Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Okara Chicken

Homemade tofu and grated ginger with a side dish of okara chicken

Cooking with okara -- the pulpy byproduct of tofu and soy milk -- is a great way to make your meals more nutritious. Okara has been used in many Asian cuisines for centuries, and vegans and vegetarians in the West have recently started to embrace it as a source of protein and calcium.

There are a variety of ways to cook with okara. If you have access to it, or if you make your own tofu and aren't sure what to do with this byproduct, there are lots of dishes you can either supplement with or base on this foodstuff. For anyone interested in cooking with okara, make sure to visit http://okaramountain.blogspot.com. Here you'll find great ideas for using okara in your breakfast (okara cherry almond muffins anyone?), lunch (how about smokin' okara chili?), dinner (how does okara lasagna sound?), and even for snacks and appetizers (e.g., okara hummus?).

The following okara recipe is normally made as a side dish rather than a main course. There's a grittiness to the okara, and while it's generally a flavorless addition, some people find it a little bitter. In this dish, it definitely changes the texture of the cooked chicken and vegetables.

You can sometimes find okara at Asian markets, but it's often hard to find because its shelf-life is so limited. Okara is best used on the same day you make it, though it should be okay to cook with for the next couple of days as well.

1 stick gobo (burdock root)
3 shiitake mushrooms
4 whole carrots
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 cups okara
1/4 cup sake
1 1/2 teaspoons dashi powder
2 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons mirin
4 tablespoons soy sauce
Green onions, chopped

1. Wash gobo about 5 times, then peel and cut into small slivers. Soak in a bowl of water for 15 minutes. Drain.

Slivered gobo soaking in water

2. Soak shiitake for 30 minutes. Chop finely.

3. Peel carrots. Cut into narrow strips and then chop into small pieces.
4. Cut chicken into bit-size pieces.
5. Heat oil in wok. Cook chicken until you can smell the meat cooking (should be slightly browned).

6. Add carrots, mushrooms, and gobo. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

7. Add okara, sake, dashi powder, and water. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

You can use as much or as little okara as you like. We used the entire amount that was produced from making tofu.

8. Add sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender.

Okara chicken, ready to serve and eat!

9. Garnish with green onions. Season to taste.

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  1. Okara chicken sounds really amazing. I never made anything with burdock root before, I am not even sure I have eaten anything with it before. I am so tempting to try it.

  2. I believe this is a delish dish :)

  3. MMMMMMM....Looks,really delicious!! Yum Yum Yum, Sapuche!!

  4. This is like the ultimate comfort food for rainy days or cold weather! A bowl of rice would be lovely... =)

  5. That's very interesting and a great way to make sure that nothing goes to waste. Looks like you are continuing to get a good use out of your tofu mold!

  6. i'm not sure I'll be able to find okara but I am enjoying drooling over your delicious dish here!

  7. I love to read posts about world cuisines.
    I don't know a lot of the ingredients, but looks really good.


  8. Didn't even know there was something like okara in the world. We learn something new everytime we read your blog. Nice way to bump up the protein in a dish!

  9. I will have to look for this, as I am drooling and intrigued at the same time...

  10. I've heard of okara before but never saw what it looked like. It's grainier than I expected. I like what you made with it. It has an earthy feel - I bet it was delicious!

  11. Great way to use the by-product of a homemade product. I think okara would be a lovely replacement for ricotta in lasagna. Okara seems like the perfect thing to add when you want that little bit of the carbs texture with your meat and veg, but don't really want to eat the carbs...

  12. Wow, I just learned so much reading this post, I may have to sit back and take it all in. I am now on the hunt for the okara. The dish you made sounds incredible and I have to try it.

  13. I've never even heard of okara, no wonder because it's not even in the grocery stores! Your homemade tofu looks great, and by the way, I LOVE GOBO ROOT!

  14. Okara and gobo are two completely new ingredients for me! Although I wonder if I have had them but didn't know it? You mentioned that this dish is usually served as a side - is it common to be served in kaiseki or as part of obento?

    Thank you once again for highlighting foods that are not so common here - although it may be a challenge to find an opportunity to taste them!

  15. Thanks for your informational post about okara. I am always for not wasting any type of food that's edible. A great way of using it in this recipe. The chicken okara dish certainly looks delectable.

  16. I have so much to learn about soy products. You always teach me something new! I've never had or heard of okara. It looks so interesting. The dish sounds great!

  17. I really need to get my blog back in order. Sorry, everyone, for the time it’s taken me to respond to your wonderful comments.

    Elra: Maybe it’s because I live in Hawaii, but burdock root is available in a number of marketplaces here. It was also available at the Asian markets in Tucson, where I lived five years ago. Keep an eye open for it the next time you go shopping!

    Selba: You are spot-on with your belief – it IS a delish dish!

    Sophie: Thanks, Sophie! It was delicious!

    Bangsar-bAbE: It is a kind of comfort food, you’re right! I also agree with you that it would be great on a cold day. Of course, neither of us live in cold places, so we’ll have to settle for rainy days instead! :) Ah, and we ate this with rice – it’s just not in the photo! ;)

    Sugarlens: I agree with you completely. There’s something really satisfying about using every little bit of what you cook with, even if it’s just “byproduct.” And yes, I’m still using my tofu mold – I used it late last night, in fact, and was much more successful in my tofu!

    5 Star Foodie: Haha! Well, keep your eyes open for okara just in case… :)

    Erica: I’m the same way as you – I love blogs that deal with world cuisines…even if the ingredient lists read like foreign languages I’ve never studied. :) Thanks for your comment!

    Duo Dishes: Thanks for your kind words, and yes, okara is definitely a good way to get extra protein, especially for vegetarians! It doesn’t taste too bad, either, as long as you cook it with other things. :)

    Chef E: Good luck finding okara where you live. If you can’t find it, it’s easy to make along with soy milk – and no tofu mold is needed!

    Reeni: It is rather grainy, as you say. That quality may take some getting used to, especially if you dump as much into a dish like this as I did! It probably would have been even better with half the amount, but then I don’t like to let the extra okara go to waste!

    Okay, more responses soon, I hope. Thanks as always for everyone's patience!

  18. Gastroanthropologist: That is a brilliant idea! I just made spinach lasagna last week and I should have tried the okara in place of ricotta…Doh! I think there are probably a ton of interesting ways to make use of okara – I wouldn’t call it a superfood, but it’s supposed to be very nutritious and is probably a good way to go if on a diet. And again, it’s an awesome food to have on hand if you’re vegetarian.

    Oysterculture: Good luck on your okara hunt! Your best bet may be to make your own (by making soy milk – no tofu mold needed) at home. Though in SF you may be able to find it…somewhere?

    Nutritiontokitchen: Haha – that’s a good reason for never having heard of okara! My homemade tofu tasted great, but I feel that it looks precisely like what it is: a first attempt at making my own tofu. I hope that next time it turns out prettier. And I’m with you on gobo root. WHOOO GOBO ROOT!

    Tangled Noodle: I’m guessing that there’s a fairly good chance that you’ve eaten gobo before. Not that it’s common in Filipino cuisine (I have no idea!), but if you eat in Japanese restaurants and don’t always go for sushi then you very well might have had it without realizing it. As for this being served as a side dish in a kaiseki meal…I would doubt it – but in Japan that may depend on the region, the seasonal dishes being served, and the individual chef. I’ve never had okara in a kaiseki meal, however (not that this means anything). Having it in obento is more likely, but in this case I’m thinking of a homemade (i.e., a Japanese mother including it in a child’s school bento) rather than a store-bought version. Restaurants may use it in certain dishes, but perhaps only if they make their own tofu/soy milk. Just remember, I’m no expert on okara – I just seem to have a lot of it sitting around my kitchen these days!

    Mediterranean Turkish Cook: No need to thank me for the post – I should thank you for taking the time to read it and leave a comment! I agree with you about not wasting edible food. I think that a lot of people would look at okara and automatically assume that it’s NOT edible. But thanks to the Internet, it’s not too difficult to type “okara recipes” into a Google search and find ways to use it!

    Lori: I have a ton to learn about soy products, too! Even with okara, I’m not very clear on how to cook with it. I have some okara recipes, but my understanding of what to do with it is quite limited. Thanks for the nice comments, and I hope you get to try okara one of these days!