One of the spring vegetables I look forward to all winter is the cabbage. Cabbage, of course, is a ubiquitous vegetable that’s available year-round, but the ones that come out in spring are special. Loosely wound and lightweight, the leaves are tender, slightly sweet and full of moisture; they’re great in salads and coleslaws, as well as simply salted and combined with a little citrus peel for an instant pickle, not to mention quick stir-fries.
Sunny yellow eggs make me think of springtime, too. Tonpeiyaki is a much easier cousin of the okonomiyaki (griddle-cooked savory pancake). Instead of making a batter with flour and grated mountain yam as for okonomiyaki, a simple egg omelette is used to wrap a quickly stir-fried pork (the ton in tonpeiyaki means pork) and cabbage filling. Using egg has the added benefit of making the dish gluten-free and low-carb.
Typically, tonpeiyaki is smothered with sweet brown okonomiyaki sauce and lashings of mayonnaise, but you can make it lighter by simply drizzling it with a little soy sauce instead. I do think that adding lots of katsuobushi (skipjack tuna flakes), scallions and pickled ginger is a must in any case. This homey dish is a great drinking snack or makes a quick meal when paired with a bowl of rice. This version has bacon for even more flavor.
Serves 2 to 4
Prep: 10 mins.; cook: 10 mins.
For the filling:
• 200 grams spring cabbage leaves, cores removed
• White parts of 3 scallions
• 150 grams thinly sliced pork belly
• 2 slices bacon
• Salt and black pepper
For the omelette:
• 4 large eggs
• Salt and pepper
• Vegetable oil for cooking
• Toppings: katsuobushi, shredded beni-shōga (red pickled ginger), minced scallions; and your choice of okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise or soy sauce
1. Finely shred the cabbage using a knife or a mandoline. Slice the white part of the green onions and finely mince the green parts. Cut the pork belly and bacon into bite-sized pieces.
2. Heat up a frying pan over medium heat and add the pork and bacon. Stir-fry until the pork changes color and the bacon starts to become crispy. Add the cabbage and the white parts of the scallions and stir-fry until crisp-tender. Lightly season with salt and pepper, and remove from the pan.
3. Beat the eggs with a large pinch of salt and black pepper.
4. Wipe out the frying pan, and heat up ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. With half the egg mixture, pan-fry a flat omelette, taking care not to overcook it. Slide the omelette onto a plate, and top with the pork-cabbage mixture.
5. Make a second omelette with the other half of the egg mixture, and put it on top of the pork-cabbage mixture. Top with okonomiyaki or Japanese Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise — or a light drizzle of soy sauce. Add on plenty of katsuobushi flakes, the minced green scallion and red pickled ginger. Cut into wedges with a spatula. Serve piping hot. Alternatively, you can divide the filling into two and wrap each in an omelette to serve individually.
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