Japan meets Italy: Okara Grissini

I told you here about my mission to make proper Kinugoshi (Japanese silken tofu) at home. By now I can reliably repeat making both – momendofu (firm tofu) as well as Kinugoshi, which is especially wonderful with the heat of the summer that is finally approaching Germany. Kinugoshi is by far my most favorite lunch snack in hot weather. Served chilled with a refreshing ponzu sauce, some grated ginger and dry roasted katsuo bushi or equally wonderful with a sauce that I call ‘liquid umami’ and some wasabi for a little kick.

Okara are packed with fiber, protein and iron

Yesterday was tofu-making day in my kitchen and every time you make tofu you end up with about as much okara. The left over lees. As nothing goes to waste in the Japanese kitchen there are many ways to use up okara, which by the way is packed with fiber, protein and iron.

Fresh okara and flour in a bowl

On my Shōjin Ryōri event I used okara to make croquettes – alongside with potatoes, pumpkin and adzuki beans -finished off with some freshly ground sancho pepper and super fine ‘snow’-salt.

Today though we will get a much-valued visitor that we haven’t seen for quite some time. There will be a lot of talking and sake to catch up and I prepared okara grissini as a nibble to go with the sake (Tskudani make a good nibble as well, so do pickled cucumbers) . Not exactly a Japanese recipe, but highly recommendable. You can make the okara-grissini using eggs as well as a replacing the eggs with flaxseeds. I prefer the vegan version, because the flaxseeds add an interesting component to the grissini.

Freshly powdered flaxseeds ground in a suribachi

Recipe for 14 (vegan) Okara-Grissini


200g fresh okara
100g Bread flour

1 Tbsp.

3 Tbsp.

Egg or alternatively

Powdered flaxseeds and


¾  tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Powder


Pre-heat the oven to 180° C. If you are preparing the vegan version mix the powdered flaxseeds with the water and let them rest for 10 Min. In the meantime mix the other ingredients in a bowl. Add the flaxseeds once they are done and knead well. The better you knead the better the dough will hold together. Especially important should you decide to use low-gluten flour.

Ready made dough

Portion out about 25g of the dough and roll each of it up to a 20cm grissini. If you use larger amounts of dough or prefer the grissini to be thinner make sure to adjust the baking time accordingly. Put them on a parchment lined baking tray and bake them for 30 Minutes. After they have cooled for a few minutes you can eat them straight away. Ideally consume them the same day to enjoy their crispiness.

Okara-grissini just before they went in the oven

If you want to add nutrition you may change the flour to whole-grain flour. I also like to make okara-grissini with whole-grain spelt flour, but in this case I need to be a bit more conscientious when kneading the dough and rolling the grissini, as the dough doesn’t hold together as well.

* Okara can be kept up to five days in the fridge or several weeks in the freezer if you do not have the time to use it up right away.

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From the kitchen lab: Making tofu at home

Silken Tofu made with different coagulates (nigari and gdl) - not a perfect shape, but a pretty good taste. I added some wakame salad with a ponzu dressing to go with it.
Silken Tofu made with different coagulates (nigari and gdl) – not a perfect shape, but a pretty good taste. I added some wakame salad with a ponzu dressing to go with it.

I have similar experiences with tofu than with Japanese sake. Before I moved to Japan both were awful. Sake was that weired warm stuff that you got for free at the end of a meal and tofu the unpleasently grainy textured tasteless something that you only eat when you need an alternative for meat. Sometimes overpowered with spices or smoked to transform it into an unpleasantly grainy texture something with some taste – but still awful.

Soy beans in a blender
Add some water to the soaked soy beans to make your soy milk

After discovering what sake can be, I am all in for it. A wonderful ambrosia. Clear, fresh, complex and very divers. From clean and dry to fruity, sweet or luscious . The sky seems to be the limit and not every sake taste the same. Similarly you wouldn’t compare Liebrauenmilch with a wonderful German Riesling.

And my experience with tofu is similar. Since I had the really good stuff,  I don’t want to live without tofu anymore. Without Japanese tofu to be precise. All over Japan you can find tofu-ya (artisanal tofu makers) like you find artisanal bakeries in Germany.

It is easy to make soy milk using a blender
It is easy to make soy milk using a blender

Small family owned businesses that turn on their light in the middle of the night to make fresh tofu. Often in shops as big as a garage with a tiny stall in front of it. Easy to spot in the morning when they hang their cloths up for drying in the wind in front of their shops.

Japanese tofu is widely different from the one I get over here. A very delicate taste, but with a definite hint of soybeans – not invasive just the natural taste, which is so fundamental for the Japanese cuisine. Nothing that needs to hide under a layer of spices. Pure and clean.

Separating the soy milk from the lees
This is hot! When starting to separate the soy milk from the lees be sure to use a tool, because it is boiling hot. In the end I always use my hands to get the last bit out of it.

And the consistency? Whether firm, fried or silken Japanese tofu always has a pleasant mouth feel to it. The silken kind is velvety as crème bruleé, topped with grated ginger, katsuo bushi and a refreshing ponzu-sauce a refreshing snack or lunch in the heat of the summer.

I have tried every tofu that I came across. Artisanal ones sold at a farmers market as well as those commercially made in organic supermarkets. Without any success. Nothing could keep up with the tofu I tasted in Japan.

Okara (lees), nigiri and the prepared wooden box to drain the tofu later on (front to back)
Okara (lees), nigiri and the prepared wooden box to drain the tofu later on (front to back)

I will be keeping eating every new brand of tofu that I come across, but my hopes are not high to find what I am looking for. Obviously the German taste is different than mine. So I started to make my own tofu.

I did not expect it to be complicated. And it actually isn’t, but there are a few things that can go wrong … and did go wrong. So at the same time I found out that making tofu yourself is not a piece of cake either.

Tofu curds just before pressing
Tofu curds just before pressing

These days I am spending a lot of time in my kitchen lab, testing various ways to make Japanese tofu, aiming to understand all the parameters to make what I want reliably. I will keep you posted on my findings, but before that here are the good news:

Final Tofu
Final Tofu



I already succeeded a couple of times. I made tofu that tasted like the one from Toshio and Kyoko Kanemoto, my favorite tofu-ya-couple in Tokio, just around the corner from Kaminoge station.

Kaki no Shira-ae: Persimmons in tofu sauce

Many aspects are simply wonderful about shira-ae (tofu sauce). The most compelling one is probably that it is delicious. Besides that shira-ae is easy to make. It normally doesn’t require cooking and it calls for less than five ingredients. So all you need to do is quickly whip it up. It is frugal. Perfect to use up that little piece of tofu that is left somewhere in the back of your fridge. And it is like a white T-shirt in your repertoire. Savory and sweet – both work wonderful with this healthy sauce that gets its full-bodied flavor from dashi (stock), the secret ingredient of so much Japanese food.


Suribachi (Japanese mortar) with the main ingredients
Suribachi (Japanese mortar) with the main ingredients


You will often find shira-ae paired with blanched greens like spinach or green beans. But the recipe that I will make today is a sweet type, a specialty from the Tohoku, the northernmost region of Japan’s main island Honshu. In Japan it is a typical fall-dish, but as the persimmons in Europe are just perfect right now, it’s now time for me to make it.

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 1 big or 2 small ripe persimmons (if you want to use the fruit as a serving dish use the smaller Fuyu-type)
  • a couple of fresh leafy greens like mitsuba (Japanese Parsley), alternatively celery leaves – optional

For the shira-ae with nuts

  • 100g tofu
  • 50g walnuts
  • a drop of light (!) soy sauce (usukuchi soy sauce) to taste. Normal soy sauce would stain the dish and spoil the beautiful white color
  • a drop of mirin (sweet rice wine) to taste
  • a drop dashi (stock – use kombu dashi to make it vegan) to taste


If you use really fresh tofu you can use it as it is. If your tofu is a couple days old, you might want to blanch it for a minute in boiling water to hedge you bets with hygiene. Don’t refresh the tofu after blanching it, but let it cool on its own while you roast and grind the nuts.

Ground walnuts
Ground walnuts

Dry roast your nuts over medium heat. When they are aromatic and lightly colored, save a couple to decorate the final dish and transfer the rest to a suribachi (Japanese mortar) or food processor, whichever you prefer to use. Grind them to your preferred size before adding the tofu. I like to notice the nuts in my dish, so I will not grind them very fine.

Add tofu in little pieces
Add tofu in little pieces

Now rip the tofu in small pieces and add it to your nuts. Grind and mix until the tofu-nut-mixture is smooth and thick. If you use a food processor make sure to only pulse-process the mixture to avoid heating it up. Finally add the seasonings to your liking. Be careful though not to add too much. Shira-ae is purposely only delicately flavored to give each ingredient the opportunity to stand out and be recognized. The final sauce should have the consistency of thick yoghurt and can be kept in the fridge for about two days.

Thick, yoghurt-like shira-ae
Thick, yoghurt-like shira-ae

For the final dish, peel and cut persimmons into little, bite-size dices (dry the peels, if organically grown, and use them e.g. as fermentation seasoning). You can also cut persimmons just beneath their ‘shoulders’ and use them as a serving dish, but you will need to scoop out more persimmons for serving than to prepare the dish! Cut the stems of the mitsuba and gently mix them with the persimmons and the shira-ae just before serving it. Decorate with some roasted nuts and mitsuba-leaves and/or with the ‘lids’ of the persimmons that you scooped out.

Final dish
Final dish

As said in the beginning, shira-ae is versatile and can be used with many other ingredients. Replace persimmons with apples, pears, grapes or melons after the seasons is over for a creamy sweet indulgence.