September 16, 2009

Vegan Okonomiyaki

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.



Olga said...

I just bought some shredded cabbage! :)

chocolate covered Katie said...

I didn't know your parents live in Tokyo! I lived there for 4 years and loved it! :)

Lizzy said...

aww i want a mini watermelon like that! how cute!

i actually think my mom and i saw something similar to that last weekend at the market too, but i didn't pick it up. I'm going to try something different next time i'm at the market!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Great vegan work of culinary passion on the Oko creation! Not my typical go-to ingredients but I would def. eat if it you made it for me :)

Mini yellow watermelon...sweet! Now that's totally up my alley. I like watermelon and have never had a yellow one. I also buy minis even though I like w'melon, I dont buy the big ones b/c they get nastier faster than I can eat them. Cuz I can't inhale like 10 lbs of melon in 48 hrs :)

K from ksgoodeats said...

Haha - I love your pro/con! I've never had it either but it looks really good! Thanks for enlightening me to this dish :)

Cheddar Cheese said...

Never seen a orange water melon!

Gina said...

Wow, what a recipe! I'm so going to miss the farmer's markets once it gets colder :(

fitforfree said...

awesome recipe!!! I made something similar to this last winter that involved a little whole-wheat pastry flour + a flax "egg," and it held together beautifully, so maybe that would help? (I don't really mind falling-apart stuff as long as it tastes good, though!)

Diana said...

Vani -

I think the flour might be a good idea. I had originally planned to use some WW flour or wheat bran in the paste to hold it together, but at the last minute felt ballsy enough to leave it out. Oh well, my loss, but as you say, doesn't really matter if it tastes good! (It did.)

Missy said...

Yum that looks so good! You are so creative in the kitchen! I want to try that watermelon now!

Okonomi_Yakity said...

Looks like you did a great job! If anyone is interested in the traditional non-vegan recipe for Okonomiyaki, see Have fun!

Mom said...

We'll fix your naivete about okonomiyaki soon. Pancakey.

yodasmith said...

Your recipes are making me hungry! They look sooo yummy! I think you are an artist in the kitchen! I also think it's awesome you use stevia. I'm curious to know what brand of stevia you use because from what I hear the taste may be different depending on the brand. I trust SweetLeaf Sweetener the best. How about anyone else?

Diana said...

Yodasmith -

Thank you! I have a box of stevia packets from Trader Joe's that I bought a REALLY long time ago (probably last year!) but I rarely use stevia so I'm still working my way through it. What I mean is that I have no basis for comparison, as I have yet to try other Stevia brands. I've heard that certain ones can have a funny aftertaste, so I guess my only advice would be to look for a brand that's quite pure and has no added ingredients (I know the brand being marketed by Coca Cola contains other sugar alcohols or some such nonsense) that might be hard on the digestive system.

I hear good things about Nu Naturals (?), so you might check that out. Let me know what you think if you do!

yodasmith said...

I have never heard of NuNaturals, but I do know that SweetLeaf stevia is very pure. I guess you know that most companies extract stevia using ethanol, methanol, solvents, and enzymes, or a combo of these. Sweetleaf stevia, on the other hand, only uses pure water in the extraction process. Only pure water touches the leaves. This, as I recall you mentioning, should help the taste and is why not all stevia tastes the same. You can check out if you think you might be interested.

Elina said...

What's nama shoyu? Can I substitute it with anything else? I want to make that sauce! :)

Anonymous said...

I've been on a big okonomiyaki kick. To help with binding, one key ingredient used in Japanese okonomiyaki is yamaimo or nagaimo. They are basically the same sort of root vegetable with a white flesh (nagaimo is bigger, nagai means long). It's basically odorless and tasteless, but very slimy when grated. For one pancake I would try about 1TBSP grated, (peel the skin off). It helps with binding the batter and keeping it from being runny. Availble at asian markets, but it might be at Union Square.

Corn is a nice ingredient too.

Anonymous said...

This recipe would be similar to a recipe for making vegan chicken, nearly impossible. Having had okonomiyaki many times, I would say that it's not really okonomiyaki. Still I applaud your creativity it tasted pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Worcestershire sauce isn't's anchovy-based, even though most brands hide that under "natural flavor".

Thanks for the recipe! I'll see how I can adapt it.