By Kim Dannies
Many cultures have wonderful names for things that we simply don’t enjoy in English. For example, my favorite Arabic word is “taraadin,” which implies a happy solution for everyone: I win, you win. The Spanish have the delightful “duende” which blends the thrill of passion, energy, and artistic excellence together. The German “korinthenkacker” literally means raisin-pooper; it’s their humorous moniker for a pencil-pushing control freak. While English shares the word “aware,” the Japanese use it to convey an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of the world. “Aware” is that poignant sensation that time is passing and the cycle of life is inevitable, especially as the season changes.
I also love the Japanese word “okonomiyaki” (oh-ko-no-mi-yaki). Say that three times fast! These are crepe-style pancakes, studded with shrimp or chicken, and ribbons of scallion and cabbage. They are fun to say, fun to make and fun to eat. The name is derived from “okonomi” meaning “as you like it” and “yaki” which means grilled or cooked. Sometimes called Japanese pizza, the pancakes are soothing and hearty—the perfect springtime comfort food. My version is not necessarily authentic, possible combinations are as varied as what’s leftover in your fridge. Simply make it as you like it.
Whisk together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce (or to taste). Reserve. Pan toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden brown. Reserve separately.
Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancakes)
Whisk together: 5 eggs; 1 teaspoon soy sauce; 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/3 cup flour. Stir in 2 cups thinly chopped cabbage; 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced; 3/4 cup cooked, chopped shrimp.
In a large non-stick skillet, on medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons canola oil until it glistens. Ladle the batter in batches just like you would for small pancakes. Cook each side three minutes until golden brown. Repeat the process, adding more oil if needed. Reserve the cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter, covered in a 200-degree oven, until all the pancakes are cooked. Scatter sesame seeds over the platter of okonomiyaki, and serve with the spicy sauce. Makes approximately 12 pancakes.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters. Archived Everyday Gourmet columns are at kimdannies.com. Kim@kimdannies.com.