Home Cooking: Japanese Style

Japanese Feast, Okonomiyaki in foreground. Photo: Katharine Boston

Yes, I’ve been cooking up a storm here.  I recently hosted a delightful woman from Japan.  She stayed with me for 8 days; I delivered 3 hours of English tuition and 3 meals, every day. It was fun, and tiring, and rewarding – in many ways – not the least of which was receiving lessons in Japanese cooking!

Motoko was particular when it came to preparing Japanese food: we needed precision, in everything from how the rice was cooked and fluffed, to how the Okonomiyaki was spiced! Interesting to learn that one does NOT stir the rice to fluff, rather one cuts it with slashes deep into the cooked rice.  Not sure I mastered that, but it’s something I’ll work on.

One evening she prepared a meal of veggie sushi, which was complemented with a Japanese-style omelette known as Okonomiyaki.  The sushi wasn’t complicated, rather fiddly.  The veggies had to be cut to an exact thickness, the rice flavoured with Sushi vinegar, and the resulting sushi served with Yamasa sushi soya sauce, and of course wasabi.

Katsuobushi (image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katsuobushi)

The Okonomiyaki had to be seasoned with Katsuobushi – dried  ‘fish slices’ – purchased at the local Asian market, and a special seasoning brought from Japan. It was such a hit at our small dinner party, I asked to be taught how to make it.  Simple ingredients resulting in a delicious dish!  But of course, it includes that fishy Japanese seasoning, sprinkled with Katsuobushi, Okonomi sauce, and Japanese style mayonnaise.  NO, you cannot use Kraft Miracle Whip!

Here’s the recipe to make 2 omelets, which will serve 4 as a main course to complement the sushi, or 8 as a side dish.

  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 and 1/8 to 1 and 1/3 cups water (you have to add and stir and decide)
  • 1/3 tsp Ajinomoto Okonomiyaki spice (ask for it in your Asian Market)
  • 1-1 and 1/2 cups finely diced green cabbage
  • 1/4 to  1/2 cup finely diced white or spring onion
  • 1 cup fish slices (ask for in that same Asian market)
  • Okonomi sauce
  • REAL mayonnaise

Beat the eggs in medium size bowl.  Add the flour, Ajinomoto Okonomiyaki spice, cabbage, and onions; then add the water = enough to make a medium thick pancake type sauce. Mix all together with a fork. Heat, over medium-high heat,  a little oil in a medium size non-stick pan. Pour in half the cabbage mixture and cook until set enough to turn.  This is the tricky bit: cook it not so much as to burn it, yet enough to lightly toast and set it so that you can flip it without it falling apart.  (Motoko did this without a spatula, flipping it by merely holding the pan by the handle and well, flipping it! A sight to behold!  I used a spatula, of course.) Cook the other side till it’s done.  She knew it was cooked by listening: holding her ear close to the pan.  I did the same, and yes, you can tell when it’s cooked through because it  doesn’t sizzle as much.) Slide out of the pan onto a plate and drizzle – in a criss-cross, tic-tac-toe pattern – with Okonomi sauce, mayonnaise in the same pattern, the sprinkle with 1/2 the fish slices. Cut into pie slices and serve warm. Incredible!

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