Friday, December 13, 2019

Posted at: Jun 9, 2019, 2:05 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2019, 2:05 AM (IST)FOOD TALK

Soya, the superfood

Pushpesh Pant

On  an idle summer afternoon, time passes slowly. A foodie  friend tries quizzing to keep us from yawning. We tripped on an easy one  last time: What is it that provides us with milk and curd as well as flour for bread, can be  cooked as lentils and, if that’s not enough, be pressed to obtain  cooking oil? The answer, my friends, is soyabean. How could we goof up after having  been brought up on chutkani and rasa, slow cooked in cast iron kadahi in our childhood in Uttarakhand? Not to forget bhaat ke dubke aka bhaiyaa porridge, cooked without salt and very nourishing.

What  villagers in the Himalayan region claimed has now been  validated by scientists. We are told soyabean packs twice  as much more digestible protein as an equal measure of meat. It can legitimately claim to be superfood. Food historians tell us the bean was domesticated  thousands of years ago in China, where from it spread world over. In East Asia, it is most commonly used  as bean curd called tofu, a product that resembles paneer. Japanese miso is a close cousin. The sauce comes primarily in two varieties — dark and light and is used both as seasoning and flavouring/topping. It is used widely in Southeast Asian cuisines.

Those  who are allergic to lactose or gluten rely on soya milk or soy flour.  Of course, vegans love it and substitute it for dairy in chocolates,  ice creams and other  confections. 

Extruded  soyabean products are considered healthier than chips and other  fried stuff. In India, soya chunks, mince and champ mimic meat to  tickle the palate of  vegetarians who can’t help drooling over meaty morsels. Soyabean oil  is believed to be good for all those who are worried about cholesterol. 

On  a recent visit to a Chinese restaurant in Vasant Kunj in the Capital, we treated  ourselves to an extremely satisfying plate of starters — fried corn  curd. Deep fried yes, but not  a drop of excess fat to give us a guilty conscience. Paired with  honey-laced sauce, it was sheer bliss. Another dish on the menu paired  it with Chinese greens and mushrooms. We must confess it tempted us a  lot but we decided against too much of a good thing  on one day. In any case, if you are partial to kadahi paneer, you may easily combine other elements to the deep-fried bean curd to indulge yourself.

Easy to cook, light on the stomach and rich in nourishment — what more can one ask for...

Fried bean curd


  • Tofu 350 g
  • Soya sauce (dark) 1 tbsp
  • Five spice powder 1 tsp
  • Cornflour 1 tbsp
  • Soyabean oil (to deep fry)
  • Green and red chillies (optional, chopped fine) for the garnishing


Heat  oil in a wok. Cut tofu into small cubes. Sprinkle over with five-spice  powder and soya sauce. Lightly dust with cornflour. Deep fry in batches  till golden. Take care not  to overcook! This takes only seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and  drain excess oil on kitchen towels. Serve with sweet chilly sauce  mixed with a few drops of honey.


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