April 2005

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Customer Comments

GM Report

Board Report

Produce News: Spring Asparagus and Brunch Ideas

Deli News: Field Roast Products

Off-site Kitchen News: Open for Business!

Book & Housewares News

Juice Bar & Bakery News:
Soy Protein Powder

Producer Profile: Earth Fire Products

Specials Information

Recipes & Drink Recommendations

Soy: Miracle Food or Poison

A Soy Primer

Ask the Midwife: Food-Borne Risks in Pregnancy

Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference 2005 Staff Reflections

Brainstorming a Better Local Food System

Community Calendar


by Ingrid Gulliksen, WSGC Staff

Soy! Available in an array of textures, forms, and flavors, soy seems to be everywhere these days. Yet, for all its popularity and trendiness, soy is a traditional and ancient food with humble, revered origins. Known scientifically as Glycine max, the soybean is a member of the legume family. Some sources believe soybean plants to were first discovered growing wild in the winter wheat-growing areas of Manchurian China between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. The farmers who discovered the plants cultivated and domesticated them, training them to grow upright rather than close to the ground as in their wild state. Soybeans became an important staple crop and, in fact, were so indispensable to the everyday diet that ancient Chinese scholars regarded them as one of the “five sacred grains.” Eventually soybeans reached Japan and other parts of Asia, and by the 18th and 19th centuries they had reached Europe and then the United States.

The hardy and versatile soybean adapted readily to other countries’ soils and climates, as well as to other cuisines’ methods of food preparation. Part of the soybean’s popularity is its unique ability to be prepared in a variety of forms, both liquid and solid. Here are some soy foods in all their glorious variety:

The simplest soy food, these are small, yellow, rock-hard, mature whole beans, available both canned and dried. They will retain their natural chewy quality even after being fully cooked.

Whole soybeans, frequently left in their pods, that were picked before becoming fully mature.

Roasted soybeans
Also called soynuts, these are a popular snack food as well as a crunchy addition to a variety of dishes.

Soynut butter
Made from roasted, ground soynuts, this is the soy version of peanut butter. Like peanut butter it’s available salted and unsalted, and in both smooth and chunky consistencies.

Soybean oil
Extracted from whole soybeans, this refined oil does not possess a strong flavor, and is used as an all-purpose salad or cooking oil.

This creamy, milk-like liquid is produced by first soaking and cooking whole soybeans and then pressing out their liquid. It is available flavored and unflavored, and whole, low-fat, and non-fat.

Soy cheese
Made from soymilk, this soy food closely resembles dairy cheese. Some varieties, however, do contain a trace amount of milk protein, so read labels carefully.

Soy sour cream
Possessing the same consistency and cooking properties as dairy sour cream, this product is produced in the same way as the dairy version, by adding a souring agent to soy milk.

Soy yogurt
This popular item is made in the same manner as the dairy variety (by adding live bacteria cultures to soy milk), and is used in the same manner.

Originally called doufu by the Chinese, tofu is the well-known Japanese term for curdled soy milk. Nigari (a seawater compound), calcium sulfate, and vinegar or lemon juice are added to soymilk, creating curds. The curds are then squeezed of their moisture and pressed into soft blocks known as tofu. Tofu (also sometimes called bean curd) is available in soft, silken, firm, and extra firm consistencies.

Prepared from fermented soybeans, this is a high-protein and traditionally salty (salt-reduced varieties are available) paste which is sometimes mixed with grains such as rice and barley. In general, red and brown miso are saltier in taste, and white shiro and yellow miso are sweeter.

Soy sauce (shoyu)
Available in many different varieties, soy sauce is a flavor enhancer made from fermented soybeans.

Originating in Indonesia centuries ago, tempeh is made with hulled, cooked soybeans which are fermented and formed into cakes by a white mold—somewhat similar to Western cheesemaking methods.

Soybean sprouts
From edamame, these are strongly-flavored sprouts sometimes eaten raw in salads but more commonly used in stir-fries and Chinese dishes.

Texturized soy protein (TSP)
This unique soyfood is made from fat-free soy flour that is formed into granules or flakes. TSP is frequently used as a substitute for ground beef, and pre-formed TSP chunks are popular additions to stews and soups.

Getting creative with soy
In addition to enjoying soy foods on their own, various forms of soy are often added to or combined with other foods in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. For example, in her charming cookbook, Tofu, Tempeh, and Other Soy Delights, Camille Cusumano’s recipe for Chili Con Carne includes both ground beef and soybeans. In contrast, her Tofu Vegetable Dinner recipe is a hearty vegetarian stir-fry including bulgur, tofu, vegetables, and soy sauce.

Whether you are a newcomer to soy foods or have enjoyed them for a long time, soy’s delightful versatility invites you to savor new recipes as well as old favorites.
Willy Street Co-op is without a doubt a “soy-friendly” store! In addition to selecting from our wide variety of regularly stocked soy foods, shoppers are welcome to make special requests for other soy foods and we will do our best to obtain them for you.

For your enjoyment, here are two soy-based recipes illustrating the wonderful versatility and variety of the humble soybean:

Herb and Lemon Noodle Salad With Ponzu Dressing
(From the book Healthy Soy, Cooking with Soybeans for Health by Brigid Treloar)

Serves 4.
Ponzu Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice/*
1 tablespoon soybean oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 scallions, green parts, finely sliced
1 medium red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)

Directions: In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk until blended. Set aside.


1 tablespoon soybean oil
4 oz. firm tofu, cut into strips 1/2 inch by 1 inch
1 cup soybean sprouts
4 oz. dried soba noodles
1 cup shredded spinach leaves
1 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, oregano, basil
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and finely diced

Directions: In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat and stir-fry tofu until golden—about 2 minutes each side. Cook soybean sprouts in boiling water for 2 minutes. Using a skimmer, remove sprouts. Rinse under cold water, then drain. Return water to a boil, gradually add noodles and return to a boil. Add 1/2 cup cold water and bring back to a boil. Add another 1/2 cup cold water, return to a boil and cook noodles until tender, 8-10 minutes total cooking time. Drain noodles, add remaining ingredients and dressing, toss well to combine, and serve.

Tofu Rocky Road Bars
(From the book Soy Desserts by Patricia Greenberg)

Makes 12 bars.
1/2 cup roasted soynuts
4 oz *extra-firm tofu, drained and diced
1 cup semi-sweet soy chocolate chips
1/3 cup soymilk

Directions: Lightly grease an 8 by 5-inch rectangular pan and spread the soynuts and the diced tofu evenly across the bottom. Put the chocolate chips in a glass bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the soymilk over a medium-high flame just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and pour directly over the chocolate chips and whisk quickly until smooth. Watch carefully, as this mixture has a tendency to form lumps. Immediately pour the chocolate mixture slowly and evenly over the nuts and tofu. Gently spread to cover the whole pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into 12 bars.

*COOKING NOTE: For extra-firm tofu, put the tofu, uncut, into a colander and let sit for 1 hour. This will drain out any excess water that might cause the end product to be mushy.