Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
I first remember Gary Lineker, a top English striker of the 80s and 90s, being signed by a team called Grampus 8. Inquisitive as to where and what Grampus 8 was I discovered that it was a team in the J-league (Japan) and that the Japanese played football and were pretty handy at it. Since then I have watched, with interest, the game grow in Japan and it was a wonderful achievement when in 1998 they made their World Cup debut, in France. Since then they have qualified for every World Cup, making it through to the knockout stages twice.
Japan was unfortunate 4 years ago, going out on penalties in the last 16 to Paraguay. This time around they are ranked lowest in their group but expectations are high as they have some exceptionally talented playmakers in the side. Look out for Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and the prolific scorer Shinji Okazaki. With Colombia, Greece and Cote d’Ivoire I am expecting a lot of goals in this group.
A great nickname by the way; the Samurai Blue.
I have flirted with a number of dishes for Japan; it is a wonderful nation for clean, healthy and vibrantly flavoursome food. They are kings of that taste sensation umami, which can be found at its ultimate best in dashi. My first choice for this dish was takoyaki, a round fried dumpling containing cooked octopus and pickled ginger. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get hold of a takoyaki pan in time.
However, one of my favourites amongst the incredible selection of Japanese restaurants and street food eateries here in Melbourne is okonomiyaki – a Japanese style pancake. And it is okonomiyaki that makes it on to the World Cup 2014 food project. This version is done Osaka style with shredded cabbage and pickled ginger; I have added cooked baby octopus, and a dashi broth in the pancake batter to pep things up further. The sauces that top this pancake are essential; both have been home made. The mayonnaise is straight forward, but to replicate the okonami sauce took quite a lot of experimentation – my wife is an okonomiyaki officianado and gave it the big thumbs up!
The okonomi sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dashi and tenkasu (tempura scraps) can be bought, but I have made my own and included recipes for all.
Okonomiyaki with Baby Octopus - JapanPrint
- For the Okonomi Sauce:
- ■ 4 tbsp. tomato ketchup | The famous one.
- ■ 3 tsp. light soy sauce |
- ■ 2 tbsp. Worcester sauce | Lea and Perrins or good equivalent.
- ■ 2 tbsp. clear runny honey | Warmed slightly.
- For the Japanese Mayonnaise:
- ■ 1 Large Egg yolk |
- ■ 250ml grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil.
- ■ 1 tsp. Rice wine vinegar |
- For the Tenkasu:
- ■ 100ml ice cold water |
- ■ ½ large Egg yolk |
- ■ 50g plain flour |
- ■ 500ml grapeseed oil | Or any other non-flavoured oil.
- For the Dashi Broth:
- ■ 400ml water |
- ■ 4g kombu | A type of seaweed. Do not wipe off that white powder - it is pure natural umami.
- ■ 12g bonito flakes | Also known as katsuo-bushi.
- For the Pancake Batter:
- ■ 300g plain flour |
- ■ 65g tapioca flour | Potato flour or corn flour can be used.
- ■ ½ tsp. sea salt |
- ■ 2 large eggs |
- ■ 100ml cold dashi broth | Recipe above.
- ■ 275ml cold water |
- For the Filling:
- ■ ½ wombok cabbage | Also known as Chinese cabbage – shredded.
- ■ 500g baby octopus | Cooked: stir fried quickly in very hot oil, with salt and pepper, cooled and roughly chopped.
- ■ 1 packet pink pickled ginger | It can be made at home, but I have to say the packeted version is excellent and my preferred choice.
- ■ grapeseed oil for frying |
- ■ a scattering of bonito flakes |
- ■ a few spring onions | Finely sliced.
For the okonomi sauce: add the ketchup, soy sauce, Worcester sauce and honey to a small bowl and mix.
For the mayonnaise: beat the egg yolk and then slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil whilst briskly whisking; a thick emulsion should form. Finally, add the vinegar and season. Store in a nozzled squeezy bottle in the fridge until ready to use.
For the tenkasu: heat the oil in a wok or medium sauce pan until it reaches 180°C (360°F). To a medium sized bowl add the cold water and egg yolk and gently mix – using cooking chopsticks is a good way. Now add the flour and gently mix, without overworking the batter. Don’t worry if there are still any lumps. Either drip the batter or if you have one, slowly syringe the batter in to the hot oil. Swirl the batter around to loosen it and when the batter has taken on a light golden colour remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen towel and reserve. Do this in batches. The cooled tenkasu can be stored in an airtight container.
For the dashi broth: add the water and kombu to a small pan. Put on a low to medium heat to bring the liquid to a slow near boil. Just before it boils remove the pan from the heat and take out the kombu, discarding it. Now add the bonito flakes to the water and leave them for 15 minutes or so. Filter the flakes out using a fine sieve and the resulting liquid is your dashi broth.
For the Pancake batter: add all the ingredients to a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Let the batter stand in the fridge for 30 minutes before using.
For the pancake: to a bowl add a handful of cabbage, a quarter of the cooked baby octopus, a few slices of broken up pickled ginger, a couple of tablespoons of tenkasu and a quarter of the pancake batter. Mix well. Heat a tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a large heavy based frying pan or on a hot plate. Pour the pancake mix in to the pan and spread out to a 15-20cm circle. Cook for about 5 minutes or so and then carefully flip the pancake over. Cook for another couple of minutes.
Put the pancake on a serving plate. Spread a quarter of the okonomi sauce over the pancake, squeeze on some mayonnaise and sprinkle over some bonito flakes and sliced spring onion.