Corn and Crab Okonomiyaki; get the recipe, below (Deb Lindsey /For The Washington Post)
My first trip outside the United States was a three-month stay in Japan when I was 18. Even back then, I was keenly tuned in to the food scene, health-minded and eager for new taste experiences. My student budget excluded me from fine restaurants, but I was astounded by the array of exciting, and often good-for-you, street-food options.
Okonomiyaki, savory pancakes filled with vegetables, seafood and sometimes meat, was one of my favorites, and today its status remains intact when I need a quick weeknight dinner. Besides being sold by street vendors in Japan, it is traditionally prepared at home as a way to use up leftovers, so think of the accompanying recipe as a starting point rather than a precise formula.
[Make the recipe: Corn and Crab Okonomiyaki
Before you make it, check your refrigerator for any bits of cooked vegetable, meat or poultry that need to get used up. Feel free to chop it up and toss it in instead of, or in addition to, the mix-ins I use here. This incarnation is an ode to late summer, with kernels of sweet corn and succulent lump crab studding the traditional mix of napa cabbage and scallions, brought together with a soy-seasoned base of egg and (in this case, whole-grain) flour. You might be worried about the batter, which will seem like it might not hold together. But once it sizzles a bit in the pan, the cakes form beautifully — their exterior crisps and becomes golden brown while the ingredients inside warm and become tender.
Don’t skip the sauce. It is an essential, umami-rich element. You can buy okonomiyaki sauce, a common condiment in Japan, but this close facsimile of it is made from simple pantry ingredients — and is as convenient as the pancakes themselves.