I know what you're thinking. Okonomi-what? BUT you're gonna want to stick around, because this gluten free Okonomiyaki is something special.
I truly don't remember how I first heard about this traditional Japanese dish. I'm not sure if my sister (an avid anime and Japanese culture fan) first mentioned it to me, or if I read an article about it. Who knows?
Regardless, I was intrigued. Okonomiyaki is often described as a savory cabbage pancake. How could I not be interested?
I wrote it down as something to research eventually, and more or less forgot about it. Until one day when a food-centric newsletter I get had a whole article about a couple from Japan who were starting an okonomiyaki food truck. Okonomiyaki is traditionally seen as street food... In some ways, sort of like tacos. The base is the same (the "cabbage pancake" part), but you can customize it in endless ways to fit the flavors you want.
Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the toppings yet! So. Many. Topping. Options.
Anyway, I tried to keep things pretty basic for my gluten free version. Don't worry, I'll give you a bunch of tips to customize it based on your tastes.
I have to mention that true okonomiyaki uses grated Japanese yams. When grated, these yams essentially create a gelatinous substance that holds the pancake together. Yeah, I gave up trying to locate them in Fargo, North Dakota. Not exactly a mecca for exotic foods here!
So no yams in this version. Instead, I rely on potato starch and eggs to hold the whole thing together.
Maybe I should have mentioned this closer to the beginning... But if you're not totally sold simply on how intriguing this is, let me assure you: This did not taste like I was expecting. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from a savory cabbage pancake... But good golly gosh was it good. I mean, I ate three huge servings that first batch, and literally found myself craving more.
So. Try it. The ingredient list is relatively long, but there aren't many ingredients that are hard to track down. After all, we're starting with a base of cabbage, potato starch, eggs, and cassava flour! That said, don't skimp on the toppings and stuff. Omitting that would be like putting ground beef in a tortilla and calling it a taco. You need spices, toppings, etc. to really make this a drool-worthy meal!
Put Your Own Spin On It
You're always going to start with the same basic egg, potato starch, cabbage, cassava flour batter. But "Okonomi" stands for "what you wish", so feel free to customize it to your tastes!
- Add different spices, like shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice), kelp, wakame, or dulse. Add sriracha or crushed red pepper for a spicier version.
- Change up the sauces. I adored the two I made, but my husband didn't like the tomato-based sauce and preferred his serving with just the mayo.
- Choose different toppings, like kelp, dulse, etc. If you've never had bonito flakes, though, give them a try. They're full of umami awesomeness!
- Add mini shrimp or some other form of protein to the batter. You don't have to use pork belly or bacon, that's just the traditional way to make okonomiyaki.
Gluten Free Okonomiyaki
For the Okonomiyaki
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
- 5 eggs
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup potato starch
- ⅔ cup cassava flour
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
- ¼ teaspoon garlic
- ½ teaspoon black sesame seeds
- 1 sheet nori, crumbled (~¼ cup)
- ¼ cup sliced green onions
- 9-10 strips uncured bacon or pork belly, cut into 3-inch slices.
For the Mayo Drizzle
- ¼ cup paleo mayo
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
For the Sauce
- Bonito flakes, for garnish
- Sliced green onions, for garnish
- Prepare the mayo topping by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
- To make the sauce, add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. The sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.
- Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, water, potato starch, cassava flour, sea salt, black pepper, chili flakes, garlic, black sesame seeds, nori, and sliced green onions in a large bowl, mixing until a thick batter is formed. Add the thinly sliced cabbage and stir until the cabbage is coated evenly with the batter. It will seem like there’s not enough batter for all the cabbage...but keep stirring! Trust me, there’s enough.
- Drop a large scoopful of batter into the hot skillet. Use a spatula to flatten and form a pancake. Arrange 3-4 strips of bacon or pork belly on top of the pancake.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes, then carefully flip. The pancake should stick together as you flip it - if it doesn’t, you may need to turn up the heat a little to make sure it’s cooking! Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate, bacon side up. Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Garnish each pancake with drizzles of the mayo mixture and sauce. Sprinkle with bonito flakes and sliced green onions. Eat immediately!
- Serving Size: 1 large okonamiyaki
Keywords: Okonomiyaki, gluten free okonamiyaki