Cake It On
Japanese vegetable pancakes take over
Every culture has its own version of a vegetable fritter, but the style that we’re currently captivated with is okonomiyaki, a cabbage-based savory fried pancake.
Traditionally, the batter is griddled to a crisp, lacquered with a lattice of Kewpie mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce (a syrupy, shoyu-based cousin of Worcestershire), generously drizzled with dried bonito flakes and seaweed powder. Here are three places doing it right:
Xiao Bao Biscuit: After quitting their jobs in New York City and honeymooning through Asia, owners Josh Walker and Duolan Li settled in Charleston, where they started a series of pan-Asian pop-ups before launching a brick-and-mortar location. The rotating menu features an arsenal of Asian soul food, but the okonomiyaki (see the recipe), with its kale, scallions, carrots and thinly shredded “pork candy,” has quickly become a staple.
Chez Sardine: In New York City, restaurateur Gabe Stulman of the Little Wisco empire pays homage to okonomiyaki at his deliberately inauthentic version of an izakaya in the West Village. The brunch menu features an octopus-laden version with kimchi, soy and bonito.
Pagoda Pizza: Kevin “Pizza Guy” Cragun fell in love with the Japanese fritter while teaching English in Japan. After returning home, he launched his Austin-based food truck specializing in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, served with salty bacon and fried eggs.