I tried out a couple of okara recipes in the beginning of this month, but I wasn't going to post about them because I didn't think many English speaking people knew okara, and also because I wasn't too happy with what I made. However, the other day I heard from someone who was looking for some okara recipes, and I thought this would be a good chance to post about my not-so-successful experiments. (And more than anything, I was sick and tired of packing and cleaning every day and wanted to post about something just for a change.)
First of all, what is okara? It's soybean pulp that remains after soy milk is squeezed out from the beans. (More details here.) It looks like this...
... and it is very cheap here in Japan. (Maybe in other countries, too?)
Perhaps the most popular way to cook it is to stir-fry it with chopped vegetables and season it sweet-salty with things like dashi, soy sauce and mirin. It's a traditional dish called unohana.
But many young women here are so into inventing more Westernized okara dishes or "okara sweets" these days. Okara is considered to be a great food for weight watchers because it is nutritious, low-cal, filling and rich in fiber.
One example of such Westernized dishes is okara quiche. I guess using tofu for quiche sounds familiar to people outside Japan? Well, it seems that you can use okara in place of tofu. But in that case, okara needs to be moistened with soy milk or something until it becomes close to drained and crushed tofu.
So I tried out this tofu quiche recipe, using okara in place of tofu (and added shiitake mushrooms, too). But I started feeling kind of stupid while adding soy milk to okara... "What's the point in separating soy milk from soybeans first and then putting the soy milk and strained lees back together? Why not use tofu then?" And I sort of lost interest in the experiment and didn't add enough soy milk. Then the quiche turned out terribly dry! Hahaha... But with the taste of the cheese, it was edible, at least. :P
Later I learned that tofu and "okara+soymilk mixture" were not the same thing. What is it that the mixture has but tofu doesn't? Fiber, and the nutrition contained in the skin and germs of soybeans, they say. Mmmmm... that's convincing. So okara dishes/sweets are worth experimenting, maybe? :)