Thursday, 7 July 2011

Okarakonnyaku- giving new life to soymilk refuse!

Marketed as a dieter's food, okarakonnyaku (おからこんにゃく) is a relatively new product made from the fusion of two traditional Japanese foods.  It can be found in the refrigerated section, likely near the tofu, of some supermarkets, and also at health food stores.

Okara (おから) is a biproduct of soymilk production.  When soybeans are pureed and the liquid is strained out, the pulp that remains in the filter in okara.  Most okara ends up going into animal feed, as consumers buy a lot more soymilk than they do okara, but it is also a great food for humans, being low in fat, high in fiber, and a source of protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B2.  (Thanks wikipedia!)  You'll find it used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine, and more recently in vegetarian products in the west.  It doesn't have much of a taste by itself, but can be made into delicious dishes like unohana.

Konnyaku (蒟蒻,  こんにゃく)is a jelly made from the root of a tuber (potato-like plant).  It has all kinds of crazy English names that are relatively unknown: have you ever heard of devil's tonge, voodoo lilly, or snake palm?  I certainly hadn't!  In Japan, konnyaku is made from a mix of konnyaku flour, water, and limewater.  As it contains almost no calories, and is high in fiber, it is known as a great food for those trying to lose weight.  Fresh konnyaku has a somewhat stinky fishy smell, though I can assure you it is vegetarian, and the smell disappears once cooked.  I'm not crazy about the taste of konnyakku itself, but it's not bad with a yummy sauce, or tucked into flavorful dishes.

The wonders of Japanese food technology have fused these two healthy, traditional foods into something rather meatlike in texture, and seemingly healthy.  To be honest, after reading in Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (which, along with The Omnivore's Dilemma, I highly recommend to any thoughtful eater), I've become rather suspicious of wondrous modern food technology, but from my limited research, okarakonnyaku seems pretty decent.  For one, this product contains a fairly short list of recognizable ingredients, the opposite of which (long list, unfamiliar, scientific sounding ingredients), Pollan believes we should try to avoid.

In Japan, okarakonnyaku's target market is dieters and health conscious eaters, but this is also a great product for vegetarians as it makes a great mock meat to throw into a stir fry.  Which is precisely what I did tonight.

"Soon he started to develop a new food with his positive thinking. The wish to eat a tasty food is common all over the world. He held out!"

This quote is from a cute description of the birth of okarakonnyaku found here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...