All photos in this entry by B., who is clearly much better at this than I am.
I know I mentioned the lack of a "real" theme night when B. and I cooked together, but looking back, I realize that we cook with the overarching themes of "pork" and/or "pizza". Recently, B. and I had a "Japanese night" complete with soup, main and dessert (we forgot to make the salad that we shopped for), but still it never really left the overarching themes...
Seeing as how B. does not like seafood and I go out for Japanese almost every week with my family (probably to the disdain of readers of Calgary is Awesome), our Japanese night was not your typical let's-bring-out-the-sushi-rollers-and-sake sort of night. We sifted through my Google Reader and came out with a detailed recipe for miso soup from scratch and three variations on okonomiyaki.
Shopping for this recipe was fun - we headed to T & T Supermarket and it was humbling to find that I knew so little about Asian food. We tried to find nagaimo/yamaimo powder instead of the fresh stuff so B. wouldn't be stuck with a giant root in his fridge. No such luck, but we did find wheat starch, rice flour, potato flour, sweet potato flour, arrowroot flour, you name it! It was the same in the aisle with the seaweed (konbu... kelp... nori... wakame...) and sorting through the brightly coloured packages of dashi bouillons, bonito/katsuobushi and furikake. Being able to read Chinese (and thus decipher some Japanese kanji) was of minor help.
Back in the kitchen, we cheated on the miso soup - instead of making a real dashi broth with konbu and bonito flakes, we opted for some dashi powder (which we also needed in our okonomiyaki) in water instead (about 600 mL per half a 3 g tube, according to my rough translation of the directions). We also found some miso with konbu in it, which we added to our broth (2 tbsp). We then cut up some medium-firm tofu (½ lb) before patting it dry and adding it to the soup. The soup was then garnished with some chopped green onion and dried wakame before serving - quick but satisfying.
And the main event - okonomiyaki is sometimes referred to as a "Japanese omelette" or "Japanese pizza" - "okonomi" means "as you like" in Japanese, so the dish is customizable with any toppings you'd like, but generally contains a base of grated nagaimo, and eggs, cabbage, green onions, some additional toppings (like pork belly) and topped with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayo and bonito flakes.
We opted to base our recipe mostly on the one by Maki of Just Hungry just because we deemed it most "authentic". But we made some adaptations here too - aside from using sweet potato flour instead of fresh nagaimo, we eliminated the optional dried shrimp (B. thinks it's gross) and we also used gari instead of beni shouga. We did buy a jar of the latter, but we each had a nibble and found it way too salty. I tried to talk B. into adding it into the recipe anyway, thinking it would mellow out next to the other ingredients, but the entire jar had already made its way into the garbage bin... okonomi, right?
Adapted from Just Hungry
Makes 2 large okonomiyaki
- ½ cup (120 g) sweet potato flour, reconstituted with ½ cup (125 mL) water
- ¼ cup (60 mL) dashi stock (or water with a pinch of dashi powder)
- 3 large eggs
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups (500 mL/300 g) roughly chopped cabbage
- ½ cup (125 mL) chopped bell pepper
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped green onion
- 6 thin slices pork belly
- Okonomiyaki sauce (and mayo, preferably the Japanese kind)
- Seaweed sliced into thin strips, bonito flakes or furikake
Nutrition Info (per okonomiyaki, without topping): 694 calories, 45 g fat (13 g saturated), 353 mg cholesterol, 48 g carbohydrate (5 g fibre, 5 g sugar), 19 g protein, 257 mg sodium. An excellent source of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate (vitamin B4), vitamin E, vitamin K, phosphorus and potassium. A good source of vitamin A, niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), zinc, manganese and selenium.
- In a bowl, mix reconstituted flour, dashi and two of the eggs. The batter should be loose.
- Use part of the batter to make tenkasu, or fried tempura bits - heat up some oil in a small frying pan and dribble in some of the batter. You will need about ¼ cup (60 mL). Cook until golden brown. Drain off the oil (you can use it later to cook your okonomiyaki) and allow tenkasu to cool.
- Add chopped cabbage and the last egg to the batter. Stir to combine. Add green onion, bell pepper and tenkasu (crumble a bit in your hands) to batter. Stir to combine.
- Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat. Using a paper towel, spread around a thin layer of oil. Spread ½ batter in a circle on the pan. If you're not good at flipping things like myself, then you should probably try a little less batter to start. (Another good reason to keep B. around.)
- Place 2-3 strips of pork belly as flat as possible on top of batter. Cook, covered for 5-6 minutes, or until pork belly has lightened in colour.
- Flip okonomiyaki (you may need two spatulas for this) and cook, uncovered for an additional 3-4 minutes. Resist the urge to press down on the okonomiyaki! This will reduce its fluffiness.
- Flip okonomiyaki again so that pork is facing up. Brush on okonomiyaki sauce and mayo, if desired. Serve cut into quarters and sprinkled liberally with seaweed and bonito flakes (if desired).