Monday, 23 June 2014

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savoury Pancake)

When I was a little girl, my family went on an overseas trip through Asia ending up in Japan - from there a love of Japanese cuisine was born. However, these days I tend to avoid a lot of it as most of the stuff we get from takeaways and local restaurants is not ideal in terms of clean eating, and does not suit our family as it is often loaded with gluten, soy, and in many cases MSG and highly processed sauces and condiments. Japanese food is often considered a health food, and I am certain that in it's natural state done properly in the traditional Japanese style it really is a fantastic way to eat, but unfortunately in NZ the majority of food is the quick and easy stuff - deep fried bits and pieces such as Karaage and Tempura, loads of soy sauce based sauces, and lots of things coated in panko bread crumbs.

One of my favourite things that I had in Japan (and that I've always kept an eye out for ever since) is Okonomiyaki. This is best described as maybe a savoury pancake or pizza style dish which is typically served loaded with veges and/or meat and topped with lots of yummy sauces and extra bits. The more traditional recipe calls for flour, soy, and lashings of Japanese Mayo (have you ever checked out the label on that stuff?!!), so it is not something that we eat, however I saw a picture of one the other day and it got me thinking...surely this could be done in a clean, fresh way so as to have the best of both worlds?!

Well, the answer was yes - it could be done!

After a bit of playing around, a recipe was concocted that even received the nod of approval from hubby who wolfed his down for lunch. He didn't even mind that it was vegetarian which says lot! You can also add meat though if you could add chicken or pork mince to the mixture and it would taste great.

This one was vegetarian though, and the recipe was free of gluten, grains, dairy, soy, nuts, and sugar. There are a few slightly more obscure ingredients in this recipe that are all easily found at either your local asian supermarket or your local whole food store, but if you do not have them on hand or do not want to buy them they can for the most part be eliminated or substituted without too much impact on the overall effect.

You can serve this either as a yummy light lunch with a side salad, or it makes a great accompaniment to a Japanese style dinner. Serve with steamed rice or maybe some kumara mash, or some healthy karaage chicken (check out the recipe here). Yummo!


Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free

1/4 cup flaxseed meal 
1/4 cup psyllium husk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 tbsp kuzu (japanese arrowroot), or tapioca starch
2 tbsp coconut aminos (or gluten-free soy sauce)
1/2 tsp fresh or ground ginger
3-4 cups of finely chopped vegetables (I used shredded red cabbage, grated purple carrot, chopped spring onion, and thinly sliced capsicum)
1 tbsp coconut oil

To serve:
Mayonnaise (use homemade if possible - so much better!)
Black or white sesame seeds (or a mix of both)
Umeboshi Paste (japanese pickled plum spread - not necessary, but adds a yummy tartness)
Dried Seaweed flakes (again not necessary, but adds a yummy saltiness)
Dried bonito flakes (also not required, but make it so much more authentic)
You can also dress with thick soy sauce if you like it or have it in the home. 

1. In a large bowl, combine the flaxseed, psyllium, water, eggs, kuzu or tapioca, coconut aminos or soy, and ginger. Beat well until all ingredients are well combined to make a batter. 
2. Add vegetables and mix well to ensure vegetables are well coated with the batter
3. Heat the oil a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetable batter and, shape into a nice round form. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on first side, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes on the other side until batter is cooked through and veges have softened. 
4. Slide onto a plate, and serve topped with stripes of mayonnaise, a scattering of sesame seeds, a few swirls of umeboshi, and a sprinkling of seaweed and bonito flakes. 

Note: You can use any combination of vegetables that you like - it would also be great with red onion, mushrooms, white or chinese cabbage, or maybe a little grated zucchini

To flip it, I found it worked really well to sit a plate upside down on top of the frying pan, then turn it upside down to turn the Okonomiyaki onto the plate, so it will now have the cooked side facing up, then slide it back from the plate into the frying pan to cook the other side. Use the same process to remove it from the pan when cooked.