Many of my clients are big fans of the food documentaries on Netflix. Danielle and Jim have watched every episode of Chef's Table, and their favorite one was about Chef Ivan Orkin and his restaurant, Ivan Ramen—a New York City noodle restaurant that was influenced by his time in Japan.
Inspired by that episode, we created a workshop honoring Chef Ivan. We made ramen and broth from scratch. Dessert was a green tea financier cake with toasted white sesame. We tried three different kinds of sake, including nama saki (生酒), Nigori (Cloudy Sake) and Southern Beauty Junmai Daiginjo（南部美人純米大吟釀) . What pairs better with ramen than delicious sake? By the end of class, Danielle and Jim had learned how to read Kanji (漢字) and can now decode a sake label!
The documentary Street Food on Netflix is a current favorite. I enjoy watching it because street food was a big part of my childhood. I grew up in Taiwan, a tropical island state next to China. In my hometown of Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, street food was a part of our everyday life, from breakfast to late night snacks.
There are many amazing night markets in Taipei, which opened around 6 p.m. and were busy until past midnight. When I was little, every trip to a night market was like an adventure. There were game stalls like basketball stands, darts, pinball, claw machines, mahjong, goldfish catching, and water balloon shooting. The crowded markets were noisy with hawkers shouting, and fast-paced music playing over loudspeakers. I enjoyed playing those games and eating my way through the night market. When I moved to the United States, my first home was located in Chestnut Hill, a tranquil and safe suburban area outside Boston. I had difficulty getting used to how quiet it was!
Today I would like to share the recipe of okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a savory Japanese pancake. Okonomi means "as you like it" in Japanese. This is a popular street food in Japan that is easy to replicate in the US. Once you master making the pancake batter, you can add your own twist—throwing in whatever ingredients you have in your fridge. Thin-sliced pork belly is typically used in Japan. I have used hickory wood smoked bacon, and it came out delicious!
There are two styles of Okonomiyaki: Osaka (大阪) or Kansai (關西)-style and Hiroshima-style. The Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the most popular version of the dish, found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, grated nagaimo (a type of yam), water or dashi, eggs, and shredded cabbage. Other ingredients are mixed into the batter. They can be green onion, meat (generally thin pork belly, often mistaken for bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, konjac, mochi, or cheese. Okonomiyaki is sometimes compared to an omelette or a pancake and may be referred to as a "Japanese pizza" or "Osaka soul food."
The Hiroshima-style ingredients are layered rather than mixed. The layers are typically batter, cabbage, pork, and optional items such as squid, octopus, and cheese. Noodles (yakisoba, udon) are also used as a topping with fried egg and a generous amount of okonomiyaki sauce.
Today, I'm going to share Osaka-style okonomiyaki, which requires fewer ingredients and is easier to cook at home. If you're interested in learning more about street food in Osaka, check out Street Food's Osaka episode on Netflix.
- 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup Rice Flour
- 1/2 tea spoon. Sugar
- 1/4 t. Kosher Salt
- 1/4 t. Baking Powder
- 1/4 cup. Beer with 1 Table spoon Hondashi water dissolved in it
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 lb. chopped Green Cabbage
- 1/8 cup Scallions sliced thin
- 1/2 t. each finely minced Garlic and Ginger
- 1/4 lb. Pork Belly sliced thin
- Tonkatsu Sauce
- Kewpie Mayonnaise
- Katsuobushi bonito flakes
- Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and Hondashi water, then add to the flour. DO NOT OVERMIX. THIS IS LIKE PANCAKE BATTER.
- Add the cabbage, scallions, garlic, and ginger to the batter and mix with your hands to ensure no overmixing.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add pork belly to it. Render out fat and cook until crispy, add in half of the batter, and cook for 3 minutes on medium heat until a nice browning has occurred on the bottom side. Then flip over and repeat the process on the opposite side.
- Once the pancake is cooked all the way through and crispy on both sides, remove it from the pan and put it on a platter.
- Crisscross drizzle of kewpie and tonkatsu sauce and then sprinkle on katsuobushi.
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Melissa is 100% MIT (Made in Taiwan), where she worked as a food writer. She’s also worked alongside renowned chefs like Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang, honing her craft and gathering stories along the way. Part story-teller, part educator, and part food lover, Melissa brings a special blend of experience, skill, and enthusiasm to her work. She blends her Asian background, her new home of New England, and love of food and culture to bring joy, optimism, and inspiration to food lovers and fun-seekers everywhere.
What sparked your passion for the industry?
The desire to make things by hand. The joy of sharing delicious, hearty food with students. The opportunity for people to get connected via cooking and baking. When a child smiled broadly and told me it’s the best scone he has ever made and eaten, it really made my day!
In your opinion, what’s the most important course?
Well, I usually take a peek at the wine list first. I like tapas style, so the course doesn’t really matter. Cheese and charcuterie are always a good place to start. And since I’m a pastry chef, there is always room for dessert!
Bill Gates is picking up your tab, where would you go?