japanese vegetable pancakes

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Japanese Vegetable Pancakes [Okonomiyaki] with Cabbage, Kale and Carrots
Adapted, just a little, from Josher Walker of Xiao Bao Biscuit, in Charleston, SC via Tasting Table

Okonomiyaki are traditional served squeeze with a generous criss-cross of Japanese mayonnaise and a okonomiyaki sauce, tangy-sweet-salty mixture I’d liken to Japanese barbecue sauce, which is sold in bottles but I attempted to cobble together a version from recipes I found online, below. Please forgive me if the flavor isn’t perfect; I am new to it, but we loved it, just the same. Pancakes are then sprinkled with bonito flakes, seaweed flakes or even pickled ginger, but we enjoyed ours with a finely slivered scallion and toasted sesame seeds. I imagine they’d also be good with bites dipped in a simpler dumpling dipping sauce.

Yield: 4 large pancakes or I am really sorry, but I forgot to count, but I’d say at least 12, probably 14, smaller ones

Pancakes
1/2 small head cabbage, very thinly sliced (1 pound or 5 to 6 cups shreds) which will be easiest on a mandoline if you have one
4 medium carrots, peeled into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
5 lacinato kale leaves, ribs removed, leaves cut into thin ribbons
4 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
Canola, safflower or peanut oil for frying

Tangy Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (note: this is not vegetarian)
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rice cooking wine or sake
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (use 2 if you like a sweeter sauce)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Make the pancakes: Toss cabbage, carrot, kale, scallions and salt together in a large bowl. Toss mixture with flour so it coats all of the vegetables. Stir in the eggs. Heat a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with oil and heat that too.

To make a large pancake, add 1/4 of the vegetable mixture to the skillet, pressing it out into a 1/2- to 3/4-inch pancake. Gently press the pancake down flat. Cook until the edges beging to brown, about 3 minutes. 30 seconds to 1 minute later, flip the pancake with a large spatula. (If this is terrifying, you can first slide the pancake onto a plate, and, using potholders, reverse it back into the hot skillet.) Cook on the other side until the edges brown, and then again up to a minute more (you can peek to make sure the color is right underneath).

To make small pancakes, you can use tongs but I seriously find using my fingers and grabbing little piles, letting a little batter drip back into the bowl, and depositing them in piles on the skillet easier, to form 3 to 4 pancakes. Press down gently with a spatula to they flatten slightly, but no need to spread them much. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the edges brown. Flip the pancakes and cook them again until brown underneath.

Regardless of pancake size, you can keep them warm on a tray in the oven at 200 to 250 degrees until needed.

If desired, make okonomiyaki sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth and thick.

Serve pancakes with sauce and any of the other fixings listed above, from Japanese mayo to scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Do ahead: Extra pancakes will keep in the fridge for a couple days, or can be spread on a tray in the freezer until frozen, then combined in a freezer bag to be stored until needed. Reheat on a baking sheet in a hot oven until crisp again.


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