Okara (Unohana) is a popular Japanese home-style simmered dish made of assorted vegetables, shiitake mushroom, hijiki seaweed, and soy pulp. It can be a tasty and satisfying vegan dish, thanks to the protein-packed okara (soy pulp).
Soak 4 dried shiitake mushrooms in ½ cup water (I use a 2-cup measuring cup). Place a heavy object (I use a small bowl) over the mushrooms to submerge them completely. Set aside to rehydrate.
In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp dried hijiki seaweed and 4 Tbsp water. Set aside to rehydrate.
Cut ½ block konnyaku (konjac) into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices, about the width of a pencil. Then, cut the slices in half widthwise.
Finally, cut the pieces into thin ¼-inch (6-mm) strips.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, snap and trim the ends of 3 oz French green beans (haricots verts), if they haven’t been trimmed.
When the water is boiling, add the green beans and blanch for 2 minutes. The remaining heat will continue to cook, so be careful not to overcook. Drain and transfer them to a plate/tray.
In the same boiling water, add 1 piece aburaage (deep-fried tofu pouch) and blanch for 10 seconds on each side, flipping once. Transfer to the plate/tray.
In the same boiling water, add the konnyaku. Cook for 2–3 minutes to remove the astringency. Drain and transfer it to the plate/tray and set aside. Rinse the pot quickly (you will use this pot again later).
When the aburaage is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise, then cut it into thin strips (similar to the size and shap of the konnyaku strips).
Peel and cut 1 carrot into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces. Then cut it into thin slabs.
Then, cut the slab into thin strips (similar to the konnyaku and aburaage).
Cut the green beans diagonally so the strips will be the same size as other vegetables.
By this time, the hijiki seaweed should be rehydrated. Drain well and set aside.
In the same medium pot, add ½ lb okara (no need to add oil) and stir-fry on medium-low heat for 5–6 minutes.
The okara may stick to the pot (especially if you’re using stainless steel like mine) but don’t worry. I usually use a silicone spatula to scrape it off. When the okara is dry and crumbly, remove it from the heat and set aside.
By this time, the dried shiitake mushrooms should be rehydrated and soft. Squeeze the liquid from the mushrooms. Reserve the soaking liquid (shiitake dashi) in a measuring cup. We’ll be using the liquid in the next step. Discard the tough stem of the mushrooms and thinly slice the caps.
You should have about ⅓ cup shiitake dashi (the soaking liquid). We will combine this shiitake dashi with the ⅔ cup dashi (Japanese soup stock) prepared in advance. Altogether, you will have 1 cup of dashi. Shiitake dashi may contain some debris, so I recommend straining it over the measuring cup to catch any impurities.
To Cook the Okara (Unohana)
In a medium pot, heat 1½ Tbsp toasted sesame oil on medium heat. When it’s hot, add the carrot and coat it with the oil.
Then add the shiitake mushrooms, aburaage, konnyaku, and hijiki seaweed.
Stir-fry together for 1–2 minutes. Then, add the 1 cup of combined dashi.