Okara: The Soy Pulp and the dish Unohana

“Tofu (豆腐)” is one of the Japanese foods well-known around the world. It is a healthy nutritious food made by solidifying soy milk “Tonyu (豆乳)” with bittern “Nigari (にがり)”.

In the making process of tofu, a residue is left after Tonyu is extracted from soybeans. In Japan, the tofu dregs or soy pulp is called “Okara (おから)”, which can readily be bought at cheap prices in supermarkets.

Okara (おから)

Okara Bean Curd Lees

Actually, Okara is a traditional Japanese food with a long history. The soy pulp is said to have been eaten among the common people since the Edo period, about 400 years ago.

Today in Japan, the supply of Okara much exceeds its demand. Besides, the tofu dregs don’t keep long, so most of them are discarded as industrial waste.

Nutritive Value and Benefits 

Okara

However, as with tofu, the soy pulp, Okara is packed with nutrients, and the article “おから” on Japanese Wikipedia states that the nutritive value of fresh raw Okara per 100g is,

  • Energy: 111 kcal
  • Carbohydrate: 13.8 g
  • Dietary fiber: 11.5 g
  • Fat: 3.6 g
  • Protein: 6.1g 
  • Vitamin B1: 0.11 mg
  • Vitamin B2: 0.03 mg
  • Vitamin B3: 0.2 mg
  • Vitamin B5: 0.31 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.06 mg
  • Folic Acid: 14 μg
  • Vitamin E: 0.4 mg
  • Vitamin K: 8 μg
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Potassium: 350 mg
  • Calcium: 81 mg
  • Magnesium: 40 mg
  • Phosphorus: 99 mg
  • Iron: 1.3 mg
  • Zinc: 0.6 mg
  • Copper: 0.14 mg
  • Manganese: 0.40 mg
  • Selenium: 1 μg
  • Water: 75.5 g
  • Soluble dietary fiber: 0.4 g
  • Insoluble dietary fiber: 11.1 g
  • Biotin: 4.1 μg

What is more, Okara contains plenty of phosphatidylcholines (also known as lecithin), which can enhance memory performance.

Unohana (卯の花)

Unohana

Lastly, when it comes to the dish using Okara, the most common in Japan is “Unohana (卯の花)”, literally meaning “flowers that bloom in April”.

Unohana is made by simmering soy pulp mixed with various fried ingredients such as finely chopped onions and carrots, and Aburaage deep-fried tofu.

Recipe

Specifically, based on the recipe for Unohana on the official website of Ajinomoto, first, the chopped ingredients are fried in a pot with 1 tbsp corn oil until tender, and then 200 grams of Okara and 1 tbsp sake rice wine are added to the pod.

While frying the ingredients, add water (200 ccs), soy sauce (3 tbsp), mirin (2 tbsp), sugar (1 tbsp), and the dashi base Hondashi (1/2 tsp). Then, put a lid on the pod and simmer the ingredients for 6 to 8 minutes, periodically stirring with a spatula.

As Okara itself has sweetness, the resultant dish, Unohana also has a distinctive sweet taste.

Tomo

Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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