The Story Behind … Xiao Bao’s Okonomiyaki
'This is such a fun way to eat cabbage'
Okonomiyaki looks like a Japanese pizza, but it’s actually a savory cabbage pancake drizzled with sweet soy sauce and Japanese mayonnaise and topped with a fried egg. Okonomiyaki is a signature dish at the Charleston-based Xiao Bao Biscuit and its sister concept, Xiao Bao, which opened at Optimist Hall earlier this year. Chef and owner Joshua Walker first discovered okonomiyaki on a trip to Japan, where he visited a rice farm outside Osaka and sharpened his Japanese cooking techniques.
“Only perfect vegetables go on supermarket shelves in Japan, so this is a great foil for leftovers or imperfect vegetables,” he says. Walker makes his version with cabbage, scallions, and carrots and adds a sriracha drizzle, which isn’t typical in Japan. Instead of a heavy okonomiyaki sauce (a Japanese condiment made with ketchup, Worcestershire, and oyster sauce), he uses sweet soy “so there’s more of a sweet-salty-spicy thing going on.”
At Xiao Bao, customers can add toppings like egg, bacon, or pork candy so it resembles cabbage hash browns. “Cabbage is a really humble vegetable,” Walker says. “A potato is a sexy vegetable; cabbage is really delicious but doesn’t get as much love. It’s a challenge to serve it in a way that makes people agree with you, and this is such a fun way to eat cabbage.”
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