Featured in the August 2011 Japan Blog Matsuri “Summer Lovin’.”
I pass by or through Kanazawa’s bustling Ômicho Market (近江町市場) at least once a day on my commute. I love looking at all the fruit for sale, shopping at the import store, and traveling underground to the M’Za デパ地下 (depachika, basement-level department store grocery and deli). I have to bob and weave through the crowds if I go in the afternoon, but in the morning and in the evening, it’s actually quite quiet.
Last week, I was wandering around the market and came across Healthy Lab (へるしいらぼ), a small permanent stand at the M’Za entrance of Ômicho that specializes in ice cream and donuts made from okara (おから), a tofu byproduct. I’d only ever sampled the donuts, which have the density of sweets made with fresh okara, but okara soft-serve ice cream sounded perfect on a blazing August day in the two weeks when we had no rain.
I’m back! After a few weeks’ hiatus for moving, I have regular internet access again at my lovely new home in Kanazawa, which means I can stop watching cooking shows on my phone and get back to writing.
Japan doesn’t really have much in the way of pre-made veggie burgers, so I’ve taken to making my own, typically from the fantastic Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. Who knew it was so easy? Although lentils, chickpeas, or black beans mixed with breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings are the standard route for American-inspired burgers, Japan is a land of tofu, and one thing I particularly like about Japan’s tofu culture is that Japanese cuisine employs tofu byproducts.
200 grams of okara/unoha; expiration date was the next day.
Okara（おから), or unoha (卯の花), is the fluffy byproduct that occurs when the soy milk is squeezed out of soy beans in tofu production. Raw okara (as opposed to powdered, sometimes used in baking) is incredibly cheap at about 55-60 yen for 200 grams, and because it is also incredibly bland, it makes a great blank slate for cooking. Because its shelf-life is quite short–perhaps only 1-2 days refrigerated–if you plan to cook with okara, be sure to have some recipes ready!