Okara, sauteed with vegetables is one of the staple Japanese side dishes. It is also called Unohana. This recipe is the ultimate Japanese nutritious vegan dish! Tofu byproduct soy pulp is sauteed with vegetables in umami-packed shiitake mushroom stock. Don’t worry, I will explain all that Japanese vocab in this post.
What are Okara and Unohana?
The main ingredient of this Japanese side dish which is known as Unohana is okara. It is a type of soy fibre. Okara is the insoluble pulp that remains during the production of tofu and soy milk. Finally, you end up with Okara after filtering. It is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking because of its nutrient content. Many people even use it to make sweets like cookies.
Where do I get Okara?
I get fresh Okara from local Japanese grocery stores. Okara used to be available for free from a tofu factory in Brisbane. They were throwing it away so Japanese people would go and collect it for free. Now the factory knows that Japanese people cook and eat okara soy pulp. So now, of course, they are selling the soy product.
How to prepare dried shiitake mushrooms?
Three main components of Umami are Glutamic acid, inosinic acid and guanylic acid. Dried Shiitake mushrooms are a source of abundant guanylic acid. Dried shiitake mushrooms contain ten times more guanylic acid than raw mushrooms. Ideally, we need to start to prepare dried shiitake mushrooms a night before. Because it takes about 8-10 hours to extract the umami flavour soaked in cold water in the refrigerator. If you are interested, read more about Dashi in a previous post.
How to prepare Konnyaku?
Konnyaku may be another unusual ingredient though, it is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Konnyaku is the Japanese name for Konjac. Made from the edible konjac corn, so it is quite different. You can get it from Japanese or Asian grocery stores. It has a fishy smell because of calcium hydroxide aqueous solution added as a coagulant in the konjac manufacturing process. I have explained how to cook Konnyaku in my Konnyaku steak post.
Depa-Chika (department store’s underground floor) foods
Have you been to Japan before? Visiting a department store’s underground floor is my favourite thing to do when I go back to Japan. Depa-Chika is the name for these underground stores. At Depa-Chika, you can buy ready-made dishes and almost anything you want. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. However you can get Chinese, Italian, French, and the list goes on. Okara or Unohana is one of the staple dishes you will definitely find at Depa-Chika.
How long does sauteed okara store in the Fridge and Freezer?
Dishes like these store in the fridge and they are ready to eat anytime. It is a kind of Japanese meal prep. They don’t individually package for one meal but make a dish like this in bulk. Stored and ready to eat anytime. Unohana sautéed okara will keep in the fridge for a few days and store in the freezer for a month.
My Food photography journey
Unohana sauteed Okara was the dish I practised my food photography on. Nagi the author of the Food Photography Book was my mentor. The book is the only food photography book I have and it became my food photography bible. The photo I took with Nagi’s help is still one of my favourite food photos. Here is a comparison. What do you think? Please comment below, I appreciate your honest and constructive feedback 😀
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Okara sauteed with Vegetables - Unohana
- 150 g fresh okara
- 1/2 a medium onion
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms or 15g
- 1/2 a small carrot
- 100 g konyaku
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 200 ml of the water used to soak the dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 Green shallots
- Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms with 200 ml of water in a fridge for 8-10 hours. (Soak the mushrooms night before) *1
- Squeeze the liquid out of each mushroom, cut the stem of the mushroom and discard them.
- Finely slice the mushrooms, onion, carrot, konnyaku, and shallots.
- Combine sugar, soy sauce, and mirin with the water the mushrooms soaked overnight and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until it's translucent.
- Add the other chopped vegetables (besides the shallots) and cook along with the onion.
- Add the okara and cook until it becomes crumbly.
- Pour the mixture of seasonings and mushroom soaked water into the frying pan.
- Keep stirring everything together over low heat until the liquid evaporates.
- Add the shallots and cook slightly then turn off the heat.
- Serve in a bowl as a side dish! or when it is cooled down keep them in airtight container in refrigerator or freezer.