Shalom Japan: Chef Sawa Okochi’s Okonomiyaki Latkes

Chefs Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel share a Japanese riff on the Hannukah tradition with their Okonomi-Latkes from their New York-based restaurant, Shalom Japan.

Okonomiyaki Latkes
Chef Sawa’s Okonomi-Latke with crème fraîche, ikura (salmon roe), sliced scallions and a squeeze of lemon.

When chefs Sawa Okochi and Aaron Israel met, they immediately began cooking for one another. Over time, the two married, literally, joining their cultural and culinary heritages. The result is reflected on the menu at Shalom Japan, their restaurant in Williamsburg, New York.

Cooking together, they were surprised to discover many similarities between the seemingly disparate ingredients and styles of Japanese and Jewish cuisine. Popular Japanese specialties like okonomiyaki recalled the all-too familiar Jewish latkes that Chef Aaron had grown up with.

In Japanese, okonomi translates to mean “as you like it.” Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese street food, kind of like a savory pancake to which you add your preferred ingredients. For Hannukah, Chef Sawa Okochi adds potato to her batter to make it more latke-like, topping her Okonomi-Latkes with ikura (salmon roe) to make them more festive, but any caviar will do!