When soybeans are made into soymilk (which can then be made into tofu), there is a byproduct created known as soy pulp or tofu lees - or okara in Japanese. Fresh okara is fluffy and white in color. It is low in fat, high in fiber, and also contains protein, calcium, iron, and riboflavin.
I discovered okara at San Jose Tofu over the weekend. (I may have found my Bay Area equivalent for Chang Shing Tofu back in Cambridge, MA.) San Jose Tofu is a neighborhood establishment in San Jose's Japantown district. The space is tiny - and expresses "open kitchen" in its truest form. Co-owner (I assume) Amy Nozaki collects orders three at a time (three is all that will fit inside), while Chester Nozaki busies among steaming pots behind her. Most regulars bring their own tupperware for Amy to fill. The tofu is pulled fresh out of its warm bath and sold at $2.00 a square.
A fluffy white mountain rises beside the register, next to the tofu bath. The couple in front of me informs me that the Japanese use this as a healthy ingredient in cookies and muffins. Muffins?? I ask for a small sample and am scooped a two pound bag...it costs me $0.50.
After perusing okara recipes of all sorts, I ended up adapting a simple pancake recipe. FYI - Okara Mountain is a great resource.
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup yogurt or buttermilk
¼ cup oil
2 Tbsp honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup fresh okara (lightly packed)
Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients (except okara) in a medium size bowl, then add dry ingredients. Fold in okara.
Lightly grease a griddle and set over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the hot griddle and spread into a circular shape about 5 inches in diameter. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the batter bubbles and is golden brown. Flip over and continue to cook until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Serve hot with maple syrup and butter.
I like okara. I like it because it made our pancakes light and fluffy, and I imagine it would do the same for muffins, waffles, and even croquettes, meatballs, and falafel. If we ever make our own soymilk (which I imagine we will - once we get yogurt figured out) then I will surely Okara-ize some more tasty items.