When it comes to trendy foods, Austin always seems to be on the cutting edge. The latest craze, and one I am happy to indulge in, is the city’s obsession with casual Japanese food. It’s about time that we moved beyond sushi and hibachi, because Japan’s food culture offers so much more than that. Getting aquainted with street food, ramen, and simple homestyle fare can give you a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture. This is the food that folks in Japan eat everyday. It’s their lunch, their drunk-food, and their takeout.
Casual Japanese food ranges from fresh and healthy to deep-fried and indulgent. Japanese pancakes, called okonomiyaki in Japanese, are a prime example of the latter. These crispy, battered fritters almost always include shredded veggies, but it’s not unusual to find varieties that also include chopped meat or seafood. Top these little crunchy cakes with some soy sauce, Japanese mayo, and scallions, and you’ll be hooked.
Austin is now home to our very own okonomiyaki restaurant, a food truck named Yoko Ono Miyaki. The little stand serves up piping hot pancakes stuffed with a whole slew of crazy ingredients. The menu is small, and includes three meaty pancakes, and one vegetarian option. I haven’t visited myself yet, but I’ve heard good things. If you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear what you thought.
Being well aquainted with the concept of Japanese pancakes, I decided to make my own recipe. It’s not exactly traditional, more Oko Mary-Yaki than Okonomiyaki. The recipe is more like a hybrid between fritters and pancakes, but I think you’ll enjoy the result. These fat little cakes are crunchy, well seasoned, and extremely versatile. You can use almost any kind of veggie in Japanese pancakes, grains too. Try popping some corn kernels or farro in a batch. That’s right, we’re getting crazy up in here.
Be warned, this dish definitely fits into the “often indulgent” category. It may be full of vegetables, but it’s practically deep fried. Plus… I’m going to tell you to put mayonaise all over it. If you ask me, they are totally worth it, but don’t kid yourself. This delicious dish is a fat-kid special.
I’ve used all kinds of veggies to make these pancakes in the past. This time I used carrots, kohlrabi, cabbage, and zucchini, but I can tell you from experience that these are also delicious when made with kale, brussels sprouts, corn, parsnips or turnips. It’s really a kitchen-sink type recipe, and a great one for using up bits and pieces from the rest of the week’s cooking.
Japanese Style Veggie PancakesMakes about ten pancakes (about five servings)
- 4 cups shredded vegetables (I used zucchini, carrots, kohlrabi, and cabbage)
- 2 cups flour (all-purpose gluten-free flour works well too)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut, grapeseed, or peanut are a few good ones)
- Soy Sauce, Tamari, or Bragg Liquid Amino
- Fresh cilantro
- Sliced Jalapeno
- Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise
or Vegan Mayo
- Sesame Seeds
- Furikake (Rice Seasoning)
- Beat together the eggs and water, then combine them with the shredded veggies in a large mixing bowl. Stir together.
- In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and toss together until just mixed.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, followed by about 1/4 cup scoop of the veggie pancake mixture. Allow the pancake to brown up on the bottom, then flip. Brown the other side, then move the pancake to a dish lined with paper or kitchen towels.
- Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may be able to cook multiple pancakes at once. Just don’t crowd the pan too much.
I’m not the first one to share the deliciousness of okonomiyaki. Check out these recipes from Health & Fitness, Steamy Kitchen, Closet Cooking and the Kitchn for alternate recipes. There is even a site called Okonomiyaki World for those of you who really want to geek out over pancake possibilities.