A traditional Japanese dish, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake often likened to a build-your-own pizza. Styles vary widely across different regions and cities in Japan; most versions include shredded cabbage and other popular toppings such as shaved bonito flakes, pork belly, squid and okonomiyaki sauce, with a flavor similar to Worcestershire. The dish takes its name from okonomi (“what you like”) and yaki (“grilled”), implying the myriad combinations.
Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs
Diners in Joplin, Missouri, know to expect the unexpected at Jason Miller’s Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs. In March, the hot dog and hamburger joint hosted a one-off pop up, dubbed Okonomiyaki, focused on Japanese street food. Miller offered both a traditional okonomiyaki topped with chopped squid, cabbage, Japanese mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, shredded nori and red pickled ginger and an “Americanized” version. Instead of squid, the latter included hamburger meat and Cheddar cheese, plus mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and finely diced housemade pickles. “It’s almost limitless – in America, they call it Japanese pizza,” Miller says. Diners can get another take on the dish: A bacon-wrapped okonomiyaki hot dog with slaw, pickled ginger, Japanese mayo and scallions was recently added to the menu.
Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs, 527 S. Main St., Joplin, Missouri, 417.206.3647, facebook.com/Instant-Karma-Gourmet-Hot-Dogs-172552359449409
Four years ago, Jenny Cleveland and Ed Heath added okonomiyaki to the menu at Cleveland-Heath in Edwardsville, Illinois, on a bit of a whim. They already had bonito flakes in the kitchen for dashi, and their then-new chef de cuisine, Rick Kazmer, suggested using them for okonomiyaki, as well. The chefs begin by topping pancake batter with shrimp, bacon and cabbage on the grill and letting it cook from the bottom. Next, they flip the pancake to finish cooking the shrimp and cabbage. The pancake is drizzled with Kewpie mayonnaise and housemade barbecue sauce with a touch of soy sauce and topped with sesame seeds, green onions and thinly shaved bonito flakes. “Those flakes are lighter than tissue paper, so the heat from the pancake causes them to kind of walk and move around,” Cleveland says. “The table freaks out a little bit because the dish is moving.”
Cleveland-Heath, 106 N. Main St., Edwardsville, Illinois, 618.307.4830, clevelandheath.com
Half & Half
In April, Mike Randolph and his Half & Half chef de cuisine, Dale Beauchamp, introduced one of the biggest menu updates ever at the breakfast-and-lunch spot. Randolph invited Beauchamp to get creative with Half & Half’s weekly brunch specials, including a take on okonomiyaki. For the pancake itself, Beauchamp used shredded napa cabbage, eggs, a blend of all-purpose and rice flours, bonito flakes and dashi. He topped it with Kewpie mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, anori, togarashi, pickled ginger and more bonito flakes. “Okonomiyaki is as much about the toppings as the pancake itself,” Beauchamp says. “It’s like a blank canvas for different flavors and textures.” Beauchamp plans on running another okonomiyaki special at the Clayton, Missouri, restaurant, this time with char siu pork and shrimp, as well as a Korean take with kimchi and bulgogi beef.
Half & Half, 8135 Maryland Ave., Clayton, Missouri, 314.725.0719, halfandhalfstl.com