31 March 2011

Whatever You Like and a Hope for Goodness

I think it's no secret that I'm a big fan of Japanese food, actually, almost everything that hails from the land of the rising sun. Most of the time, I make Japanese-inspired versions of various foods (like this, this, this and most of my bentos. So, it's natural that I have an almost constant stock of ingredients that are commonly found in Japanese food. I especially like vegetables, and more specifically root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and what not. I've recently had a special affinity for 長いも or nagaimo (also called yamaimo or huai-shan and shan-yao in Mandarin). But of course, as with my family, a single nagaimo usually lasts too long, or should I say, doesn't keep long enough. A 4-inch long piece goes a long way, since I usually cook for myself, but supermarkets usually have them coming in about 16 inches.

My family doesn't appreciate my cooking very much, so I typically cook for just myself. While I usually used nagaimo in soups, curry, takikomi-gohan and once in a stir-fry with pork and miso, I was really quite glad to find yet another way to finish up my nagaimo before it ended up in the bin. I was told by CY, friend and one of the few supporters of this blog that nagaimo was used in okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki, literally a fried-something of whatever you like, is a savoury pancake of cabbage, batter and other ingredients. The best thing is, okonomiyaki was something that my whole family would really eat. For now, I have only a list of ingredients and a rough method since I seldom measure anything when cooking (it's probably best that I start soon, lest all my "recipes" turn out without measurements at all). It's as easy as a piece of pan-cake so basically you mix away with whatever you like! Here's what I use for mine.


Shredded cabbage (not too fine, I personally like the bit of crunch of partially uncooked cabbage)
Chopped spring onions (scallions)
Plain flour
Salt and pepper to season
Bacon or ham

- Mix flour, eggs and water in a large bowl to form a batter. I like to have it as a thinner batter than usual since addition of grated nagaimo would make it very thick and sticky.
- Stir in the shredded cabbage and spring onions. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- Peel the nagaimo and grate into the rest of the batter. Stir to mix well.
- In a frying pan with a little oil, ladle some batter and line pieces of bacon or ham on top of the pancake. Cover with a lid for awhile before flipping.

Okonomiyaki is usually served with a generous brushing of okonomiyaki sauce, a good squeeze of mayonnaise and sprinklings of aonori (seaweed powder) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Well, in my kitchen, I improvised my own "okonomiyaki sauce" from oyster sauce, ketchup and sugar and replaced aonori with erm, shredded seaweed snacks. It isn't as authentic as the real okonomiyaki, but I think it's good enough. As an alternative to my very vague explanations, you can check out the recipe here!


On the topic of Japan, it's been really saddening to watch the crisis unfold in Japan over the past few weeks. I've been to Japan thrice now, with the most recent just a month prior to the major earthquake that struck. It's heartbreaking therefore to witness the carnage and destruction unveil through Singapore's news and also live-streaming of Japanese news on the internet. More so, probably because of how the Japanese are coping with their utmost dignity and resilience.

Published last week on The Straits Times' supplementary magazine of Digital Life, a translated tweet from @7474529 read:

"A goth youth with white hair and body piercings walked into my store and shoved several hundred dollars (several tens of thousands of yen) into the disaster relief fund donation box. As he walked out, we heard him saying to his buddies: 'We can buy those games anytime!' ... ..."

In such a crisis, there's not a lot that we can do to help personally. But in such times, we can hope for goodness.

If you'd like to give something for the people in Japan, here are some links where you can visit to donate monetarily. You can also contact your local Red Cross for details of other ways in which you can help.

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami: 7 Simple Ways to Help


【Google Checkout】

【Japanese Red Cross】

【American Red Cross】

【International Medical Corps】


【Donate with Paypal】


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