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Vegan Okonomiyaki

Posted Sep 16 2009 10:36pm 2 Comments
It's Wednesday, a.k.a. the biggest weekday Union Square farmer's market. That means homegirl did some damage, albeit better than other trips I can remember. I think this load came in just under $12. I can only carry so much produce in two hands, anyway!

Now, which one of these things is not like the other?

Did you notice the odd little round yellow thingie? It's an orange watermelon! More like a Mini Me watermelon--I'd never seen anything like this! Total new-to-me food. Couldn't resist.

I cut half of it up into chunks for tomorrow's deskfast. I stole a taste in the process, and I can't say it really tastes different from ordinary (gargantuan) watermelon. Just less commitment! I'm not the world's biggest watermelon fan, so the small quantity suits me just fine.

Breakfast preparations aside, I got to work veganizing a Japanese-inspired dish called okonomiyaki. Despite the fact that my parents currently live in Tokyo and I've visited them more than a few times, I have yet to actually eat okonomiyaki in Japan (or even a Japanese restaurant!). It was actually one of my coworkers who told me how to make it; it's one of her favorite quick dishes, and she always makes me drool when she talks about how she makes it.

So I decided to try my hand this week, but...I didn't want to follow her instructions, naturally (which I received both verbally and approximately). See, okonomiyaki is essentially a pancake/omelette type dish held together by eggs plus veggies and stuff. Okonomi translates to "whatever you like," more or less, and yaki just refers to the fact that it's grilled/cooked. Considering my recent victory at veganizing strata, however, I figured I was up to another veganization challenge. That, and I had no eggs.

One instruction I did end up following was the inclusion of scallions. I have a slight aversion to onion/garlic flavors because I hate that their flavor lingers in my mouth so long. I figured I would just sautee the h-e-doublehockeysticks out of 'em first, though, so that none of their raw potency remained. Success.

Vegan Okonomiyaki

Ingredients (for the sauce):
  • 1/4 cup nama shoyu
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 2 sundried tomatoes
  • stevia/agave to taste (I used approx. 3/4 packet of stevia)
Ingredients (for one pancake):
  • cabbage, shredded
  • carrots, shredded
  • one scallion shoot, diced
  • 1 flax "egg" (1 tbsp ground flax stirred into 3 tbsp water; allow to stand several minutes)
  • 2 tsp miso
  • optional: 1 tbsp hemp paste (a.k.a. leftover pulp from making hemp milk; other nut pate or nut butter might be nice too)
  1. Combine the sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth, adding sweetener to taste. Set aside.
  2. Shred cabbage and carrots (or whatever it is you want in your okonomiyaki!). I ran half a head of cabbage and four large carrots through my food processor's grater disc and got at least 5x as much as I needed for the two pancakes I wanted to make, so you can either make multiple servings, shred less to begin with, or have leftover shreds with which to repeat the process another time, as I have in my fridge right now.
  3. Dice scallions and ( optional ) sautee in a small skillet over high-ish heat 'til cooked to your liking. Set aside.
  4. Combine a generous handful each of shredded cabbage and carrots with the scallions in a bowl. Pour flax, miso and nut paste/butter (if using) over top the veggies and mix with your hands so that the various goos are well distributed.
  5. Prepare a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray over medium-high heat. Pour in the veggie mixture and spread into a pancake shape.
  6. Cook for several minutes per side, or until browned and holding together (as much as can be expected). Press down on the pancake with your spatula so the juices start to evaporate off the top a bit. Tip: because this is a vegan pancake and likely to crumble, it may be helpful to use the Spanish tortilla-flipping technique of placing a plate upside-down overtop the skillet and inverting it onto the plate, then sliding the pancake back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Recoat the skillet with cooking spray before returning the pancake to the heat.
  7. Serve on top of...whatever! Drizzle with sauce and enjoy.
Here she is, in her finished glory, lounging atop a bed of zoodles:

Pro: I've never had okonomiyaki so I don't know what it should taste like.

Con: I've never had okonomiyaki so I don't know what it should taste like.

Conclusion: Whatever its degree of authenticity, it was good!

Yeah, I was kind of hoping it would hold together a little better, but such is the challenge of vegan food-binding techniques. I may try this with the traditional egg, flour + salt batter mixture someday, but for a first (and improvised) try, I get points for flavor, at the very least. It all ends up in the same place anyway, right?

The sauce came out really tasty as well. The coworker instructed me to mix equal parts soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and ketchup together, but I'm really not a fan of ketchup these days, and that's why I subbed in the sundried tomatoes + stevia. Again, I don't know what it should have tasted like, but it sure was delicious! Not that Heinz's Worcestershire sauce is a virtuous ingredient either, by any means (hello, HFCS), but I had a bottle of it already and figured I'd stick to modifying only one ingredient to start with. At least I got rid of some of it in the process! If you wanted to sub out the Worcestershire sauce, I reckon a mixture of vinegar, spices (like garlic/onion powder) and sweetener might approximate the flavor alright. Have a gander at the ingredients to get a better idea, if you're unfamiliar with this British-y condiment. Or just buy a brand without HFCS/nasty ingredients!

Anyhoo, that's a long explanation for a recipe that's not likely to win many people's hearts, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not to mention the fact that it's pretty freakishly healthy, not accounting for trace amounts of weird ingredients in the sauce. Basically, it's just the right combo of raw and cooked veggies that I crave so often lately.

Comments (2)
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Worcestershire Sauce is not vegan... but you can buy a vegan version of it in the UK.

There's a Japanese version of it called 'Bulldog' sauce... which is vegan, but contains HFCS (and as the 3rd ingredient after water and sugar).

Vegan Worcester Sauce has the following ingredients:

Ingrediants : Water 50%, Cider Vinegar 25%, Apple Juice from concentrate 10%, Cane Molasses 10%, Lemon Juice from concentrate, Dehydrated garlic, Roast Malt extract, Ginger, Tamarind paste, Lemon essence, Spice extracts. 

(Experiment with the spices - celery, cloves, pepper .. maybe add a prune or two...)


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