Soybeans are responsible for a variety of soy products and recipes including soy sauce, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and the list goes on. Soybeans belong to the pea family of legumes and grow inside the plant’s green hairy pods. The soy pods contain 1 to 3 edible seeds, called soybeans. Soybean plants are native to East Asia and were first cultivated by Chinese farmers since at least 1100 BC.
Soybean types can be distinguished between green, mature, and dried soybeans. Soybeans are extensively used in cooking, as feed for livestock, and for fuel generation – the uses for soybeans are nearly endless! Not to mention, soybeans are rich in protein and serve as a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. It’s considered the most demanded bean from the pea family due to its diverse applications across multiple sectors.
Flavor of Soybeans
Raw soybeans have a typical beanie and nutty flavor somewhat similar to white beans. However, seasonings, spices and preservation methods enhance the taste of soybeans, transforming them into the flavors we know and love such as umami-rich soy sauce or sweet soy milk.
Uses of Soybeans
Culinary uses of soybean can be divided into fermented and non-fermented foods. For instance, soy sauce, natto, miso paste, and tempeh are fermented soybean products widely used in East Asian cuisines. Soy milk, soy oil, tofu, and soy meal are their non-fermented counterparts. Natto is a popular Japanese recipe of fermented soybeans that’s served at breakfast topped with karashi mustard, onions, and soy sauce. Perhaps the most delicious type of soybeans are edamame, which are simply immature soybeans that are boiled and served with salt. Try our recipe for White Fish Rice Bowls with Edamame.
Tofu, a traditional Chinese curd prepared from soymilk, is used in a variety of sweet and savory recipes due to its mild taste. Korean doenjang and Japanese miso are popular soybean pastes used to season dips, sauces, soups, stews, and dumplings. A traditional Korean soybean recipe, cheonggukjang jjigae, incorporates soybeans, potatoes, onions, tofu in a flavorful savory paste.
Roasted soybean flour, kinako, is used in several Japanese recipes and drinks. Mochi and warabimochi (rice cakes) are popular Japanese desserts coated with kinako and kuromitsu syrup on top. Kinako, when mixed with hot soy milk, creates a caffeinated Japanese drink, Kinako latte.
No doubt, East Asian cuisine is incomplete without this multipurpose ingredient. Soybeans are not only deliciously nutritious but also offer immense benefits outside the culinary world.