Since we’re headed out of winter back into spring when foliage turns green, what better time to
highlight the bean that makes all other beans green with envy, the noble soybean. Whether
simply steamed, processed into tofu or converted into meat substitutes, this bean enriches both
the taste buds and body.
The Naked Bean
Whether simply boiled or steamed still in the pod, soybeans can be jazzed with a spicy seasoning
or quickly stir fried for an additional flavor dimension. It is a little messier to eat than simply
popping the boiled beans out of their pods but soybeans can also be finger lickin' good.
Toss together chili, garlic and onion powder with a little canola oil for a southwest version. Or
add freshly minced ginger, garlic and black beans to cilantro flavored oil for a Chinese version.
Since whole soybeans actually are culinary Velcro just like their processed cousins – tofu – they
pair well with almost any flavoring. Just let your imagination control your wok! Thai based
seasoning! Curry based seasoning! Even sweet, dolce seasoning for an after dinner soybean
For maximum flavor enhancement, I recommend a quick stir “fry” in a wok or frying pan. This
helps the seasoning to adhere to the pod and the quick heat treatment helps to release volatile
flavor essences in your herbs and powders.
You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for… Tofu?
Okay, so tofu isn’t exactly a replacement for ice cream (though the Tofutti people probably feel
that way). My point is that tofu is still an excellent replacement for those other animal
proteins. And tofu isn’t just tofu. There’s extra firm, firm, regular, soft, fried, fermented and
pickled, and so on. Each variety can be used for an array of limitless preparations from a simple
stir fried pork tofu (or my favorite, meatless mapo tofu with fresh shiitake) to a soft tofu,
The key is to match the consistency of the tofu variety with the expected dish. You wouldn’t
want to use a soft tofu in a stir fry where the tofu would simply “dissolve” into the final dish or
a fried tofu in a dessert that required a tofu “puree”. Just choose and prepare each variety of tofu
Tofu can also be frozen then thawed to attain a “meatier” consistency. After freezing, thawing
and draining regular tofu, it takes on the consistency of drier cooked scrambled eggs. After a
quick stir fry with appropriate seasonings, this tofu can then be used to make various ravioli
filling or tossed in a rice or pasta salad since the texture resembles finely minced cooked chicken
or even used as a simple scrambled egg substitute (a little turmeric gives it a pleasant yellow
I’m referring here to soy products that don’t even resemble vegetable matter. These are your
soy-based, vegetable protein meat substitutes that can fool even the heartiest of our cave
dwelling, brethren hunter-gatherers (more hunter than gatherer)… also known as my family.
Whereas earlier vegetable-protein based products lacked a certain taste and aesthetics, modern
products not only rival animal proteins, they actually taste better in many cases. There are
several “hamburger” products that rival those found at the Golden Arches and honey glazed
“short ribs” or garlic-pepper “beef” that have the same mouth feel AND taste of their terrestrial
wannabes (yes, I do feel animal protein sources are sometimes vegetable protein wannabes)! If
these soy-protein substitutes are almost as good or just as good as real beef products – but
usually cost more than “real” products, why not just eat the real thing? Can you say
percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty? Or coronary artery bypass graft surgery? Or
does the prospect of having a microscopic chicken wire mesh tube implanted in a major
coronary artery excite you?
Actually what motivates me is not trying to just avoid the above but rather that these soy-
protein based products actually taste good! And because they usually have a lower saturated fat
burden (to avoid those medical procedures) and total fat burden (to avoid having to purchase a
new set of trousers every year), I really do eat guilt free! For those who never crave beef (or its
soy stand-ins), there also are very good soy-based poultry substitutes that perfectly mimic
chicken and well, “taste like chicken”.
Possible Added Benefits
Soybean - unlike their other legume cousins - does contain appreciable amounts of isoflavones
– namely genistein and daidzein, which purported have been attributed to improving post-
menopausal symptoms to lowering cholesterol. As far as actually benefits for medical conditions
go, I always advise patients to seek tested remedies from true clinical trials before immersing
yourself into the “natural” route just because it’s a “natural” cure. Many prescription
medications are actually derived from “natural” sources and are more holistic than you are led to
If you continue to enjoy soy products because of their taste and simply appreciate their
potential curative properties, fine. Just don’t load up on a primary soy based diet just to “cure’
or treat some medical condition.
Lastly, there was a published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed
that a diet supplemented with soy (as soy milk), soluble fiber (as psyllium or Metamucil) and
almonds altered serum cholesterol as well as 10mg of the cholesterol medication, lovastatin. If
anything, this shows that we are all capable of reversing certain medical conditions with simple
The Gochiso’s Veggie Mandoo
1 block of regular tofu, frozen then thawed and drained
1 cup of drained and squeezed, chopped kim chi
1/2 cup each bean sprout and watercress
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 package of won ton wrappers
Canola oil for pan frying (or steam)
After draining thawed tofu, chop tofu into rough dice and squeeze out excess water. Sauté bean
sprout and watercress in canola oil with garlic and black pepper. When mixture is cool enough
to handle, chop into same size as kim chi and tofu. Mix tofu, kim chi and vegetables. Place 1 to
2 tablespoons on won ton wrapper (depending on wrapper size, leave about ½ inch border of
wrapper). Fill won ton wrappers and seal edges with water or beaten egg making sure to press out
excess air from filling. Pan fry until golden brown or steam for 15 minutes.
My Kingdom for a... Bean?