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Ozarkonomiyaki

Japanese-style savory vegan pancake (okonomiyaki) with everyday ingredients

Okonomiyaki (Japanese more or less for “grilled to your liking”) is a thick pancake with a lot of regional variations. Most recipes online indicate they’re usually savory, loaded with vegetables but no oil — an ideal 21st-century vegan crossover.

As I’ve experimented, I’ve found this to be a dish for brunch or breakfast-for-dinner made from the pantry, relatively common ingredients.

Four okonomiyaki patties dropped into the skillet.
Okonomiyaki patties start out neither too dry nor too soggy With half or two-thirds of the batter I create four patties. Then I spoon the rest of the batter onto the four bit by bit to make them roughly even.

Call it an unsweetened batter to coat chopped vegetables, form into large patties and fry until browned on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. Really just that simple, though there’s a good number of ingredients.

A little dry, these fritters (or cutlets) beg for a sauce. Japanese restaurants drizzle them with thinned mayonnaise (or the pale equivalent) alternating with a drizzle of dark okonomiyaki sauce (somewhere between (vegan) Worcestershire sauce and Japanese barbecue sauce). Here at Shady Hill Manse, either of these work, but so prefer salsa and/or vegan sour cream.

The following makes two roughly 6-inch wide by 1-inch thick oval pancakes, or four smaller, rounder thick pancakes. I usually double the recipe, using half now and make another set days later by refrigerating the remaining batter then mixing in the vegetables shortly before cooking.

The batter traditionally is wheat-based, but chickpea flour has become popular. A red-lentil or moong-dal option is given in the Notes. I’ve long been using these for savory hot breakfast entrees such as a Vegan Frittata and Just So Omelet.

One obscure but tasty optional ingredient is Indian black salt, also called kala namak. This reddish or brownish salt contains sulphur, which gives an eggy aroma and taste. Look for it at Asian markets or online.

Adaptation mainly of Vegan Okonomiyaki – Cabbage Carrot Pancakes by Vegan Richa.

Batter

  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour OR chickpea-fava bean flour (See Notes for lentil-mung alternative)
  • 1/2 cup plant milk OR water
  • 1 Tbs egg replacer OR corn starch OR potato starch
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce or similar
  • 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar OR any pale vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Indian black salt (kala namak) OR 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or similar spicy dried pepper
  • Cool water

Veggies and the Rest

  • 8 oz. coleslaw — already shredded cabbage, maybe with carrots, from the grocery produce aisle, raw and dry (no dressing!) OR broccoli slaw (raw and dry)
  • 1-2 cups mix of finely chopped vegetables such as green onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, carrots etc.
  • Oil for the skillet
  • For garnish and/or the table: Sauces such as vegan mayonnaise, Japanese barbecue sauce, vegan sour cream, salsa/picante or vegan Worcestershire sauce

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the batter ingredients except water to make a batter of melted milkshake consistency. Rest the batter at least 15 minutes, as the bean flour will hydrate and thicken. Stir in water 1 Tbs at a time to thin to a melted milkshake consistency. The batter can be refrigerated in a small bowl or jar, covered, for use later but not longer than a week, when it might need a little more water.

Add the slaw and vegetable mix to the batter in the big bowl. Mix well with a spoon or a hand. The pancakes can be cooked immediately or within an hour or so.

Heat a non-stick large (12-inch) skillet (that has a lid) on medium. Add 1 teaspoon oil and spread with a spatula. Add the batter to the skillet in 2 to 4 piles, smoothing each to a round or oval that can be up to an inch thick. Cover and cook 4-6 minutes, until well-browned, turn them, cover and cook the second side 4 minutes until browned.

Covering the skillet while cooking ensures the middle of the pancakes are steamed into moist tenderness. Drizzle artistically on each a white sauce option then a dark sauce option. Offer the sauces at the table as well.

Serves 2 as the principle dish or 4 as an entree with several sides.

Notes

An alternate to chickpea or chickpea-fava flour: Soak 1/2 cup of rinsed red lentils or rinsed moong dal in 2 cups of water 4-12 hours refrigerated. Drain. Add the 1/2 cup plant milk and puree until smooth, with an immersion stick, jar blender or food processor. Make the batter with the slurry replacing the above bean flour with plant milk. (Red lentils are split and hulled lentils, while moong dal comprises split and hulled mung beans. Both are available at Asian or well-stocked supermarkets as well as online.)

Garnishing with a sauce or two before serving is fun but certainly optional.

As mentioned in the head notes, I often double the batter for a quick Ozarkonomiyaki later in the week. That’s 1 cup of bean flour with 1 cup plant milk, or 1 cup of red lentils/moon dal soaked, drained then pureed with 1 cup of plant milk. The batter’s spices and thickeners can be doubled as well, but the recipe works fine if flavorings are the same measures as the base recipe or slightly increased.

Unsweetened plant milk probably is a better option, but for us “original” non-dairy milk is a staple and it works fine here.

Non-stick pans do wear out that coating no matter how careful you are, so expect to replace them every few years for ideal low-fat cooking. One advantage is non-stick coatings seem to be continually improved. With a new non-stick skillet, you can wipe out the above teaspoon of oil carefully with a wadded paper towel to reduce the oil to near-zero. An older skillet may need that teaspoon.

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