In Austria and in Croatia we love using Soy products in our recipes, for flavour, nutritional value and for its diversity.
Unfortunately, Soy is still a controversial topic within the plant-based community. Tofu, soy milk, miso, tempeh, edamame and other soy products, including the soybeans themselves, are high in nutrients that you tend to associate with other legumes, including fibre, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Making Soy a high-quality protein source with many secondary plant compounds.
FOR OUR BODY
The soybean is very different to other pulses. Not only is it higher in protein, higher in fat, lower in carbohydrates but also contains a class of phytoestrogens named isoflavones. Like the name tells us, phytoestrogens are a term for numerous naturally occurring plant compounds. These compounds are structurally similar to mammalian oestrogen and functionally they are weakly estrogenic or antiestrogenic (blocking oestrogen’s effects). Oestrogen has positive effects in some tissues and potentially negative effects in others. The metabolism and functionality of phytoestrogens are incredibly complex and vary between individuals. Ideally, you’d like progestogenic effects in some tissues and antiestrogenic effects in others. Well, that’s what soy phytoestrogens appear to be. Soy seems to lower breast cancer risk, an antiestrogenic effect, but can also help reduce menopausal hot-flash symptoms, a progestogenic effect. In fact, isoflavones have demonstrated a protective benefit against hormone-dependent cancers, like stated by Dr. Greger in the book How not to die and http://nutritionfacts.org, the quantity of phytoestrogens found in just a single cup of soymilk may reduce the risk of breast cancer returning by 25 percent.
FOR THE WORLD
What about GMO? They are genetically modified organisms, and their safety for human consumption is a hot topic of debate; many European countries have banned GMOs. The largest consumer of commercially grown GMO soybeans is farmed animals. Yes, Soy plantations destroy the rainforest, but they are meant for animal farming. 2013 for example, all EU states together used 31 million tons of soy, that’s 60.6 kg of soy per person per year. Had Europe produced all this by themselves, they would have needed the size of Austria for it! Only 6 % of the worldwide production of soy is for human consumption. Take a closer look at the packaging and you will notice that all the tofu and tempeh we find in Europe, is locally grown here and not in South America.
FOR THE KITCHEN
To be honest, we all had very bad tofu in our life. Maybe it was at a friend’s BBQ where they served you a pound of solid tofu, because that’s what vegans eat. Maybe you are lacking know-how on what to do with this white piece of protein. Tofu is versatile, it ranges from vegan cheesecake and creamy desserts to Asian stir fries and Christmas meatloaf. It has the amazing quality to absorb flavours like no other.
Going to fry the tofu? Press natural tofu before seasoning. And of course, this is how you remove excess water, which you can then replace with a spicy marinade. Doesn't just sound logical, it is. Whether you have squeezed or not squeezed your tofu and marinated it: there is a secret ingredient for consistency when frying. I'm talking about simple corn starch. Turn the tofu in the fine flour until it’s completely covered. This coating becomes super crispy, while the tofu inside remains soft.
The marinade ...
There are countless options, whatever tastes good is allowed! We usually bathe our tofu cubes in soy sauce, rice syrup, chili and grated garlic. Anything else that goes with the recipe can go into the aroma bath. Grated ginger, oregano, chilli flakes, lemon or lime juice. Leave the oil outside however, because even pressed tofu still consists largely of water. Water and oil are not particularly popular, so the spices no longer have a chance to really penetrate the bean cheese.
There are numerous websites and cookbooks which offer delicious soy recipes, ranging from super-easy to gourmet. I recommend incorporating soy foods into a diet which contains a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes. Because, unless you are allergic, Soy is a great staple in the vegan kitchen.
Our favourite Soy recipe at the moment is adapted from the Meera Sodha book, EAST
400 g Firm tofu
5 tbsp Soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp Rice syrup
3 crushed cloves of Garlic
2 cm Grated Ginger
1 Ripe Pear
1 tbsp Water
2 Spring onions Finely chopped
2 tbsp Sesame oil
2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
2 tbsp Sesame seeds Black and white
Drain the water from the Tofu and gently press it inside a tea towel to remove excess water. Cut the Tofu to 1cm slices. Blend the ginger, garlic and pear into a smooth paste. Combine the soy sauce, pear mixture, finely chopped spring onions, rice syrup, sesame oil and water. Add the rapeseed oil to a non stick frying pan, heating to a medium temperature. Fry the 1 cm sliced tofu until golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside on a kitchen towel to soak up excess oil. Add the sweet soy sauce mixture to the pan, put the tofu back on top and cook for five minutes until the sauce reduces and becomes sticky.
To serve sprinkle the tofu with black and white sesame seeds.