Okonomiyaki with sticky soy pork belly

Pork belly slow cooked to melting tender perfection in a bubbling bath of chicken stock, soy, honey, ginger, orange rind and juice.  Served on a savoury pancake spiked with pickled ginger, Chinese cabbage, potato and spring onions. Drizzled with a sweet sticky caramelised soy sauce and sprinkled with lightly toasted sesame seeds.  Best. Dinner. Ever.

I love love love weekend cookery.  As the weekend rapidly approaches my mind and greedy hunger sharply focuses on what I'll be conjuring up in the kitchen. It doesn't take me long to decide as my choice is usually a carnivorous one inspired by a trip to the butcher.  A lovely leg of lamb, rib of beef or plump chook are my usual picks but spotting this deliciously fatty pork belly in the window this weekend I couldn't say no.

Usually I equate pork belly with crackling. Every time.  But it's been done. I wanted to try something new. With that said I knew I wanted the belly to be braised, very slowly, to mouthwatering melting perfection and I knew Asian flavours needed to infuse the belly and caramelise to create a sticky soy sauce.  Then I remembered this recipe.  Okonomiyaki with sticky soy pork belly.  Sold.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake and is absolutely bloody beautiful. Really delicious. I have had these pancakes a couple of times and love them.  There texture is so appealing, reminds me of a dumpling.  The pancakes are cooked on a griddle and are usually flavoured with cabbage and anything else you like. In fact okonomiyaki is loosely translated to 'as you like it' pancake. 
The sweet soy aromas escaping the oven as the pork belly bathed and bubbled away were incredible.  But as our appetite and hunger pangs grew the beautiful soy aromas became a little torturous.  So we kept our belly's at bay by keeping busy and whipped up the pancakes.  I shredded a few cabbage leaves, finely sliced the pickled ginger, grated the potato and sliced the spring onions into rings and added it all to the batter.  Mixing it just enough to create a smooth savoury batter ready to be cooked.  And just as you would regular pancakes I griddled these for a few minutes, flipping half way until each side was wonderfully golden and crisp.  

When beautifully tender, I snuggled the pork under a foil tent to rest and poured the beautifully fragrant soy braising liquid into a saucepan to bubbly away further and reduce to a sweet sticky almost caramelised sauce, thick enough to cling to the sliced pork when drizzled over. 

R. and I were so excited for dinner.  We each grabbed a pancake, topped with the tender slices of juicy pork, drizzled over the caramelised sauce & finished with a little sprinkle of the golden sesame seeds.  With Grace fast asleep we snuggled on the sofa, with dinner perched on our laps, sipping wine and indulging in our weekend.

Okonomiyaki with sticky soy pork belly


450 gm (3 cups) plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 Chinese cabbage leaves, coarsely torn
3 spring onions, thinly sliced, plus extra to serve
1 small sebago potato, coarsely grated
2 tbsp finely chopped pickled ginger, plus extra to serve
50 ml vegetable oil
Sticky soy pork belly:
1 kg piece boneless pork belly
375 ml (1½ cups) chicken stock
125 ml (½ cup) soy sauce
90 gm (¼ cup) honey
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
Thinly peeled rind and juice of 1 orange
To serve:  
Japanese mayonnaise, togarashi (see note) and roasted sesame seeds


For sticky soy pork belly, preheat oven to 160C. Place pork in a roasting pan large enough to fit pork snugly. Stir remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat until combined and bring to the boil. Pour stock over pork, cover with foil and braise in oven until very tender (2-2½ hours). Remove pork from braising liquid, cut into chunks and set aside. Simmer half the braising liquid (discard remainder) over medium-high heat until reduced to a glaze (10-15 minutes), then add pork and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and 2 tsp sea salt in a large bowl, make a well in the centre, add eggs and gradually add 500ml cold water, stirring until smooth and combined. Stir in cabbage, onion, potato and pickled ginger and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Heat one-quarter of the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add large spoonfuls of the pancake batter, you should be able to cook six pancakes at a time depending on how big your frying pan is.  Cook until golden on the base and beginning to set on the surface (3-4 minutes). Turn pancakes and cook until cooked through (3-4 minutes), then transfer to an oven tray and keep warm while you repeat with remaining oil and pancake batter.

Top hot okonomiyaki with sticky soy pork belly, spring onion and pickled ginger, and drizzle with glaze. Serve Japanese mayonnaise, togarashi and roasted sesame seeds separately to add according to taste.  Enjoy. X

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