Thursday, 31 January 2013

Japanese pancake

The other day while walking around Brick Lane market, amongst the many street food stalls offering dishes from countless cultures, we came across some Japanese women cooking what looked very much like Swiss Rösti but made with cabbage. This is my effort at recreating it. The original did not contain potato but was topped with a sticky sweet brown sauce, called "special sauce".

Being Welsh I have a radell, a very heavy cast iron flat griddle used for cooking Welsh cakes amongst other things. I heat it up on the stove top before placing loaves of bread on to bake in the oven. It has also been used in the making of very many pizzas, it's the ideal tool for cooking this dish, but a heavy based frying pan will also work, just be careful to have it on a gentle heat and take the time it needs to cook the "pancake". I see from my searches on the internet, the dish is called Okonomiyaki, recipes usually contain flour but I have made this version using only grated potato as a starch, making it more accessible to people who shun gluten. 

For this you will need
1 cup of finely shredded sprouting broccoli
1 large potato grated on the largest hole of a box grater
1 tablespoon of tahini
50g of grated cheese
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Begin by grating the potato and squeezing out as much extra moisture as you can. In a large bowl add the potato to the remaining ingredients leaving the cheese to sprinkle on top when the disc has been turned, mix thoroughly. Meanwhile have a heavy based pan heating up gently. place the whole of the mixture (if the pan is large enough) in a disc on the pan. Add a little oil to the pan, you can divide the mixture into two and cook two smaller discs. Cover with a saucepan lid so that the heat is retained. Cook for 5 minutes or so until the base is nicely browned. Turn the disc over carefully to cook on the other side. I have a large pizza slice which makes this action very easy, but making smaller discs may be a way of getting around having nothing larger than a fish slice. Sprinkle the cheese on top and replace the cover to cook for a further five minutes.

I added some soy sauce to some ginger plum chutney I made last year, it seemed to make the perfect brown sauce to spread thinly on top. A final squirt of aioli on top and it looked very much like the delicious okonomiyaki we enjoyed on Sunday.

You can substitute any brassica you fancy in this dish, just make sure it's finely shredded.


  1. My daughters and I spent a weekend late last year cooking a Korean feast. My daughters are very adventurous cooks and tend to hurl themselves into new cuisines full on...we cooked 12 recipes and sampled them all. These pancakes are very similar to a Korean recipe that we tried. Not too sure what the "special sauce" would be, but my guess is that it would contain soy in some form. Thank you for sharing this recipe :)

    1. I think Korea and Japan have shared cuisine to some extent. I made another of these for my supper this evening, making a depression to hold an egg which cooked perfectly in ten minutes while the whole thing was covered with a lid. The sauce was slightly sweet, sour and salty so adding soy to the chutney which was already very finely minced worked well. Happy cooking, Tôbi.

    2. That sounds delicious. I will have to pass that version on to my daughters to try. It sounds like you got the balance of that sauce just right. That's the thing about Japanese cooking, it is so very elegant but incredibly precise, no room for just slapping something on a plate, I love the ceremony and theatre that goes with the cuisine. They do some amazing fast food though and usually it is very healthy :)