Okara Tempeh: don't try this at home

Those of you who have been here a while may be aware of my ongoing battle with okara. I make tofu just about every week and have tried – really tried! – to put the leftover okara to use, but nearly everything I do with it fails. When I had The Book of Tempeh out of the library, I learned you can make tempeh from okara, and as my tempeh-making skills have become full-fledged, I thought that sounded like the perfect idea. So this weekend I did just that. If you’re the impatient type, I’ll save you the suspense: I won’t be doing it again.

I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure. If I had used the resulting tempeh in some recipe in which it needed to be ground or crumbled, it may have been fine. But, having read that okara tempeh is common in Indonesia, the birthplace of tempeh, I figured I’d make some sort of Indonesian dish with it. That all went pears. But I’ll share it with you nonetheless, if for no other reason than there is very little about okara tempeh on the internet – and not one picture that I could find.

After straining my soy milk to make tofu, I spread the leftover pulp – the okara – onto a baking tray.

Because I know that tempeh will fail if the soy beans are too wet, I decided I’d better dry the okara out a bit, so I baked it at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

Then I let it cool to room temperature and mixed it with a tablespoon of vinegar and 1/2 tsp powdered tempeh starter, just as I would whole-bean tempeh.

I put it in a perforated baggie and then in the same contraption I always use for incubating tempeh: a yogurt maker fitted with a steaming rack.

It was hard to tell when this tempeh was done because you’re looking for mostly-white mold to form on it, and okara is white, whereas it’s easy to tell when whole-bean tempeh is done. After 30 hours or so, I figured it was as done as it was going to get and put it in the refrigerator. It smelled like it should (a bit mushroomy) and it had a few black spots (which is normal for tempeh), but it seemed more fragile than normal tempeh. I was skeptical already.

The next day I decided to use it in a meal. I removed it from the baggie, finding it flimsier than my tempeh usually is. I cut it in half so I could see the interior. It looked…crumbly.

Nothing about it suggested there was anything wrong with it, however, so I proceeded. And honestly this is pretty much what I expected okara tempeh to look like. I chopped it up into bite-sized pieces.

A lot of traditional Indonesian recipes call for deep frying the tempeh. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve deep fried something at home, however, and not only would Mark not eat anything I deep fried, I don’t want to eat it either. So I decided to brown the okara tempeh by pan-frying it in a moderate amount of oil. I used a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.

The tempeh cubes sucked all the oil up, leaving a completely dry wok, after about a minute. My wok is well-seasoned and the tempeh wasn’t sticky, so dry-frying was no big deal….until the tempeh began crumbling like mad and the crumbs started burning. It got smokier and smokier in the kitchen (and the whole house) and the tempeh cubes got smaller and smaller. They looked like croutons. Or what I could see of them behind the increasing wall of smoke.

Though shrinking, the tempeh cubes weren’t really getting all that crispy, but I eventually couldn’t take the smoke any longer and dumped them out into a colander …

… which I then shook vigorously, knocking the burnt crumbs off and through the holes.

The cubes look brown, but they are spongy, not crispy!

Then I had to get all the remaining crumbs out of my wok so I could make the main dish. I use a bamboo brush.

One thing I can say is even after soaking up all oil almost immediately, the tempeh did not stick at all, and the crumbs brushed right out. However, I don’t think I would ever make okara tempeh again unless I was planning to deep fry it. It may well have turned out well if I had deep fried it….

Too late for deep frying. I soldiered on. I ground up some shallots, garlic, soy sauce, and sambel olek:

Then I heated a small amount of coconut oil in the wok and briefly fried the tempeh cubes again with some minced ginger. Again, the tempeh almost immediately soaked up the oil.

I added some chopped carrots and bell pepper.

Then I mixed in the shallot mixture, followed by a cup of coconut milk.

As I heated the mixture through, most of the tempeh cubes simply dissolved, making a grainy rather than smooth, milky sauce, with few distinct pieces of tempeh.

It was edible, but overall pretty dumb. I won’t be making okara tempeh again and I recommend you not bother.

Okara remains my nemesis. So here is a lilac from our backyard.

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SusanV's Okara Crab Cakes with some sauces

As I promised in the Imperial Deviled Crab post, yesterday I attempted to make a crabby tofu. And I failed miserably. I was left with, however, an Old Bay and seaweed-infused mass of thick okara, so to keep the thing from becoming a total loss, I obviously made SusanV’s Okara Crab Cakes.

I actually had some tartar sauce already prepared, as yesterday I’d made us quick “fish” sandwiches, using some frozen vegan “fish” patties, but reading Susan’s suggestion of a “spicy cocktail sauce”, I decided I wanted some of that too! I looked up cocktail sauce recipes and quickly learned that horseradish is pretty much essential, but I didn’t have any and it didn’t seem worth a trip to Wegmans (despite my undying love for Wegmans). In case you ever find yourself in the same situation, here’s what I did:

Don’t Have Any Horseradish But Need Cocktail Sauce Cocktail Sauce

1 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp powdered wasabi
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
juice of 1/2 large lemon
hot sauce to taste

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Since I had made the tartar sauce the day before and wasn’t planning to post it, I don’t have any pictures for you, but in case you are interested, here’s what I probably did (I don’t remember exactly and I just make this stuff up as I go along…)

Tartar Sauce

1 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup sweet relish, squeezed dry
1/4 onion, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are into photography at all. I’m quite an amateur, but I consider it one of my hobbies. I like to think that most of my photography is better than the awful pictures I manage to take of food for this blog (food photography is a skill I’m trying to improve), but I still have a lot to learn. One thing I DO know is that my aperture was set way, way too low when I was taking pictures of my crab cakes tonight. Wow. This actually looks better in the smaller version (usually the reverse is quite true), but it is still an awful picture and I’m sorry. I’d have skipped posting anything tonight, but it’s been several days and I feel as I’ve abandoned you. I wanted to have an awesome tofu crab tutorial for you today but that didn’t work out!

I’ll leave you with a picture of some rolls I baked yesterday (in addition to a hearth loaf and a panned loaf that is currently in the refrigerator for baking tomorrow). The recipe was the Whole Wheat Bread with a Multi-Grain Soaker and Pâte Fermentée from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread.

This book has been on my wish list forever and I was ready for a new bread book, but since I’m a book-buying ban until I go to Sydney in February, I borrowed it from the library. I don’t want to hurt Peter Reinhart’s feelings, but I might have a new boyfriend now! I’m either going to have to keep this book checked out until my birthday in October, or I’m going to have to break the book-buying ban, because I need this book. (Fortunately, I’ve been very careful to say I’m only “cutting back” on my book purchases until Sydney…)

Oh yeah, and I found out that Fortinbras promised his mother that I would do a bagel tutorial, so look for that soon. If it weren’t so late and I weren’t so into reading Little House on the Prairie for some unknown reason, I’d start some bagels tonight, but I’m afraid it’s going to have to wait another week. Bagels are fun though! Get yourselves some high-gluten flour in preparation!

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Soliciting Soysage Suggestions

Oh boy, was I ever a good girl about my soy products this weekend. From the okara leftover from my soy milk and tofu, I saved enough to make SusanV’s Okara Crab Cakes tomorrow AND I made Soysage from the New Farm cookbook with the rest of it! Oooooh, AND my tempeh turned out. The one problem, though, is I didn’t think ahead and decide what to DO with the soysage. So now I have a couple pounds (and that was halving the recipe!) of vegan “sausage” and no idea what to do with it.

Here it is in all its glory:

I’m pretending it does NOT look like cat food. Anyway, this is where you guys come in. What should I do with all this soysage?!

(Doesn’t it look a bit like Tigger is pliéing in the background? Is pliéing a word? Firefox says no.)

In other news, this post is little more than a sneaky way to force you to look at some of the pictures I took in the park this morning. I have all the photos ready for an entry on sourdough bread, but the thought of writing up the post leaves me exhausted. It’s been a great weekend and I’m tired. Anyway, it will take you five days to make your starters, so I figure I have another four days reprieve! I thought maybe it would be wrong to make a post that had nothing to do with food, then I wandered into the kitchen, saw the soysage cooling and figured that would be a good excuse for a post, then I’d tack on the nature photos. But I really do want soysage suggestions! THAT’S SO MUCH SAUSAGE!

Now that that’s out of the way, look at how cute these ducks are!!!!

Mark and I were walking a trail that claimed to be wildlife-intensive and I’d been griping about the distinct lack of wildlife. Since we were by water, I said, “I wish there were otters,” because I think after cats, otters might be the cutest animals ever. No sooner did the words leave my mouth when baby ducklings swam into sight! Not otters, but CUTE!

It’s relevant to the blog because they are eating food.

I had to be very patient, but I finally got a picture of a dragonfly:

So how about it? What to do with all the soysage?

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