Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Beverage of Choice

When I got my mission call to Taiwan, aside from being generally ignorant of what waited for me there and overwhelmingly confused by the fact that I was going to Asia and not France (as I not so secretly hoped), at least one element of life in Taiwan had me seriously excited: soy milk. Random, I know.

My first taste of soy milk at the MTC.

I don't remember now why soy milk had me so excited. It might have had something to do with the high calcium content in soy beans. At a relatively young age I watched my grandmother suffer the often excruciating pain of osteoporosis, so the importance of incorporating calcium into my diet made a lasting impression on me.

Or it might have had something to do with the fact that a number of my friends in high school were vegetarian, and for that reason I was excited about making soy milk part of my diet.

Regardless of the reason, I was determined to not just like, but LOVE, this beverage. That determination may have made me more open-minded than some of my fellow missionaries. Whereas most of the Americans I served with eventually came to like soy milk, I was a die-hard soy milk convert from day one.

The thing about soy milk in Taiwan is that every little breakfast place/stand makes it fresh daily, so it's a much different beverage from the stuff you buy here in the States. You go down to your favorite place for a 汉堡 (hamburger), 蛋饼 (dan bing), or 油条 (you tiao) and you grab a cup of fresh soy milk to go with it. In Taiwan its always sweetened and generally you have the choice of buying it hot or cold. Taiwanese breakfasts are one of my favorite food things on this planet and soy milk is a major reason for that.

However, despite my love of freshly-made soy milk, up until recently I had never tried to make it myself. As it turns out, that was silly because it's ridiculously easy. In the past month I have made it 3 times. When I told a couple of friends I was working on this for the blog they were shocked that you could make soy milk at home. You can, and in my humble opinion, should. Although the entire process takes about a day, the actual hands-on time required is minimal, and that minimal amount of effort is well-worth the end result.

豆浆 (Soy Milk)
- This really is an easy recipe (Look! Only 3 ingredients!). You may look at my lengthy instructions and get freaked out, but don't. I just wanted to be really clear about each of the steps, but it is a simple process.

2 c. dried soy beans - You can buy these at Asian grocers. I assume you can also buy them at places like Whole Foods.
7 c. water
Approximately 1/2 c. sugar, although you should sweeten it to your taste
Supplies: Cheesecloth

Soak soy beans in a large bowl of water for approximately 12 hours (or overnight). Discard any beans that immediately rise to the top. I like to put the soy beans in a big bowl in the morning and let them soak all day. Then before I go to bed I do the next step...

Drain/rinse soy beans. Add the rinsed beans to a blender and add the 7 cups of water. Puree until the beans are broken down into very small pieces. I do this in 2 batches. After each batch dump the blender contents into a large pot and cook over medium high heat for about 20-30 minutes. You'll want to keep a close eye on the pot and stir it often. The soy beans will settle on the bottom of the pot and can burn easily, which as I learned in Taiwan, yields a very unpleasant beverage. I'll be honest though, I don't keep a very close eye on my pot. I tend to stir it every 5 minutes or so, but I'm careful not to stir the contents on the bottom so that if they do burn, I don't infuse the whole pot with that flavor. So far that has worked just fine.

After you've cooked the soy milk mix you want to strain it through a couple layers of cheesecloth. I like to let the pot sit on the stove overnight so that the milk cools down. Then in the morning I line a colander with a little linen bag that a woman in Taiwan gave me. As most of you will not have one of those, just use a couple layers of cheesecloth. Put the colander over a pot and then pour the soy milk mixture into the colander. Once you have poured it all in, grab the ends of the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much of the milk as you can. Obviously, if you try to do this right after you have finished boiling the soy milk, its somewhat painful, which is why I let it sit for a little bit. Discard the soy solids and put the pot back on the stove. Add sugar to taste, and heat briefly over medium-high heat. You just want to get the sugar dissolved and the milk warmed up again because warm soy milk, especially in the morning, is one tasty treat. If you decide you're not a fan of hot soy milk, by all means, skip this step. Just add the sugar and you are good to go. The milk will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

If you try this and find you like it, the recipe scales up very easily. You can't really go wrong with the amounts. Just add a good amount of water when you blend the beans because then you will have a larger batch. I usually figure 3 c. of water for 2 c. of soaked soy beans.

1 comment:

Becca said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.