious as the Japanese savory pancakes you know from Japanese Okonomiyaki restaurants.
Skip directly to Onigunsô’s Easy Okonomiyaki Recipe here!
Or read on to learn how I discovered homemade Okonomiyaki.
To be fair, prepping to make yam-based Okonomiyaki can be an ordeal. Especially, for people living outside of Japan, getting Japanese yams will be a challenge. (Onigunsô: «In fact, there are many types of yams. Husky can never remember them all, but the ones used in this recipe are called Yamaimo - 山芋»)
Once you get the yam-supply lined up, your Okonomiyaki enjoyment is set for life, though. Here is how I did it:
Start by befriending a Japanese girl, and then cultivate this friendship for about 15 years or so. Make sure that said girlfriend has a grandmother with a small farm, somewhere in rural Japan. As it turns out, many Japanese girls have one such grandmother tucked away somewhere.
Then, when visiting this grandmother, make sure to complement her cooking, her produce, and in particular, how fascinated you are by these magnificent Japanese yams. Soon, you can expect yams, and other organically grown produce to be shipped to you on a regular basis.
(Onigunsô: Even farming grandmothers get lazy sometimes. Who needs the hassle of dragging loads of chemical products to their farm anyway? 面倒臭い！)
MacDonald’s and Subway are quickly replacing the farming grandmothers of Japan though, so try to be quick! It is sad to say, but farming villages all over Japan experience rapid depopulation, and farming traditions decrease equally so. Which is why we try to make the most of any Yam that comes our way.
In fact, the shipping of foods around Japan, not just from grandmothers to family, but between colleagues, business acquaintances, or friends, is a huge business. The postal service can send parcels all over Japan in less than a days notice, and frozen, chilled, or fresh produce will be delivered at your doorstep with surgical preciseness.
Once you have the line of produce shipping set up, you are ready to get started on the production. You can experiment with all kinds of home cooked Japanese delights, the least of which is the topic of today's blog post, the delicious, gluten-free, easy to make Okonomiyaki with yams.
Easy Okonomiyaki with Yams – Ingredients
1. The Pancakes (2 pieces)
5 yams (400-500g), peeled and grated to mush.
2 Tbs Soup Stock (Dashi of the vegetarian kind)
1 Tbs Mirin
1 Ts Soy Sauce
2 Tbs Sesame Oil for frying
2. The Topping
Aonori (Shredded Sea Weed)
Benisyouga Pickled Ginger
Easy Okonomiyaki with Yams – Instruction
1. Start by cleaning and peeling four normal size Japanese yams. This bit is a little boring, especially since the yams are very slimy and not so easy to peel. Take your time, put on some music and take deep breaths. This is best done when you have time to lower your shoulders and enjoy the cooking experience.
2. Grate your cleaned jams into mush, or a slimy, porridge-like consistency. Don't grind your hand please.
3. Stir the eggs into the batter until they are well-dissolved.
4. Add the rest of the batter ingredients and mix well for about 5 min.
5. Heat one table spoon of sesame oil in a medium-sized pan (high heat).
6. Pour the batter (half of your mix) into the pan and put the lid on top.
7. Grill for 1 min, then turn down the heat to low and let the pancake steam for 5-10 min. After 1-2 minutes, the surface of the pancake will start to bubble. When the bubbling have almost stopped, turn the pancake over.
8. Continue steaming for 3-5 more minutes on the other side as well.
9. Put the finished pancake on a plate.
10. Decorate as you see fit. Feel free to draw a Pokemon character on top of your Okonomiyaki, a favorite pastime among Japanese home cooking chefs all over the country.
Easy Okonomiyaki with Yams – Extra Tips and Tricks
1. If you want to experiment with some more unusual toppings, we recommend trying with kimchi and cheese.
2. Flexitarian Okonomiyaki is of course also delicious. How about adding just a smidgen of bacon, or just one teeny-tiny octopus tentacle?
3. If you find it impossible to get your hands on Japanese Mountain Yams (Yamaimo), they can be substituted by White Rice Flour, but then your Okonomiyaki will in fact turn into Korean Pancakes instead. Perhaps just check a normal Okonomiyaki recipe, and if you are gluten intolerant, keep looking for those Mountain Yams. We promise you it is worth it if you love Okonomiyaki. Ganbatte Kudasai!