We're getting better and better at making okonomiyaki. It's so easy and delicious that it's unexpectedly become one of our favorite raclette grill recipes. But in researching okonomiyaki recipe variations, I've come up with a lot of questions. For instance, I read that you could use pancake mix to make the batter, so I wanted to try that. I also read up on latkes and wondered if I could make okonomiyaki with potatoes instead of cabbage. Then I wondered if a potato pancake with a layer of bacon on top wouldn't be an excellent American breakfast, topped with a fried egg. The only way to find out if any of this would work was to try it all. Here are the results.
For all our experimental okonomiyaki, we used our recipe here. We make our okonomiyaki at the table on our raclette grill. We weren't able to finish all the okonomiyaki we made in one night (though we did end up uncomfortably full). We saved the leftover okonomiyaki in the fridge and warmed it up later in our toaster oven, easy as pizza.
Okonomiyaki recipe experiment 1 of 3
The first okonomiyaki was pretty standard. We used grated raw potatoes instead of cabbage in the batter. It was like a potato pancake or a latke topped with pork belly, bonito flakes, seaweed, kewpie mayo, and okonomiyaki sauce. It had a great flavor, but I thought it was too dense. I wouldn't dismiss it: maybe we cooked it too long, or maybe we didn't squeeze enough of the moisture out of the potatoes.
To control the variables, we made the same okonomiyaki batter that we always use, but I mixed in an equivalent amount of grated raw potatoes instead of cabbage. The excess moisture should be squeezed from the potato gratings before you mix them into the batter. I squeezed out as much as I could with my bare hands, fistfuls at a time, in a colander in the sink. Another method is the pack the potatoes into a clean dish cloth and ring them out with help from a friend. Do this over the sink.
I'd like to try making a potato okonomiyaki again, and I'd recommend anyone else try it. I think using any combination of grated raw potatoes, grated zucchini, carrots, or parboiled onion slices could also be very successful.
Okonomiyaki recipe experiment 2 of 3
This is my idea of what an American diner chain would do if they were trying to serve okonomiyaki to the masses. We made a potato okonomiyaki the size of a personal pizza. (Remember to squeeze the excess moisture out of the potato gratings before you add them into the batter, as described in the Potato Okonomiyaki recipe notes above.) Then we topped it with bacon and a fried egg, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of maple syrup.If you don't like the salty-sweet combination, try ketchup or hot sauce. I can also imagine it topped with cheese and a brown gravy à la Canadian poutine or a nice sausage gravy. My biggest regret is that I didn't include a handful of finely chopped onions in the batter.
Okonomiyaki recipe experiment 3 of 3
For this okonomiyaki, the batter was made with an American instant pancake mix instead of flour and baking powder. We still used dashi, sugar, and salt to make the batter, and we stuck with cabbage instead of potatoes this time. I couldn't taste any difference with the pancake mix, but then we've never had okonomiyaki in Japan and we've never used authentic okonomiyaki mix that contained nagaimo powder. I'd say this is a totally acceptable way to get acquainted with okonomiyaki-making on your own raclette grill.
In terms of toppings, this was AWESOME. Just so many flavors: spicy kimchi, sweet kewpie mayo, tangy okonomiyaki sauce, creamy melted cheese, umami-laden bonito flakes and seaweed, salty pork belly strips, the bready pancake. The experience was very like a pizza, and of course very like the Korean kimchi pancakes called kimchijeon.
We mixed shredded cheese into the batter, but next time I'd used the little cubes of cheese that are sold in bags here. I'd also toss in some cooked shrimp or mushrooms, or top it with some squid. This has the potential to be very epic and practically impossible to flip over.
Some notes on experimenting with okonomiyaki:
Okonomiyaki are basically big vegetable fritters, which aren't at all exotic in the US. Make a big zucchini fritter and put kewpie mayo and okonomiyaki sauce on it. I'm sure it'll be lovely.
Some people mix the bonito flakes into the batter, some people put them on top of the okonomiyaki before it's flipped, and some people don't flake until serving, right before they finished it off with a decorative flourish of okonomiyaki sauce and kewpie mayo. I think that in the future I will try adding it into the batter so long as I am making anything like conventional okonomiyaki.
Some recipes call for bacon and some call for pork belly. If you can get the very thin strips of pork belly typically used for Asian-style grilling, then use it. Bacon is cured and has a unique, Western flavor, and that flavor will become part of the whole pancake. If you want to be more authentic, stick to pork belly.
You can use water instead of dashi or vegetable broth to make the batter, according to Marc from No Recipes. We always have dashi powder on hand, so I always use that to make the broth, but if you can use pancake mix and water, then that makes it even easier.
After you've tried some of these variations on the okonomiyaki recipe, you might want to check out these other raclette grill recipes:
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.