Gluten-free Baking in Japan: Classic Rice Flour Pancakes Recipe

June 8th, 2012 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Brown Rice, Dairy, Gluten Free in Japan, Gluten-free Japanese Label Reading, Pancake, Rice, Soy Free, Travel, gluten-free international travel 8 Comments »

Hello from Mutsu City, Aomori Prefecture Japan!

Dear Readers, I’m sure that many of you have wondered what on earth happened to me. Around the end of May I actually got on a plane with the DH and dear Toddler Yum in tow and flew to Japan for a three month fieldwork trip for my dissertation. Preparation kept me quite busy initially, and then once I arrived in Japan I found myself extremely busy going to my field site, doing surveys and interviews, and then trying to keep myself fed and cared for. Not only that, when I’m not actually in the field but come down to our monthly apartment, Toddler Yum has been a busy girl requiring my attention. I started her in a Japanese daycare, and it has been a wonderful, enriching experience but also brought its own difficulties. My dear girl is learning some Japanese and about Japanese culture and loving it- but separating from Mommy in the morning has been a trial. We’ve had to bust out the favorite “Llama Llama Misses Mama” book for some of the bad days, and gone back to drawing Mini Mama and Mini Grandma on her hand to keep her company. She has a little uniform that is so cute, though. And luckily she seems to be doing well on a wheat-diet, so can eat the delicious, healthy, handmade lunches they make at her pre-school. My girl loves Japanese food!

Me in the Field, being Visited by Toddler Yum

I love Japanese food too, but my food options are severely limited. As usual, while living in Japan I consume seafood, but it is quite a challenge to avoid wheat when soy sauce is used to season pretty much all of the convenience prepared foods and flavors most restaurant dishes. I can’t buy any prepared gluten-free baked foods, but I brought things like gluten-free pasta from home, as well as a few baking mixes and brown rice flour. Over the past month, I’ve been experimenting. This morning my Dad (who joined us when the DH had to return home for work) made me these awesome gluten-free pancakes. All you need is one burner, so they are good for the gluten-free girl (or guy) on the road or even in a dorm room. I’ve also been experimenting with baking in the toaster oven (our apartment doesn’t have a regular oven) and have come up with an excellent mini banana bread recipe that I will be sharing soon.

In other Blog News:
I’m sure many of you have given up hope about the Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger Event, but starting this month some dear gluten-free blogger friends are stepping in and helping to host the event.

Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger Event Schedule
June: Shannon of Enjoying Gluten-free Life
Live: Signups for Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger!

July: Sunny of And Love it Too
August: Alta of Tasty Eats at Home

I’ll be back hosting in September! Thanks ladies, you are lifesavers!

Here’s the ingredients I bought in Japan to make this recipe! You can buy all of the ingredients in the States, too, so no worries.

*I brought the Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice flour from home. You may be able to find brown rice flour in Japan, but I haven’t found one that wasn’t packaged in bulk with gluten items yet… If you live in Japan and are frustrated by your inability to find safe brown rice flour, you can substitute more white rice flour for the brown OR grind brown rice with a good mill to make your own gluten-free brown rice flour for this recipe.*
Note the milk in the picture. If you don’t buy lowfat milk in Japan, you’re likely end up with some VERY thick and creamy milk. Delicious if you like cream… and it certainly it makes a delicious latte, but it is quite the figure-buster. lol. I learned early on in my Japanese life to seek out the lowfat stuff for drinking and baking. I’ll be making a dairy-free version for Toddler Yum using the easily available soy-milk or the soy-almond milk, and I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Read Japanese Labels for Gluten-free Shopping in Japan!

White Rice Flour / Kome Ko
I found this in an unusually large bag at a Japanese chain store called Sanwado found in the Tohoku region of Japan and Hokkaido. [English review of Sanwado in Misawa]
I love this store, which is like a combo between Walmart and a very small Costco. I found large, American-size cans of Chickpeas and Red Kidney Beans, neither of which are typically available in Japan, and if they are available are typically expensive and only sold in small quantities. I also can buy thai rice paper wraps, rice noodles, and cans of veggie green curry there. Yay!

Note that this rice flour is NOT mochi rice flour or sweet rice flour, but like the regular rice flour sold by Ener-g Foods or Bob’s Red Mill. It is 100% rice flour (wetland) and doesn’t have a notice about wheat being produced in its factories so should be a pretty pure source.

Almond Flour/ Almond Powder
I was surprised to find Almond flour, aka Almond Powder, in Japan, sold with the cake ingredients. I have seen large bags (I think at Sanwado) but purchased this small bag that was sold next to the cake sprinkles. It also doesn’t have a warning about shared production lines.

The Homemade Cake brand is owned by Kyoritsu Foods. They have many different products including gluten-ones. I’m not sure how the packaging happens, but since they don’t have a warning about wheat production lines, the risk of cross contamination seems fairly low. They do mention that dairy products are produced in the same factory, for any who might be concerned. The quality is similar to Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder
I was surprised to find this baking soda at the “hyakku En Shoppu” Daiso, which is like a Japanese dollar store. It was reasonably priced. I found the baking powder in a regular grocery store, but wouldn’t recommend this particular brand as it has a warning that wheat products are produced in the same factory.

Gluten-free Pancakes in Japan
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. apple vinegar
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1 tbsp. almond powder (almond flour)
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsp. melted butter
Combine milk and vinegar in a large bowl and let it sit until it thickens slightly and the milk turns sour.

Combine your dry ingredients (brown rice flour, white rice flour, almond powder, sugar, baking powder and salt) in a medium bowl. Whisk together until ingredients are

Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat (or use your favorite cast iron pan with a little butter or oil as needed).

Add your egg and melted butter to the vinegar-thickened milk and whisk together. Gradually add your combined dry ingredients to the wet (egg, butter, milk, vinegar) and gently fold together.

Using a 1/4 cup measure for each pancake, pour up to 3 pancakes in your pan at a time. When the pancake gets bubbles on the top, after about 30 seconds, turn them over. When the second side is brown, remove from the pan and repeat.


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Okonomiyaki as I like it

March 20th, 2007 yum Posted in Japanese, Pancake, Seafood 10 Comments »

okonomiyakislice.jpgIt is only very rarely that I truly regret not being able to eat wheat, but the first time I saw okonomiyaki being prepared on a grill in Japan, I have to admit, I was jealous. Okonomiyaki has been called the pizza of Japan, or the “as you like it” pancake. The base is made from shredded cabbage, flour, water, and sometimes egg, although proportions and additional seasonings vary with the chef. Toppings can vary wildly, and the offerings at an Okonomiyaki shop are as diverse, if not more so, than at the most gourmet pizza place in the States. The dish itself is fairly new, having been developed around the war due to scarcity of food ingredients, but is now an established part of the food landscape in Japan. Okonomiyaki shops themselves are fun, lively places, often popular with the younger set (including my former students- senior high school students.) Each table generally has its own teppen grill and condiments and toppings set within reach. You can order your okonomiyaki and have the ingredients brought to you so that you can make it yourself, or have the shop experts construct it for you. Either way, it’s a social and delicious way to spend an afternoon or evening. Unfortunately, not being able to eat wheat meant that I couldn’t fully participate in the restaurant okonomiyaki experience, but I could (and did) figure out how to make it at home for our own Okonomiyaki parties. The trickiest part was the sauce, which is absolutely essential to the experience, but luckily I came across an excellent recipe online and have been making it ever since! Oh, and for a really divine experience, try Homemade Mayonnaise on your Okonomiyaki.

For any vegetarian readers, although I have not made this recipe vegetarian, it would be easy to do so. For vegans, Ener-g foods egg substitute could be used instead of eggs, and water or shitake broth could be substituted for the dashi in the sauce and batter. Sautee your favorite vegetables as toppings. Cheese is another fun addition for non vegans. Leave off the bonito flakes and top with sauce, mayonnaise, and ao nori seaweed flakes for a delicious, veggie version. (There are several brands of gluten free vegan mayonnaise- and you could also try my posted eggplant mayonnaise for a really creative twist.) Here is a creative vegetarian (though not GF) version of Okonomiyaki, by one of my favorite Expat food bloggers.

This recipe actually makes quite a lot of batter- you can cut it in half, leave the batter in the fridge and make some the next day (adding liquid as needed, as it will get thicker with time), or prepare the whole recipe and keep the okonomiyaki bases in the fridge for later. (Don’t top them with any sauce- just leave them plain. Slice them for lunch “pizzas” and bring along a little container of sauce, mayo, and flake toppings… Then microwave them briefly, top as if they were fresh, and enjoy!) It might be possible to freeze them, but I haven’t tried it, personally.

View regional variations on okonomiyaki and recipes offered by a Japanese food company

Kansai or Osaka Style Okonomiyaki has the ingredients mixed into the batter and is found throughout Japan.

“The batter is made of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as Welsh onion, meat (generally pork or bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, kimchi, mochi or cheese.Ookonomiyaki is prepared much like a pancake. …The batter and other ingredients are fried on both sides on either a hot plate (teppan) or a pan using metal spatulas that are later used to slice the dish when it has finished cooking. Cooked okonomiyaki is topped with ingredients that include okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter), nori, fish flakes, mayonnaise and ginger.” (Source: Wikipedia)

When Kansai style Okonomiyaki “is served with sliced cabbage and a layer of fried noodles (either ramen or udon) worked into the mix, it is called modanyaki. (Modern grill)” (Source: Wikipedia) Obviously wheat based ramen or udon won’t work for us gluten free folks, but you could easily try it with corn or rice noodles.

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki involves layering ingredients rather than mixing them together, and is often topped with noodles and fried egg.
Here is a blurb about its history:
“The roots of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki lie in something called “Issen youshoku” (one-penny Western food) that spread across western Japan like cheap candy before the war. Wheat flour was mixed with water and spread in a circle on a griddle. Chopped green onions and such were sprinkled on top, then the concoction was folded in half and served. This proved to be an extremely popular dish. As the name implied, you could buy it for one “sen” (1/100 of a yen), which at the time could purchase two large lollipops. And it made a perfect afternoon snack for children. From these beginnings, meat and cabbage were added to the mix after the war and the modern Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki was born.” (source: Hiroshima Okonomiyaki Shop Waka Taka)

Fun With Okonomiyaki Videos!

The video (in Japanese) on the left is a clip from the Japanese drama “The Man who can’t get Married,” Summer 2006. Our hero (the man who can’t get married) is at a popular Okonomiyaki restaurant. It begins with his dining companion stirring the okonomiyaki. The protagonist (or should I say, antagonist), gives her detailed instructions on how to make Okonomiyaki. Tired of his suggestions and intimidated by his specialized knowledge of Okonomiyaki making, she finally says, “I’ve totally lost my confidence, you do it.” He takes the bowl from her, finds she has stirred it badly, stirs it properly and begins to grill the okonomiyaki on the teppen grill. Note how he flourishes the metal spatulas and turns the okonomiyaki because the heat may be unevenly distributed. When it is done he spreads it with okonomiyaki sauce and sprinkles blue seaweed (ao nori) and bonito fish flakes on top. She asks, “Hey, how about mayonnaise,” and he cuts that idea short. She apologizes for suggesting it. She takes a bite at last, saying “Oishii!!!!” (delicious) and he snipes, “It was made in such a way as to make it delicious.” Such a charmer.

Here is another great video in Japanese that I found on YouTube which is taken in an okonomiyaki restaurant in Japan. This particular version is quite nouveau as it contains big blocks of cheese, which is melted and then topped with more batter and finally topped with a Shiso (perilla) leaf. Watch the experts at work! Note how the okonomiyaki sauce is brushed on. Next the server asks if the customers want Mayonnaise, to which they reply, “We Absolutely Do”… The final shot is of another okonomiyaki topped with shredded green onion (or similar vegetable) and a poached egg.

And finally, a video in ENGLISH by a sweet guy who just wants to show English Speakers how to make (mini) okonomiyaki.

doughcookin.jpg okonomiyakiwholepln.jpg okonomiyakiwsauce.jpg okonomiyakiwhole2.jpg

Visit Odds that Never End, to see one family’s variation of my okonomiyaki recipe… It was a big hit! Yay!

Okonomiyaki Japanese As you Like It Pancake
Basic Ingredients:
1/2 lg head green cabbage; finely chopped
1/4 c finely chopped green onions
2 1/2 c Gluten Free Blend by Bette Hagman (or preferred flour)
4-6 tbsp dashi (stock made from bonito fish flakes)
2 c water (add more as needed- dough should be like slightly thick pancake batter)
4 eggs
1 tsp xanthan gum
oil for frying
optional: 4 ts Beni-shoga (red pickled ginger- dark pink and already sliced into sticks)

Some Possible Additions:
(seafood- or meats, if you are so inclined)
Octopus, Squid, Prawns, Scallops, Fresh tuna cubes
Onion, Mushroom, Sliced Green Beans, Tofu… anything!

All of these things should be in bite-sized pieces.

1/2 c (homemade) okonomiyaki sauce
1/2 c mayonnaise (in squeeze bottle)
4 ts aonori; (dried green seaweed flakes)
4 ts katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

1. Thoroughly mix cabbage, flour, dashi, water, eggs, ginger and onions in large bowl.

2. Heat lightly greased griddle or skillet over low to medium heat. Saute any meat or seafood ingredients that need to be well done. Remove from pan, clean, and lightly oil.

3. Ladle approximately 1 cup batter onto hot griddle into a circle. Add about 1/3 cup of desired ingredients (from seafood, vegetable categories etc.) on top of the batter. I like to add strips of pickled ginger on the top.

4. Cook until bottom of okonomiyaki starts to color and edges become firm. Using multiple spatulas, loosen okonomiyaki and flip it over. Cook until bottom has turned light golden and center is firm, about 6 to 8 minutes.

5. To garnish, squeeze 2 tablespoons okonomiyaki sauce back and forth over surface of each okonomiyaki. Then alternate strips of Japanese mayonnaise to add color contrast and rich flavor. Sprinkle each okonomiyaki with 1 teaspoon aonori, then 1 teaspoon katsuobushi. Watch the bonito flakes wilt because of the heat!

6. Using spatula, cut each okonomiyaki into 4 slices. You may need to use both spatulas to pull pieces apart. Serve immediately. Repeat until all batter is used.

Okonomiyaki sauce from scratch
2 tb tomato puree
2 tb ketchup
1/3 c worcestershire sauce (I prefer the mild Japanese brand, Bulldog)
3 tb wheat free tamari (or soy sauce)
1 ts sugar
7 tb dashi (made from katsuobushi fish flakes, this is central to Japanese cooking)
2 tb cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1. Bring tomato puree, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, sugar and dashi to boil in saucepan over high heat.
2. Add cornstarch mixture,a little at a time, and cook until thickened to the texture of ketchup.
3. Cool before serving.

All prepared okonomiyaki sauces contain wheat from wheat based soy sauce, so this is a great recipe to have. I simmer it and then let it cool before pouring it into a squirting mustard type bottle. It keeps reasonably well, too. You probably want to make the sauce a while before you actually want to eat okonomiyaki… it’s nice to have on hand, too. This recipe is derived from the out of print “Practical Japanese Cooking” by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata.

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