Some days I crave soy milk, but rather than heading to a supermarket to buy a regular ho-hum carton of soy milk, I buy soybeans and make my own.
Sometimes, usually mid-way through squeezing plenty of soybeans, I wish had bought the milk. That said, using a blender to make soy milk is easy. Simply soak dry soybeans for at least 24 hours in cold water. Place the pre-soaked beans in clean water and blend with a high-turbo blender, before squeezing out the soy milk in a muslin. What did I say? Easy.
To rid the milk of the raw taste of beans, place it over low heat, stirring constantly and there you have it: delicious soy milk, and lots of it.
The whole purpose of my wild quest to make fresh soy milk was to enjoy it as a morning staple that I and millions of Taiwanese people love for breakfast. Known as 豆漿, dou jiang, soy milk in Taiwan comes in two forms: salty and sweet.
The sweet version is simple and made easier with the addition of sugar. But the salty or savoury version is somewhat of an acquired taste. The soy milk is curdled with vinegar, soy sauce and other acidic condiments like pickled cabbage. Some call it 'soy brains' because when the acid hits the soy milk, you'll notice a sensational tofu-like consistency.
The best way to enjoy it is with another great Chinese invention: youtiao 油条, fried sticks of dough, which can only be described as the Chinese equivalent of a doughnut.
Youtiao is cut into bite-size pieces and eaten with savoury soy milk. You can burn your tongue and eat the dou jiang quickly so you don't miss out on a crunch or you can let it soak up the milk — it's basically a Weet-Bix conundrum — are you a crunchy or a mushy Weet-Bix eater?
I dare say that I did actually go through a stage of making both dou jiang and youtiao from scratch. It was part of my research for my first book, Building A Perfect Meal, which shares both recipes in detail. Picture this: blender on full speed, fryer working overtime and profanities streaming from my mouth. I did have seemingly unlimited soy milk and doughnuts on hand for a week, though. But a word of warning, homemade soy milk is natural and without emulsifiers it can curdle (not in a good way) in the fridge or go off very easily, so consume within three days and store in a clean bottle in the coolest part of your fridge.
"The best way to enjoy it is with another great Chinese invention: youtiao 油条, fried sticks of dough, which can only be described as the Chinese equivalent of a doughnut."
If you don't want to go to the trouble of making your own soy milk, you can easily go to a Chinese grocery store and pick up 2-litre bottles of soy milk for under $5. To make near authentic savoury dou jiang, you need to use very thick and seriously fresh soy milk. The ones in some supermarkets are not good enough. Not only are these branded soy milk sweetened, but they also have a slightly strange taste which alters the savoury dou jiang.
If you want to take your savoury soy milk to a whole new level, be sure to drizzle in homemade chilli oil. Not for the faint-hearted but definitely something that gives your breakfast some heat, something Weet-Bix or any other cereal cannot do.
There are not many places you can try soy milk in both its sweet and savoury forms in Melbourne or Sydney, but you may find them in Taiwanese haunts in your Chinatown. If not, join the intimate club of making soy milk. Never say no to a challenge.
Make your own at home
- Soak 3-4 cups of soybeans overnight.
- Grind soybeans in a food processor until curd and milk separate.
- Strain the curd using a piece of linen and discard retaining the milk only.
- Cook the milk on low heat, consistently stirring to avoid sticking at the bottom until it bubbles.
Michelle's crueller (youtiao)
Makes about 12
- 250 g (9 oz) plain all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp, salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 155 ml (51 /3 fl oz) water, lukewarm
- Cooking oil for deep-frying
Whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl until well combined.
Gradually pour in the water. Mix and knead until the dough is smooth and does not stick to your hands. Cover and let rest for about 1 hour in a warm place or under the sun.
Punch dough down to release the air created from rising and let it rest for another 45 minutes with a damp towel covering the dough.
On a lightly oiled surface, roll the dough out and cut it into 12 strips. Shape them into 12 x 0.5-cm (4½ x 1¼ inch) strips. Cover and allow the dough to rest for another 15 minutes.
Heat oil for deep-frying in a wok or a heavy skillet.
Cut dough into strips measuring 2.5-cm (1-in) thick. Stick two segments together, pulling them at both ends to make them stick together. Once the oil is hot enough to fry, slowly slide in the dough, pulling again as the dough is very stringy and will bounce back. Turn them with chopsticks and fry for about 20 seconds on each side.
- If you want to make curdled soy milk, use day-old youtiao and crisp them up under a hot grill before cutting into ½ cm slices.