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For the love of protein

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One of the questions I get asked most is, “Where do vegans get their protein from?” Physician-scientist and clinician Dr. Milton Mills sets the record straight in the documentary, What The Health?

He explains, “It is not necessary to eat animal tissue in order to get protein. Only plants have the ability to actually take nitrogen from the air, break those molecules apart, and incorporate that nitrogen into amino acids, and make protein. Any protein you get from an animal is simply recycled protein.”

The recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.

According to WebMD, “Adult men need about 56 grams of protein a day, while women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams if pregnant or breastfeeding).” Plant-based foods provide plenty of protein with soy products, legumes, whole grains and nuts at the top of the list. Just half a cup of firm tofu contains around 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 227mg calcium, 1.82mg of iron and has only 100 calories and is cholesterol free.

Which brings me to the star ingredient in this Hiyashi chuka (cold ramen) recipe, tofu-yaki omelet (vegan Japanese tamagoyaki). My taste testers had a hard time believing the shredded “omelet” was not made from eggs. As the weather heats up this chilled noodle dish is refreshing, full of umami and texture, and most importantly, packs a punch of protein. This recipe is from my cookbook, Hawaii Washoku, to be released this November.

Hiyashi Chuka with Tofu-yaki Omelet

Ingredients for Tofu-Yaki Omelet:

• 14 ounces block firm tofu, pressed and drained (27 g protein)

• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (4 g protein)

• 1 tablespoon potato starch or cornstarch

• 2 teaspoons kombu dashi granules or mushroom seasoning

• 1 tablespoon sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon kala namak (black salt) or alaea Hawaiian red salt

• 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (for color)

Ingredients for basic Tare Dressing:

• 1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free liquid aminos

• 2 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup or date syrup

• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

• 1 tablespoon water

• 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

• 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds Note: For a creamy dressing, add 2 tablespoons tahini sesame paste.

For a spicy dressing: add 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce.

For Serving:

• 4 servings Lotus Foods rice ramen (4 g protein per serving)

• 4 cups mixed salad veggies

• 1 cup cooked shelled edamame (22 g protein)

• 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped (10 g protein)

• 4 tablespoons kizami shoga


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Blend all the tofu-yaki ingredients in a food processor until well combined (it should look like a thick paste).

Pour into the loaf pan and flatten the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes.

Cool to room temperature, then remove from the loaf pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill. Slice the omelet into thin strips.

Whisk all the tare dressing ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes before using. Cook the ramen noodles according to package instructions. Rinse under cold water and drain.

Divide into 4 serving bowls. Top with sliced omelet, mixed salad, edamame, peanuts, and drizzle with tare just before serving.

Serves 4.

Lillian Cumic is a vegan chef and author of Hawaii A Vegan Paradise and Tasting Hawaii Vegan Style. Her column is a guide for plant-based eating on Oahu. Follow Lillian’s journey at

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