Japanese Vegetable Pancakes Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a wonderful street food you find in the back alleys in Osaka and other cities in Japan. It is said that Hiroshima city holds the record for the most restaurants serving this very popular dish; over 2,000 restaurants or street food stalls serve this ever popular dish. The name derives from the words okonomi, which means “what you like” and yaki which means ‘cooked. You can basically use whatever vegetables you like or have at hand. The foundation should always start with cabbage and some sort of onions whether red or white onions, scallions or shallots.
From there, you can improvise and add any vegetables you have in your fridge. I found the use of grated carrots work very well along with sweet potatoes or yam. Add some other green vegetables such as kale, bok choi cut in thin strips and add them to your mixture. Several recipes call for some sort of protein such a shredded chicken or bacon with is placed on top. I find the vegetarian version which is a lot easier and healthier.
In order to achieve a crispy, yet tender pancake, cook in a little bit of oil in a non-stick pan at medium heat. You want the center of your pancake cooked first and the you can increase the heat in order to a firm them up and finish with a crispy vegetable pancake.

Serve 4
For the pancake mixture
4 Eggs
3/4 Cup of All purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

For the vegetable mixture
4 Cups of grated cabbage or thinly sliced with a mandoline
2 grated carrots
1 Medium red onion also grated or thinly sliced with a mandoline or 3 scallions sliced thinly and diagonally
1 Large grated sweet potato or regular potato
You can also add other green vegetables such as kale, membrane removed and sliced in thin ribbons.
Vegetable oil to fry the pancakes

A medium size mixing bowl, stir in the eggs and using a whisk, mix well. Whilst mixing, add the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Continue mixing and ensure there are no lumps. Let the mixture rest while you attend to the vegetables.
Over a large mixing bowl, using a mandoline, thinly slice the cabbage and the onions. Grate the carrots, sweet potato or regular potato and add to the large bowl. You can slice the kale or bok choi in ribbons.

Combine the flour mixture into the vegetable and mix well.

In a heavy base frying pan, pour in the oil and wait until it starts to smoke. Reduce the heat to medium and using a large spoon, create either a large pancake which you will slice in wedges when cooked, or as I do, smaller ones, which you can reheat or freeze for later.
Fry them on medium heath so the inside has time to cook. Turn them over and increase the heat so they crisp
up. Turn them one last time to ensure both sides are dark in color and crispy.
Keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve.

For the Sauce
In Japan, these wonderful crispy pancakes are served with a Tonkatsu sauce. If you cannot find it, here is a good substitute recipe very similar to the store bought one :

4 Tablespoons Ketchup
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve alongside the pancakes.
Of course you can serve them with other sauces of choice; such as Hoisin, HP Sauce, Worcestershire sauce or even Chutney.

*The pancakes freeze very well and can be reheated in the oven, or once thawed, they can be fried again for a few minutes so they become crispy again.
You can make them in small bite size to serve at cocktail. Success assured.

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