Okara: Tofu Dregs & the Dish Unohana
Tofu (豆腐) is one of the best-known Japanese food delicacies. It is a healthy, nutritious food made by solidifying Tonyu (豆乳) or soy milk with Nigari (にがり) bittern.
In the making, Tonyu leaves a residue after being extracted from soybeans. In Japan, the dregs or soy pulp is called Okara (おから) and is available cheaply at supermarkets.
Okara is a food familiar to East Asian countries consuming tofu. In Japan, it became popularised in the Edo period, about 400 years ago. So it has a long history.
Today, the supply of Okara far exceeds its demand in my country. Besides, the dregs don’t keep long, so most of them are discarded as industrial waste.
Nutritional Values & Benefits
However, as with tofu, the soy pulp Okara is packed with nutrients. Based on the article おから on Japanese Wikipedia, the nutritional values of raw fresh Okara per 100 grams are as follows.
- Calories: 111 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 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
In addition, Okara contains plenty of phosphatidylcholine (a.k.a. lecithin), which can enhance memory performance.
As for the dish using Okara, the most commonly eaten in Japan is Unohana (卯の花), literally meaning Flowers that bloom in April.
Unohana is soy pulp simmered with various fried ingredients, such as finely chopped onions, carrots, and Aburaage deep-fried tofu.
Specifically, based on the recipe on the official site of Ajinomoto,
- First, fry the chopped ingredients in a pot with 1 tbsp corn oil until tender, and then add 200 grams of Okara and 1 tbsp sake rice wine.
- While cooking the ingredients, additionally add water (200 ccs), soy sauce (3 tbsp), mirin (2 tbsp), sugar (1 tbsp), and the dashi powder Hondashi (1/2 tsp).
- Then, put a lid on the pod and simmer the mixture for 6 to 8 minutes, sometimes stirring with a spatula.
The resultant dish has a distinctive sweet taste.