I recently had the opportunity, while doing some temporary night-shift work in response to Hurricane Florence, to binge-watch Chopped several nights a week. I don’t normally care about TV at all, don’t even own a TV, but I can watch the crap out of Chopped when I’m stuck in a room with a TV and nothing to do. So, several times over the past two weeks, I did just that.
One recent episode featured a food truck and restaurant chef who specialized in Asian street food and whose offerings included a savory cabbage pancake recipe with a Japanese-sounding name. My mind immediately went to the head of cabbage from my latest Foodshare stash that had been sitting in the fridge doing nothing ever since this whole Florence activation began, and I thought, “Hmm…I’ve made savory pancakes before, but not with cabbage…sounds like a handy clean-out-the-fridge recipe.” So I Googled “savory cabbage pancake” and immediately found this recipe from Budget Bytes. Turns out they’re called Okonomiyaki.
The only problem with this recipe, for those of me who are both vegan and allergic to eggs, is that this recipe calls for two eggs, the cabbage, the flour and not much else. But then I thought to myself, “Well, Self, if the eggs are for protein and there are all kinds of ways to get enough plant protein into an eggless pancake to make it hold together…”
And my mind immediately started churning out alternatives. As it happens, I have a bag of chickpea flour (“besan” at the Indian grocery store; you can also buy it on Amazon through my affiliate link) in my cupboard and all the other vegan-friendly ingredients needed to make an alternative recipe work just as well and be just as tasty.
So that’s what I made!
How it all came together
Here’s a very unglamorous photo of the ingredients before the cooking started.
Making this recipe took next to no effort, especially since I had recently shredded an entire head of cabbage in my food processor (half of that is pictured above) to make my ginger-wasabi-umeboshi coleslaw (one of these days I’ll post that recipe too!). It really wasn’t any harder than mixing the ingredients together for pancakes or for a very basic cake or banana bread recipe and then folding in the cabbage.
So, I got started by heating some sesame oil in the small (about 6”) frying pan that I like to use for making one big pancake at a time.
Then, like with any cake or pancake recipe, I whisked together the dry ingredients (chickpea flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, black pepper) in a mixing bowl.
Next, the wet ingredients: soy sauce and water. And finally, the cabbage.
(The recipe linked above also included shredded carrot, which I would have gladly used except that I recently snacked on all the carrots I had until they were gone and I figured that this would be a better use of my oversupply of cabbage without any other veggies crowding them out.)
Then, once the pan and oil were hot enough, I started dropping half a cup or so into the pan and swirling it to the edges, making sure that it was spread evenly across.
After a couple of minutes, I checked the underside, found that it was browning, and promptly flipped it. (More oil really wasn’t necessary, since it’s a non-stick pan, but having it on the one side made for a nice flavor enhancement.) I also found it helpful, after flipping, to press the pancake down with the spatula to increase the surface area and ensure that all the batter and cabbage actually cooked.
After the first couple, I got a little fancy and decided they needed salt (since the soy sauce wasn’t standing out from the chickpea flour) and dry cilantro from the Mexican aisle at WalMart. Sixty cents, yo!
After the pancake was cooked through, I pulled it off and set it on a plate and repeated until all the mixture was cooked and the plate was piled high.
Counting the ones I snarked down while cooking, the total yield was 6 pancakes.
And since I’m not big on condiments and was tired from the gym when I started making this, I skipped the sriracha mayo and just dipped them in sriracha – but, had I made it, it would be just much like in the original recipe, but with Earth Balance Mindful Mayo instead of a conventional one.
Benefits for plant-powered runners
So many: first, the chickpea flour, like the legume from which it derives, is high in both protein and iron. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, and pepper increases the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric.
In another iteration of this recipe, I have also added nutritional yeast, which is a great animal-free source of B-12. For this recipe, anywhere from 2-4 tablespoons is recommended for flavor and the nutritional benefit.
And finally, cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, and according to Healthline, all cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamins C (which boosts immune function after long, taxing runs or workouts) and K (to help with clotting if you fall down a lot while trail – or, Heaven forbid, road running).
Of course, if you don’t have certain ingredients on hand, like the chickpea flour, then you can easily substitute regular wheat flour and baking powder (up to one tablespoon per two cups of flour, depending how light and fluffy you want them to turn out).
If you have something else on hand that you’re trying to use up, like fresh herbs and/or spinach, then these work just as well in savory pancake recipes. They won’t be okonomiyaki, but they’ll still be a tasty use of what you have on hand.
If you have any other veggies, like mushrooms or something denser (like carrots), then you’ll want to either grate them (mushrooms can be thinly sliced or finely chopped) or run them through a food processor using the shredder blade before folding into the pancake mix.
And as always, tell me in the comments how yours turned out!
2 tsp sesame oil per pancake (optional if using nonstick pan)
2 cups chickpea (“besan”) flour
2 tsp baking soda
2-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
spices to taste: cinnamon, ground cloves, turmeric, black pepper, salt, dried cilantro
1.25 cups water
2 tbsp soy sauce (optional; taste may be masked by chickpea flour)
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
- Heat a 6″ pan with sesame oil (if desired) over medium heat.
- Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Whisk the water (and soy sauce, if desired) into the dry ingredients until a very thin batter forms.
- Fold in the cabbage.
- Once the pan has heated, drop about 1/2 cup of the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly to the edges. Let it cook until bubbles come through the top and the underside appears to be browning (and “unsticking” easily from a non-stick pan), about 2-3 minutes.
- Flip the pancake with a spatula and press the pancake down into the pan and continue cooking, another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the pancake to a plate or cooling rack.
- Repeat until all the mixture has been transformed into tasty pancakes!
- Serve with sriracha, sriracha mayo or other condiments as desired.