Japanese food combines the art of presentation with delicately-balanced textures and flavors. This vegetarian okonomiyaki recipe recreates a vegetable-filled, pancake-like dish from the south-central Kansai region of Japan.
Historians claim that okonomiyaki was invented during the Edo or Tokugawa period in Japan, a time of scientific and artistic enlightenment. Sen no Rikyu, a 16th-century Japanese tea master and poet, wrote about Japanese food. He referred to one of his creations as “funoyaki”, a wheat batter which he spread onto a hot pot to bake with a layer of miso paste. In time, people began adding inventive ingredients to funoyaki, and the recipe evolved into the okonomiyaki people enjoy today throughout Japan.
The following recipe for vegetarian okonomiyaki keeps faith with the tradition of Sen no Rikyu’s natural philosophy emphasizing beauty in simplicity:
Start to finish: 50 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8 pancakes
- 6 tablespoons flaxseed meal
- 1 cup water
- 12 ounces cabbage, collard greens, or kale
- 2 ounces green onions
- 3 ounces corn kernels
- 3 ounces carrots or sweet potatoes
- 6 ounces tofu
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups vegan broth or soy milk
- Salt and pepper, as desired
- 8 tablespoons coconut oil, approximately
In a small bowl, mix the flaxseed and water. Set the bowl aside until the mixture thickens.
Chop the cabbage (or other greens) and green onions into small, thin pieces. Peel and dice the carrots or sweet potatoes. Cube the tofu into 1/2-inch pieces.
Measure the flour into a bowl. Add the broth or soy milk. Mix lightly until the ingredients are wet. Add the flax seed mixture, mixing well. Season the batter with salt and pepper as desired. Gently fold in the vegetables and tofu. With the burner on medium heat, preheat approximately a tablespoon of coconut oil in a non-stick skillet. Pour a medium-sized ladle’s worth of batter into the skillet and fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the pancake over and continue cooking for 3 minutes more. Turn it over one more time, cooking it until the vegetables are soft but not overdone.
In Japanese, okonomiyaki refers to making something “to one’s liking”. Consider hosting an okonomiyaki party in which guests choose their own fillings and cook okonomiyaki on electric griddles. People can top okonomiyaki with vegetarian mayonnaise, wasabi, nori flakes, or pickled ginger. As people say in Japan, “There is luck in the last helping.”