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October 1, 1998

3 Min Read
Soybean Blends

Soybean Blends
October 1998 -- World Fare

By: Susheela Uhl
Contributing Editor

  The versatile soybean inspires the foods and beverages of China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. Fermented and pickled soybeans form the basis of nutritious soy blends that offer distinct flavors, colors and textures.  Soy blends are red, black, white or yellow, and are pungent, spicy, sweet, nutty or salty, depending on: the type of soybean; added grains; and fermentation time. Other ingredients might include: grains, malt, sugar, garlic, red chile peppers, coconut, seaweed, sesame oil, ginger, rice wine or scallions. Each region uses its own distinct aging process and raw materials to create unique, intense flavors. Whether called miso, hoisin, taucheo, bean sauce, kochu jang, oyster sauce or soy sauce, these blends season, enhance or complement different dishes. They also thicken sauces, soups and marinades.  Miso, a must in Japanese cooking, is a fermented product made from soybeans with sea salt and koji (an Aspergillus oryzae culture on grain), together with grains such as rice, wheat, barley or buckwheat. Hatcho, mugi, shiro and other misos come mild, intense, sweet or salty, depending on ingredients and fermentation time. Misos vary by region, as a result of raw materials available, climate and eating customs. For example, shiro miso is typically used in the Kyoto region, aka miso in northern Japan, and shinshu miso in the Nagano region. Spreads, marinades, salad dressings, stir fries, and soups use different types of miso flavor. Meat and seafood go well with aka miso while shiro miso pairs well with soups and salad dressings.  Bean sauces are used throughout East and Southeast Asia. They use black, brown or red whole or ground soybeans combined with garlic, black pepper, sugar or sesame oil. They are thick, pungent, salty or sweet and are used to season pork, fish or stir fries or as topping sauces for spring rolls. Oyster sauce is a reddish-black seasoning commonly used in Cantonese-style cooking, marinades and sauces. It has soybeans, oyster extract, and other ingredients that complement beef, seafood and vegetables. Chinese hoisin, a sweet and spicy reddish-brown sauce, is used as a dipping sauce, marinade and barbecue sauce for spare ribs, duck and seafood. It has soybeans, garlic, red pepper and other spices.  Two essential ingredients for stews, dressings and soups in Korea are: doen jang, a fermented soybean paste, and kochu jang, a spicy, pungent paste, made with fermented soybeans, red pepper and glutinous rice. Southeast Asians use taucheo, a salted fermented soybean, to season vegetables, noodles and fish. It is added whole to recipes or pounded before use.  Look to these soy blends to provide authenticity, stronger, more complex flavors and more healthful eating.  Susheela Uhl is president of Horizons, a Mamaroneck, NY-based food consulting firm. She develops products (ethnic and fusion), provides information on spices and other flavorings, and gives presentations exploring culinary trends and the factors contributing to their emergence.Back to top

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