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May 15, 2010: Cooking with Okara

May 15, 2010

Okara patties, sliced mango, and spinach/broccoli pasta

Being a vegetarian for a number of years, I thought I had tried just about every soy product around. Not so. Two weeks ago, Yoshio presented me with a about a half pound of Okara. Yoshio explained that Okara is a by-product of making soy milk. Essentially, it is the soy curd left over from the process. It is considered waste material despite Okara having a good deal of soy protein and plenty of fiber. Yoshio say that he can usually get it free from the people who make soy milk. It has the look and texture of ricotta cheese. Like most soy products it has no distinct flavor of its own but, with a good chef, can be made into something tasty. Yoshio suggested I try my hand at making a Okara “burger” and gave me a basic recipe:

1/2 lb. Okara; 2 eggs, 2 tbsp. corn starch or potato starch, a little flour

He said to use my imagination when it came to flavor and texture. Being a fan of veggie burgers I added: finely chopped carrots (about 2-3), little bit of chopped kale, roasted sesame seeds, chopped toasted almonds, soy sauce, chopped parsley, finely chopped elephant garlic. This Okara recipe made about 20 1″ thick, 2″ circumference patties. I pan-fried them in olive oil. I noticed two things: the patties soaked up a lot of the oil and they tasted very good but the cracked and split while cooking. I brought a few over so that Yoshio could tell me what was wrong. The oil was not much of a problem. Just add a normal amount and they will cook fine. Yoshio cooked these patties in a little bit of butter. The cracking he said was because I was cooking them too fast. I was trying to sear them like I do a soy burger. He explained that the starch that binds the Okara needs time to warm up slowly so that the slow heat will allow it to do its job. The patties pictured above were the ones he made. He also deep-fried one and that also came out well, but Yoshio said the shape was wrong for deep-frying. He suggested that I make a ball of the Okara for deep-frying. He also thought a cheese sauce would go well with these. As it was, the patties went very well with a touch of lemon and a tiny bit of Tonkatsu sauce.

Yoshio thought my additions to be very good. He liked the crunchy-ness of the vegetables I added and especially the toasted almonds. Having a knowledgable master chef critiquing your first try at a recipe certainly shortens the road!

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