Virtuous Japanese pizza

11 May

The first time I ever had Japanese pizza it was the real thing. A college housemate from Japan made the traditional okonomiyaki, complete with seasoned pork, seafood, seaweed and drizzles of mayonnaise and sugary brown sauce on top. It was delicious. I have always carried that memory in my heart and have a fervent desire to eat that sweet, salty, satisfying dish again one day.

This is not that. But this dish also haunts my late-morning daydreaming about what I would eat if I could eat anything right now. And it has the added bonus of being something that I can actually make myself with ingredients I can find here in my small corner of the Middle East.

My friend Jamie introduced me to this recipe, after I introduced her to 101 Cookbooks. Jamie eats an extremely low-carb diet for health reasons. She suggested we try making this recipe with some easy low-carb modifications. It was delicious and filling. Since that first time, I’ve made this recipe, both low-carb and standard, for many friends. It is a great dish for getting people into the kitchen and putting their food together to their own tastes. Even if it isn’t the “real thing,” it still fulfills the okonomi definition of “as you like.” It works best for groups of 2-4, if it’s only you frying the cabbage/egg bases, though it can be scaled up easily with more pans and willing hands.

Virtuous Japanese pizza
Makes 4 8-inch pizzas
Serves 2 hungry girls

4 cups shredded cabbage (you can use green or red, but the red stays a little tougher and turns purplish)
2 cups onions or green onions, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, shredded (optional, for color)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour (or soy flour for the low-carb option)
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying
Toppings may include pesto, tomato paste or sauce, tapenade, sliced mushrooms, chopped vegetables, chopped nuts, and shredded or cubed cheese.


I usually like to start with a base of something spreadable, then top with some veggies and a sprinkling of cheese. Here, the saltiness of the locally produced nablusi cheese (something of a cross between halloumi and feta) goes really well with the milder taste of the cabbage-egg base.

Gently toss the vegetables together in a large bowl. Sprinkle in flour and salt and continue to toss until coated lightly.

Mix in eggs, gently folding until the texture is evenly sticky.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Put about 1 cup of the mixture in the pan, pressing down and out with a tablespoon so it reaches the edges and is about ½-3/4 inch thick.

Once you’ve pressed the base to cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium. Fry until the bottom is browned nicely, about 3-5 minutes.

Next, you will use a plate to flip the base. First remove the pan from the heat. Place a plate larger than the pan face down over the pan. Using kitchen towels or mitts, flip the pan and plate over while holding them together. You will now have a plate holding a half-cooked base, browned side up. Gently slide the base back into the pan and place it over medium heat, so it can continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil or baking sheet.

Place your desired combination of toppings on the cooked cabbage-egg base.

Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until toppings are glistening warm and fragrant. I serve these whole with a knife and fork, as individual “pizzas.” But you can also cut them up for sharing as finger food as well. Move to plate and enjoy!

Inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Japanese Pizza at 101 Cookbooks.

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One Response to “Virtuous Japanese pizza”

  1. Katie May 12, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    Lovely blog! Okonomiyaki- delicious, easy to follow recipe- will be trying this out for sure. Makes me homesick … for well a great Okonomiyaki restaurant in London. Keep up the mumtastic work!

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