Sweet Potato Okonomiyaki Vegan Pancakes
Being gluten free for almost 20 years, I am still often stuck for lunch options. I grew up in Australia where we have a wonderfully multicultural palate for take away foods. When I am there, Japanese is generally my go-to, a nori roll, miso broth or seaweed salad can be snatched up in a second on most high streets in major cities. Okonomiyaki is the one exception that is nigh on impossible to procure without the gluten messing up my lunch plans. It is also one of my favourite snacks of all time, I think it is a perfect food in and of itself. Even in Tokyo I struggled to find a gluten free and vegetarian Okonomiyaki pancake anywhere! So I make my own at home. It is a great meal for lunch or dinner, or make a stack and have them on hand for snacks when you plan to be busy, they really satisfy a savoury craving and stop you from eating random rubbish from the fridge as they are irresistible.
This is a riff on a few recipes I have used over the years from Vegan Richa and One Green Planet, with the major difference being the method of making the batter ahead of time and mixing it through the vegetables to ensure a good bind occurs without the need for eggs. The batter comes together nicely, it will be a little on the wet side, but cooks well into perfect, crispy-edged pancakes. I finely shred the vegetables with a meat cleaver by hand but you could also grate the sweet potato and mandolin or grate or chop the cabbage. The fluffier and stringier, the prettier the result.
You can buy the mayonnaise and Okonomiyaki sauce, but they are very easy to make too, I have supplied recipes for both below. I like this store bought Okonomiyaki sauce (it is a great marinade for mushrooms too!) but you can make your own. The mayonnaise below is plant-based but if you are vegetarian, Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise is really the best accompaniment to this dish. The creamy magic of Kewpie mayo with the salty umami of the Okonomiyaki sauce is akin to the best flavour/ texture combination imaginable.
This is a great #vanlife meal, easy to prepare on the road and would also be wonderful cooked over a fire, adding a smoky flavour to your dinner while you warm up by the flames.
Sweet Potato Okonomiyaki Pancakes
Batter - Makes 3 large or 6 small pancakes
1 cup chickpea flour
¾ cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon baking powder (optional)
¾ cup sweet potato, peeled and shredded
1 ½ cups Brussels sprouts, shredded
2 ½ cups cabbage, shredded (I use red and white for colour)
1 shallot (french onion), finely diced
1 inch ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoon white miso (Shiro is best)
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tamari/soy sauce
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons chopped spring onions/scallions or coriander leaves
1 tablespoon ketchup/tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon coconut sugar
1-2 teaspoons water
*Mayonnaise (see below)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of aguafaba (the liquid from 1 can of chickpeas), plus 12 whole chickpeas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mix pancake batter: add flour (and baking powder if using) water and olive oil, whisk until smooth and leave for 20 minutes in the fridge. Put Okonomiyaki sauce ingredients in a bowl or small jar, mix well and set aside.
Mix ingredients from sweet potatoes down to white pepper together in a large bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Juices will start to seep from the cabbage, this is ok.
Pour in batter mix and stir through until well combined with vegetables. If it is a little too wet, add a sprinkle more chickpea flour to absorb the extra juices.
Heat a skillet or frypan over low heat, greased with olive oil to prevent sticking.
Take 1-2 heaped tablespoonfuls of batter and drop onto the skillet, forming a round shape with a spatula and flatten until 1-2 centimetres thick (1 inch).
Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or longer depending on the size of your okonomiyaki. Increase the heat slightly if it is not burning at all. It feels ready to flip when it holds shape well and is mostly cooked through on the bottom side. It is important that it feels crispy and firm.
When cooked right through it will be crispy and firm and smell like roasted vegetables. Serve drizzled with tonkatsu sauce, some streaks of mayonnaise and sprinkle over spring onions/scallions, coriander and/or sesame seeds. Eat immediately (although, try stopping yourself).
Combine garlic, lemon juice, mustard, chickpea liquid, and chickpeas in a tall container just large enough to fit the head of an immersion blender. Blend at high speed until completely smooth. Then drizzle in vegetable oil slowly with blender on low. A smooth, creamy emulsion should form.
Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a bowl. Folding gently, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Should be thick and hold its shape like egg mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mayonnaise will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.