THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Those lesser known soy ‘offal’

We all know about the leading characters created by the humble soy bean, tofu, soymilk and edamame. But from the seeds of Glycine max,  we also derive okara and yuba along with shoyu, miso and aburaage. In some cases, it almost seems like these products are the unacknowledged children of soybeans, the offal.

The Offal of Tofu Production
The first step in tofu production involves soaking the dried soybeans (fresh can also be used, but most tofu uses dried soybeans). After the dried soybeans are soaked, they are then ground so that the soy milk can be liberated from each bean. The resulting soy milk is then further processed to ultimately produce tofu. The leftover solids or soy pulp includes fiber,  protein and starch and is used mainly as livestock feed. In fact, during my parents’ childhood, you could literally get the leftover soy pulp or okara at no cost from tofu factories since it was considered soybean “rubbish.” Of course, with people eating healthier these days — which includes adequate dietary fiber — the days of free okara are long gone. In fact, a small three ounce carton cost about $3 at the local supermarkets. Though, I still remember Obaachan serving okara cooked with shiitake and carrots with a touch of sugar and shoyu as a side dish. I also recall an old episode of “Soko ga Shiritai” highlighting frugal housewives who had monthly food budgets lower than the cost of one restaurant meal. One wife purchased large bags of okara (I guess it’s still cheap in Japan) and used it as a filler in almost every dish, including sweet okara “doughnuts.” But since okara is a lot pricier in the 50th (and I assume the same stateside), how about using it as a filler for meatloaf? Just be careful with okara as it does dry out meatloaf more than bread or cracker crumbs, or make sure you serve a sauce alongside your okara fortified loaf.

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Teriyaki Chicken Loaf
3  1/2 to 4 lbs ground chicken breast
1 block firm tofu
1 1/2 cups okara
1/2 cup low sodium shoyu
1 medium onion finely minced
3/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup finely grated carrots
3 cloves fresh garlic, grated
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 whole eggs or 3 egg whites
3 ounces shaved bonito flakes
1 cup low sodium shoyu
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves fresh garlic, grated
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp awamori or sake
1 tbsp awamori or sake
2 tsp corn starch

Combine first 11 ingredients in a large bowl and mixed until homogeneous. Place on a sheet pan and shape into a traditional meatloaf form. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 155 degrees.

Dissolve the cornstarch in the awamori/sake and set aside. Bring the shoyu, sugar, ginger, garlic and awamori/sake to a simmer, then stir in the cornstarch slurry, constantly whisking until it thickens. Serve on the sliced chicken loaf.

More Tofu By-Products
After boiling the soymilk, a thin film forms on the surface of the soymilk. This film can be collected and dried to create yuba. The yuba can then be rehydrated to create an edible wrapping for a variety of dishes. One of my favorite dim sum dishes are the Bean Curd Rolls using yuba or fu chuk to wrap shrimp, mushrooms and other delicacies and served in a hearty gravy. Or when rehydrated and simmered in jai (and I’ll admit that jai isn’t one of my favorite stews), it’s my favorite ingredient in jai as it gives the vegetarian stew a “meaty” textural component and absorbs flavors from the other ingredients. Or instead of simply rehydrating it in water, how about rehydration in a flavored solution?

CHAR SIU FRIED RICE— The Gochiso serves up fried rice inarizushi style. by Ryan Tatsumoto

CHAR SIU FRIED RICE— The Gochiso serves up fried rice inarizushi style.
by Ryan Tatsumoto

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Char Siu Fried Rice
One package aburaage
1 package yuba or fu chuk rehydrated overnight in the refrigerator in char siu sauce then drained and diced to 1/4 inch pieces
About 4 cups of day old rice
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cup chopped green onions
Five spice powder
Shoyu
Salt and black pepper to taste
If the aburaage is already in “cupped” form, simply set aside. If they are in large triangles with no opening, soak in hot water then cut to form two “cups” and remove most of the inner white tofu.

On medium heat, saute the chopped yuba with the edamame, then add the rice breaking up the clumps of rice. Add a couple of dashes of five spice powder and drizzle with shoyu to taste. Then add the chopped green onions and toss for another minute. Let the fried rice cool to touch.

Squeeze the aburaage of excess water then stuff the aburaage with the fried rice and serve like inarizushi.

More Than Just Tofu and Edamame
So as you see, the children of the humble soybean are more than just its famous offspring, tofu and edamame, but encompass a wide range of versatile and delicious progeny that are often overlooked. But when you combine great lead actors and actresses with a capable supporting cast, you often can end up with an Academy Award or, in culinary speak, perhaps a James Beard Award. And though I didn’t even touch on those ubiquitous sons and daughters of the soybean, shoyu and miso, well that’s another column. And if you are hankering for a great soybean-based dessert, look no further than the 2014 Northern California Joy of Soy Festival on June 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the San Francisco Japantown Peace Plaza and Buchanan Mall, Post at Buchanan streets where gourmet soy-based desserts will be served and judged to determine the “2014 Soy and Tofu Dessert Master” (http://soyandtofufest.org). Though the deadline for recipe submission has already passed, you can still attend to strategize your entry for the 2015 Northern California Joy of Soy Festival next year.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

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