A lesser known culinary item greatly loved by Japanese people but quite often dismissed as bland by foreigners is kinako, or roasted soybean flour. It’s a decidedly traditional, niche food and I have rarely seen it used as anything other than an accompaniment to glutinous rice (mochi) and similar desserts. Kinako can be an acquired taste and unless you’ve been raised on the stuff, its nutty, distinctive flavour may be off-putting for some.
My mother would every so often get hold of kinako in Perth and we’d joyously chow down on some sticky mochi cakes sprinkled liberally with sweetened kinako. I also recall her using it over regular steamed rice as another type of treat. I know some people enjoy kinako with warm milk (kinako latte?) or simply mixed into hot water and consumed as a healthy beverage. As a kid, I often ate spoonfuls of kinako almost like other kids did Milo except the former is far better for you.
Indeed, kinako is a very healthy, gluten-free wheat flour alternative that people can easily adopt into their diet. It’s full of Vitamin B and protein, and works well in many baking recipes although it doesn’t need as much time in the oven. You can easily buy regular soybean flour from health food shops which is less distinctive in taste as the beans are generally not roasted before milling. Sadly, getting hold of Japanese made kinako in Australia can be tricky. I don’t think I’ve seen it readily available in Perth for a few years now.
Fortunately, I was able to put my kinako cravings to rest thanks to my trusty Thermomix. Whole soy beans can be bought aplenty from health food stores and Asian grocers so all one had to do was roast’em and mill’em.
1 cup of soy beans
caster sugar as required
Note: One cup of beans will yield enough kinako for general use but if you can see yourself using kinako as a flour replacement, you can roast and mill two or three cups of beans.
To make: Wash soy beans thoroughly and remove husky bits and any beans that are discoloured or broken. Place beans on a dry dish cloth and rub dry by wrapping them up in the cloth. This will remove any excess bits and pieces from the beans. Place beans in TMX bowl and roast gently on 100C, Speed Soft for two minutes or until you can start smelling the roasted beans. Alternatively, you can roast the soy beans on a large frying pan over a medium/high heat, shaking the pan frequently to prevent the beans from burning. Once roasted, mill the beans on Speed 9 or 10 for at least 30 seconds or until you cannot hear any whole beans swishing around. Allow flour to cool down before transferring to a air-tight container.
For kinako, I recommend sifting the flour through a fine sieve to get feather light kinako. Mix about one tablespoon of sugar to every 3 or 4 tablespoons of kinako, or to taste.
If you don’t have pre-cut mochi cakes on hand, you can easily make ohagi which is made of cooked rice (2/3 cup glutinous rice and cup 1/3 regular sushi rice), slightly pounded together. It’s not as sticky but tastes great with kinako :) For those preferring a Western-style treat, try kinako in a basic cookie.
(makes about 12)
85g of chilled butter (or vegan substitute)
1/3 brown sugar
1 cup kinako (or regular soy flour)
1 egg (omit if vegan and use water to bind)
2tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
To Make: Pre-heat oven to 170C. Cream butter and sugar well. Add egg and combine well. Add kinako, salt and baking powder and mix into a good stiff dough. Scoop small balls of dough and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Press patterns into cookies before cooling if desired.