Okonomiyaki (meaning, 'grilled as you like it') is a Japanese dish, similar to the American omelette, but the main difference is the variation of ingredients. Typical okonomiyaki are made with eggs, and often include meat or fish, because of this it's not something we would make at home. Making it without meat is simple enough, but without eggs? Back when we lived in Tokyo, our experience in cooking with plants was limited, but now we've been doing it long enough that we can think of alternatives with ease.
The key ingredient? Chickpea flour, or 'besan flour'. We make chickpea pancakes, and scrambled chickpeas (resembles scrambled eggs) at home all the time. Chickpea flour is a staple on Pino, and works very well for okonomiyaki.
If you're in a place were nagaimo (or yamaimo) is available, we highly reccommend adding it to the dish. It makes a fluffier pancake. Although we've made okonomiyaki without nagaimo before, so if you can't find it know that it will work and be very delicious anyway. It imparts little flavour, all it does is add nutrition and texture. Nagaimo, unlike most potatoes, can be eaten raw. However, it is best to handle the nagaimo with gloves, or to soak the peeled tuber in a vinegar-water solution to neutralize irritant oxalate crystals found on their skin. Nagaimo are low-calorie, high in protein, and have potassium, zinc, vitamin C and more. The texture of grated nagaimo can be off-putting, it looks like a regular tuber when whole, but when grated it becomes slime, almost liquid. This sort of texture is well-liked in Japan and referred to as being 'neba neba' (slimy). This texture present in many other foods like okra and nattou. This texture makes it an ideal egg alternative, it can be used to make deserts when baking. I'm thinking it too, could make a good faux-cheese pizza topping.
Aonori is another obscure ingredient - again, it can be omitted, although it tastes really amazing with it. We made okonomiyaki without it when we were in Majuro, because it simply wasn't available, so we used finely cut nori instead. Obviously, this isn't a perfect substitution, because aonori is very sweet and tastes nothing like nori. However, nori is still very delicious and pairs well enough with the okonomiyaki.
How to make true okonomi sauce
In this recipe, I don't use true 'okonomi sauce'. Why? Because I don't use many pre-made sauces, I prefer to make my own. Okonomi sauce requires many ingredients, and honestly, the sauce I've made works really well in this recipe and makes a good okonomi sauce alternative.
If you want to make your own, you can mix 7g (1 1/2 tsp) sugar, 45g (3 tbsp) ketchup and 45g (3 tbsp) of vegan worcestershire sauce. If you are like me, and don't care to buy pre-made sauces but want to avoid buying both ketchup and worcestershire sauce, you can make these too:
Worcestershire sauce: combine apple cider vinegar, water, soy sauce, sugar, mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon and black pepper in pan, bring to a boil and cook for a minute, then let cool.
Ketchup: Using some fresh tomato sauce may be enough, otherwise add a bit of sugar and apple cider vinegar to it.