What a delightful afternoon with a wonderful group and charming host! Sonoko Sakai, our host for the day, may lay awake nights wondering if the soy milk will coagulate at the right time when she’s teaching tofu making technique, but you would never know it! She’s the quintessential picture of grace and calm … and I have to believe that whatever she is presenting from tofu to soba, it will always be perfect!
We were an eager bunch as we gathered at The Shed in Healdsburg to learn about the centuries-old technique of making tofu. It’s no longer a mystery and quite easy in fact! The key is to start with the best quality soybeans – naturally. Then it’s an uncomplicated, but exact process in terms of temperature and timing, soaking, blending, coagulating, pressing and finally, the reward, tasting. It’s pretty close to immediate gratification and we all dove right in with our chopsticks as it was taken from the mold and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Okara, a by-product of making tofu, is the fiber that has been strained out prior to coagulation.There is also whey, much like in cheese making, that is left at the end of the process and is often used later in soups and stews. Nothing is wasted! The Okara lends a nice texture and flavor to any dish and can be simply sautéed on it’s own with a spice or two, for a quick snack. It’s often included in traditional Japanese bento boxes as a condiment. Here, we use it as an ingredient in a quick sauté that will be served over rice. Delicious, full of protein and amazingly satiating! Enjoy!
Sonoko Sakai Okara
Shed Workshop February 21, 2016
4 cups freshly steamed short grain brown rice
4 eggs, preferably pasture-raised
8 ounces okara, freshly made as by-product of soy milk production
4 ounced ground chicken or port; optional
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, hydrated overnight
1/3 of a burdock root, skin on, shaved and hydrated overnight
1 small heirloom carrot, julienned and diced into 1/8” pieces
1 cup shiitake mushroom dashi (reserved from hydrating shiitake mushrooms)
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons mirin
1 Tablespoon organic sugar (or muscovado sugar) – or to taste
1 Tablespoon sake
2 scallions, sliced thinly, crosswise
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional for garnish: thinly sliced nori, daikon sprouts
To make the soft boiled eggs, puncture the bottom of the egg with a pushpin. Bring water to a gentle boil in a large pot and cook the eggs for seven minutes. Drain and place in ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Drain, peel and set aside.
Drain shiitake mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Take one cup of the liquid and, in a small bowl, mix with soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin. Set aside.
Discard stems from shiitake mushrooms and dice mushrooms into 1/8”squares.
In a large sauté pan, heat sesame oil and sauté the ground chicken or pork (if using) and then add the carrot and burdock. Sauté for a minute longer. Add shiitake and sauté again briefly. Add okara and heat through.
Pour the mixture of seasonings over the okara and sauté until the moisture is almost gone. Add scallions, mixing them in gently.
Serve warm or at room temperature with hot rice and soft boiled egg.
Optional garnish: thinly sliced nori and daikon sprouts