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, 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 ever 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 soya 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 and 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 (dow-fu) is a direct translation from Chinese.

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

1. Soya Milk (black or yellow soya, sweet or unsweetened)
Somehow the Chinese soya milk always taste better than the ones from Western supermarkets. The bean taste is more fragrant and roasty. 

2. Tofu (silken soft or firm)
Soft tofu for steamed dishes or when it's gently cooked, and firm tofu for dishes that need braising like this to-ban chilli bean pork with tofu and aubergine recipe I cooked.

3. To-Gan (dry tofu)
These make great protein fillers in Chinese stir fries such as this fried tofu with XO sauce and shrimp skin recipe I shared. 

4. Tofu-Fa (sweet tofu pudding)
Found all over Hong Kong and some Chinese restaurants in UK serve them too. It is super silky with a mellow flavour.

5. Tofu Skin (dried soya milk skin)
This is the skin that forms on top of freshly boiled soya milk. They are gently pulled off, dried on a rod and used in things like Chinese sweet soups which is Far East's answer to traditional dessert. The texture is chewy and does a great job of soaking up all the flavours in sweet soup. 

6. Tofu Bamboo/Bean Curd Sticks (dried soya milk skin bunched up)
Made in the same way as no.5 but rolled up into tighter rolls giving it a denser texture. Most commonly used in braised claypot dishes like lamb/beef hotpots. 

7. Fried Tofu (fried until light, puffy and airy)
These are just like little pillows of sauce soaked bombs. So good in any type of saucy dish.

8. Stinky Tofu (soft tofu fermented like cheese and then deep fried)
This is a hugely popular snack to buy from street vendors in Hong Kong and is generally not made at home for obvious stinky reasons. 

9. Yuba (fresh version of tofu skin with a milky texture)
This is a stunning Japanese dish usually served as a starter. Layers of soft and melty tofu skin from freshly boiled soya milk and then served with a savoury soya/dashi sauce and a blob of wasabi. 

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

10. Soya Sauce
This is a widely used condiment with an astonishing variation of it's own. See my post on 12 types of different soya sauces and how to use them!

11. Fermented Tofu (known as fu-yu) 
This is an incredible condiment that is so good in congee, Chinese rice porridge. It is very salty, so use sparingly. 

12. Red Fermented Tofu (known as nam-yu) 
You can always find this used in traditional Chinese Hakka style food. It adds the biggest flavour kick and umami to Chinese dishes such as braised pork belly with preserved vegetables. 

13. Doujian/Min See
Used in the same way as no.12, these fermented bean have a rice wine alcohol taste to them and predominately salty with a tiny hint of sweetness. 

14. Miso 
You guys know all about miso soup, but the soup pastes can also be used as a miso paste for cooking like this Salmon in Miso Butter recipe I shared. 

So what do you think guys? Mind blown?! 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.

I would love to hear what you think of all these different kind of soya products!

This is an old archive post which I have rebooted


  1. Love this post and found it very interesting and informative as I am a big LOVER of tofu and all tofu-based products haha. However, I did not know people used the skin that is formed from boiled, fresh tofu! Learn something new everyday...

    1. Ahh thank you Wing. I am a huge fan of tofu these days too, and if you ever get the chance to try it, tofu skin is delicious :)


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