May 12, 2014

14 Different Soya Products and how to Use them

When I was growing up, my mum learnt how to make soya milk, tofu and tofu fa (a sweet tofu pudding) from a friend. To get better at it, she made a massive batch once a week and whilst most of it was given to friends, my siblings and I were forced to eat and drink the rest. I say forced, because it got very boring week after week, yet my mum wouldn’t give up her new hobby.

Eventually, my mum got too busy to keep it up and I avoided tofu products at all cost. That lasted nearly a decade until I met G, my husband, who is an avid fan of tofu. I’ve learnt to love tofu again, but have never attempted to make it from scratch. And I’m not sure that I will. The process is laborious: The soya beans have to be washed and soaked in water over night, blended in a blender with some of the water, the pulp squeezed through a muslin cloth, and the raw soya milk is then cooked with or without sugar to make soya milk. Add a small amount of coagulant to the soya milk whilst cooking and you get a set pudding called tofu-fa. Add more coagulant and apply pressure to the thickened soya milk poured into a box and you get tofu.

Whilst I haven’t followed my mum’s footsteps, I’ve certainly eaten & cooked a lot of it in recent years. It was only when a friend mentioned she didn’t know how to cook tofu that I started thinking that there are so many soya-products that are relatively unknown to those who haven’t experienced Asian cuisine extensively.

Soya beans are a natural wonder and the list of products and condiments made from soya beans is impressive. You may have heard it being called bean curd or tofu – they are both the same thing. Bean curd is the western word and Tofu is a direct translation from Chinese.

Here are a range of soya bean products that you may or may not be familiar with:

Soya milk (black or yellow soya, sweet or unsweetened)

Tofu (silken soft or firm) 

To-gan (dry tofu)  - courtesy of google

Tofu-fa (sweet tofu pudding)

Tofu skin (dried soya milk skin)

Tofu bamboo/Bean curd sticks (dried soya milk skin bunched up) 

Fried tofu (fried until light, puffy and airy)
- courtesy of google

Stinky tofu (soft tofu fermented like cheese then deep fried) - This is generally not cooked at home. Popular snack to buy from street vendors in HK

Yuba (fresh version of tofu skin with a milky texture)

And to add to the wonders of the soya bean, they can be fermented in different ways to produce the following condiments and pastes which have variations of their own:


Soya sauce

 Fermented tofu (known as fu-yu) 

Red fermented tofu (known as nam-yu) 

Doujian/Min see

Miso (I have them in the form of soup, but you can also use these soup pastes as a miso paste for cooking)  

It’s amazing when you think that all of the above started with a soya bean! I have eaten, drunk and cooked with all the listed soya products, and the range in taste and texture is vast. 

My kitchen is always stocked to the brim but I surprised myself with all the soya products I already had in my cupboards. I will add recipes for these as I cook them and show the different ways these can be cooked.

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Maira Gall