Experimenting in Making Art and Cooking: Site Update and Okonomiyaki

Today I thought I would share new developments in my artwork and my cooking!

Until recently, the only artwork I was showing on my website was my paintings from books.  I finally found the time to fill in the gap and added a new portfolio section which includes other pieces — both old and new.

                Melissa Iwai 2010 Copyright

I just finished illustrating a picture book written by my husband, Denis Markell, that will be published next fall by Simon and Schuster.  It was a really fun and challenging experience because I approached it differently and used line work painted with India ink along with my acrylic painting.  Working with Denis was great.  We bounce ideas off of each other constantly.  So it was a true collaboration with the author, unlike when I illustrate other authors’ books.    I work independently with the editor and art director, and sometimes I never even meet the person who wrote it!

I can’t show any samples from the book I did with Denis until it’s published, but it’s led me to do other pieces using the same technique which can be found here.

Melissa Iwai 2011 Copyright
Hopefully we’ll have more projects together in the future!

I have also been playing around with painting in thinner layers so my colors reproduce brighter.  There was always a problem when I was painting in thick acrylic layers dark to light, layering colors on top of each other.  I’ve always felt that the printed versions of the originals were always much darker and not as vibrant.  They can easily look “muddy” and dark, especially if the printing is not well done.


I have been recently painting with acrylics and dyes using watercolor and gouache techniques.  I use little or no layering and I paint light to dark.  I’ve been having fun using liquid frisket (which is why I had so much lying around to make my flesh wound!) and regular acetate frisket as well.

Melissa Iwai 2011 Copyright

I’d love to hear from you– Are you a painter?  What medium do you use?  Do you like to experiment with other art making techniques? 

I’m always fascinated to hear how other people create art. πŸ™‚

Now, on to food and cooking — another art form!  Actually this dish is pretty much a classic example of individual expression.  The name “Okonomiyaki” translates to “grilled/cooked to one’s liking”.

Isn't it purrrty?

Okonomiyaki is usually associated with Osaka but it can be found throughout  Japan.  I’ve heard it called a Japanese Pizza, but it’s really more like a Latke, because it’s made up of shredded cabbage and other vegetables.  You can also add  meat or seafood to it.  I’ve even seen a version with bacon.   It is bound together with a mixture of egg, dashi (Japanese soup stock), and okonomi flour.


I was never a big eater of Okonomiyaki when I lived briefly in Japan, but recently, I’ve become obsessed with it, and I’ve been experimenting and making it several times a week for lunch or dinner.    It is such comfort food for me.  The textures and flavors are great.

This  is my version that I came up with — I use soy sauce in place of the stock with a bit of water, and I use plain flour in a smaller amount instead of the okonomi flour.  I also semi steam it to cook it, so I can get away with less oil.

It’s a single serving and a perfect quick meal.  I have bagged frozen shrimp and chopped spinach in my freezer.  I thaw four shrimp in a bowl of cold water and nuke the spinach for 55 seconds while  I chop the raw vegetables and prepare the batter and sauce.  Then I shell and devein the shrimp and chop into pieces.  Everything is stirred together with the batter and fried on the stove.

It’s commonly eaten with mayonnaise, okonomi sauce (I use a mixture of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce), furikake (rice seasoning which comes in different flavors), dried bonito flakes.  This one is with the ketchup Worcestershire mixture and furikake (my favorite is a combo of sesame seeds, dried seaweed and salt).Okonomiyaki (my version)
2 1/2 oz. finely shredded cabbage (about one cup)1 oz. (about 1/3 of a carrot) grated carrot

1 oz. onion (about 2 tablespoons finely chopped

1/4 cup steamed spinach (I nuke some frozen bagged spinach)

4 large shrimp (I use bagged Kirkland frozen– I just grab 4 and thaw them in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes while I am chopping the vegetables.  Then I shell and de-vein), chopped

1 egg and about 2 tablespoons egg white

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon water

12 g flour (about 1 heaping tablespoon)

1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided

For garnish:

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 -2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)

sprinkle of rice seasoning (furikake)

1.  Mix veggies and shrimp in a bowl.  Whisk egg, soy, water and flour in another bowl.

raw ingredients

2.  Coat veggies with egg mixture.

coated with egg

3.  Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet.  Pour everything in and flatten like a pancake.  Cover and cook on low for about 2 minutes.  Loosen with a spatula.  Put a plate on top of skillet and flip over so pancake lands on plate.  Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil in empty skillet.  Slide pancake back in raw side down.  Cover and cook another 2 minutes or so.  Remove to plate.

In skillet

4.  Garnish with sauce  (just mix the ketchup and Worcestershire together) and extra seasonings if desired.

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6 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Lunch, Vegetables

6 responses to “Experimenting in Making Art and Cooking: Site Update and Okonomiyaki

  1. hi, i’m interested in your post above. i read that you ever lived briefly in Japan. therefore i wanna know more about japan, especially tourism destination. could you give me some information about it? what are they? how much money do i need to get there? an off course restaurant or cafe which offer delicious japan meals.
    and if you don’t mind please giving your comment in my account in wordpress (twinkleagency).
    tq so much…:)

  2. Great meal! Beautiful artwork, Melissa! I have to show this to my daughter, she loves drawing for he kiddie books. Have a wonderful rest of the week πŸ™‚

  3. Just discovered your blog.. and you are an amazing artist! I love looking at other people’s art work. πŸ™‚ I’m not an artist but a designer…. I can’t draw that well but that’s something I really want to work on.

  4. Stacie is the talented one…I wish I could draw πŸ™‚
    We had Okonomiyaki in Japan and loved it!

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