Soy, if you haven’t heard, is amazing. And few cultures appreciate this fact as fully as Japan, where the unassuming legume has been widely cultivated, processed, cooked, fermented, stewed, steamed, curdled, baked, boiled, and ultimately consumed in myriad forms for hundreds (probably thousands?) of years. In America, I think soy is generally misunderstood. People tend to think of soy products as very good-for-you stuff, yes, but also vaguely artificial and blander than Wonder bread; the bean’s bounties are often relegated to that ill-lit corner of the gastro-hegemony labeled “health food,” where only the most dreary-eyed nerds, hippies, and uncool moms loiter awkwardly about.
But in Japan, as in many other east and southeast Asian nations, soy gets the respect it deserves: as a popular happy hour snack (edamame), an umami-rich condiment (soy sauce), an ingredient in sweet and nutty desserts (kinako), a sticky and pungent breakfast item (nattō), and so much more!
So as a way of saying arigatō gozaimashita to soy and also tanjōbi omedetō to myself and two of my friends, last night I hosted a soy potluck party, in the spirit of LA’s Tofu Fest and the surprisingly successful rice party I threw three years ago. People got very creative, and we wound up with an incredibly delicious (and isoflavone-rich) spread with such delightful soy dishes as barbecue tofu, banana red bean cake with okara-matcha butter cream, bean curry in a cornbread canoe, miso ramen Baby Star, tofu salad, edamame, black sugar-coated soy nuts, peanut butter miso cookies, and more! My own entry to the smörgåsbord was a soy-packed Osaka-style okonomiyaki. Here’s the recipe, and remember, the key phrase is okonomi!
Soy Okonomiyaki 大豆風味お好み焼き
black sesame seeds
cheese or soy cheese (semi-hard and mild)
bacon (may be omitted for a vegetarian-friendly version)
nattō (may also be omitted for a nattōphobe-friendly version)
karashi (hot mustard)
- Chop cabbage and green onions into small, thin pieces.
- Shell edamame and cut tofu and cheese into bite-size chunks.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine cabbage, green onion, sesame seeds, edamame, tofu, cheese, flour, water, and eggs to form a thick batter.
- Mix equal parts mayonnaise and white miso with a small amount of karashi and spoon into a squeeze bottle.
- Cut bacon into small pieces and sauté in a small amount of oil with nattō and white pepper in a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Stir often so the nattō’s goo doesn’t burn.
- Once the bacon has browned slightly and the nattō has blackened slightly, remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, add a bit more oil if necessary, then spoon in batter to form a large pancake about 2 centimeters deep. Add bacon and nattō to the top of the batter and cook on one side for 6-8 minutes.
- Flip okonomiyaki and cook for another 6-8 minutes.
- Remove oknomiyaki from the pan, cover with okonomi sauce and miso-mayonnaise dressing. Top with a handful of katso bushi and get your omega-3 on!