Sunday, 8 June 2008

As You Like It

It's been a while since we posted a recipe so I figured it was time for some food p0rn :)

After my eagerly anticipated copy of The Asian Vegan Kitchen arrived, I quickly flipped through, drooled over the pictures and scanned the Japanese section for veganized versions of any cult classics. I was not dissapointed!
I live in Osaka and, sorry if I'm insulting your intelligence as you may know this already, but Osaka is regarded as the kitchen of Japan. Yes, Tokyo may be the culinary destination of most travellers and indeed, Tokyo does have amazing international food. But Osaka has the Japanese soul food that I love so much. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to a very famous Osaka speciality and one of my own personal favourite foods - okonomiyaki (which approximately translates as "as you like it"). Seriously, if you don't like okonomiyaki, I don't think you can be my friend.

...becomes this.....

....which becomes this...

....which eventually becomes this saucy fellow.

Ok, sorry for the delay! I didn't realise that it had been so long!

Recipe (serves 2/4 depeding on how greedy you are)


2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (240ml) dashi*
2 teaspoons white miso
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
2 cups (90g) white cabbage (Chinese variety is probably best), finely shredded
2 tablespoons beni shoga pickled ginger (optional, but if you can get it, it's yummy!)
White pepper and salt to taste
Vegetable oil


Okonomiyaki is very versatile. In Osaka, pork is a popular filling. As is cheese, shrimp, beef and various other non-vegan options. For your okonomi, you can use any vegetable, meat analog, "cheese" chunks or anything you like really. I love sweet corn in my okonomiyaki and I also really love kimchi, mochi and spring onions (scallions), though not all together! The key is not to overload your mixture with ingredients - you want to use about 1-2 cups of your fillings for this particular recipe. If this is your first time to eat and try making okonomiyaki, I'd stick with 1 or 2 fillings and see how you like it :) Or do what I do, and make a couple of different varieties to share.

*To make dashi, you will need 1 or 2 large sheets of kombu. Try to find ones that are the closest to black in colour and have a fine white powder on them. Using a damp cloth, give the kombu a gentle wipe and then let it soak in about 3 cups of water for 1 hour. If you are short on time, put your water and kombu in a saucepan and start to simmer gently. As soon as the water starts to boil, remove the kombu. You can also buy instant kombu dashi which comes in little paper sachets usually, but be careful of added fishy ingredients if you want to use that!

Nori flakes (or 1 sheet, toasted and cut or pulverised into fine strips)
Vegan mayonnaise
Vegan okonomiyaki/tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog brand tonkatsu sauce is vegan)
OR brown sauce (if you live in the UK, you know what I mean)
OR you can make the sauce from The Asian Vegan Kitchen for which you will need:
1/2 cup of dashi
1/2 teaspoon potato starch
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon karashi mustard
2 tablespoons shoyu
1/2 teaspoon each of grated garlic and ginger
2 tablespoons castor sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

The Fun Part:
1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. In a seperate bowl, combine your wet ingredients (dashi, mirin, miso, sake) and mix together to dissolve the miso. Add the wet ingredients to your dry ones and mix together trying not to make it all clumpy. Stir in your shredded cabbage and beni shoga (if using). If you want to make more than one kind of okonomi, then separate your mixture now before you add the fillings (this mixture should make about 4 pancakes btw). Stir in your fillings and season with salt and pepper. Make sure you've mixed thoroughly so as to coat all the veggies in the batter.
2. Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Put in 1/4 of the batter and spread out to make a thick pancake. Cook for about 4 minutes, then drizzle a little more oil down the sides of the pan. Flip the pancake over and cook for about another 4 minutes. (If your pancake is very thick, you may need to cook for a little longer on each side to ensure that it's not just floury and raw on the inside). Repeat until you've used up all the batter.
3. Brush about a tablespoon of sauce over each okonomiyaki (it's the best bit so keep the remainder handy so you add more). Do the same for the mayonnaise, using as much as you like. Sprinkle the nori flakes artfully on top. Eat!

N.B. I didn't use sake when I made this, and I don't think it really made any difference. Don't stress out to much if you don't have sake and mirin. If you don't really cook Japanese food, then it's not neccessary to run out and buy them just for this, IMO. Most okonomiyaki restaurants don't use dashi, mirin, miso or sake. However, they do use eggs of course so you'll need something to replace that as a binding agent. The traditional recipe uses grated naga-imo (a long, hairy yam type thing) or yama-imo (a long, smooth yam type thing) which makes a big sticky mess and holds the batter together. If you can find one of them in your grocery store, give it a try!

-- Sarah


linas said...

mmmm... looking forward to see the recipe :-)

John Plummer said...

Post the recipe!!!

John Plummer said...

Yeah! I want to try this!

herbivore said...

Fun! I want to try it with vegan mayo :)

Heather said...

i'm in the middle of making this and it's not really batter-like, it's come out more like a dough... i've double-checked the ingredients so idk...i'll let you know how it turns out!

Peggy the Veggie said...

Ohh, I totally want to try making this! My friend had a non-vegan version the other day and I was quite intrigued.