Tag Archives: Soybean

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When ladies put their makeup on, foundation primer is absolutely necessary. Immediately after washing their face, wearing eyeliner and blush will be a regrettable mistake. I, an ordinary guy, even know that foundation makeup is the most important procedure.


It may be impolite to treat ladies’ makeup the same as cooking. I would be forgiven because the example makes your understanding of the article much easier. Do you know what is equivalent of foundation primer in washoku or Japanese cuisine? Your answer may be rice. That was a good try. Rice is boiled and almost eaten on its own. The most important material of washoku is soybeans. Soy sauce and miso paste now become worldwide famous. They are all made from soybeans.


Without the versatile ingredients, we could not enjoy sushi and sukiyaki. Miso soup would disappear. It was not until the invention of soy sauce that the cuisine culture of eating raw fish took root in Japan. I would like you to know how close the relationship of Japanese cuisine and soybeans is and how diversely soybeans are used in washoku.



Where are soybeans used in the Cuisine?



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Typical Japanese dishes




The image 2 is a typical Japanese meal. Please look at six dishes on the near side of you. Soybeans are seemingly not to be found anywhere. The dish at the upper left is a traditional cuisine mainly including high-fiber burdock root named “kinpira”. The center is a simmered dish using beef, potato and onion named “nikujaga”.


Among the six dishes, soybeans are used in the four except boiled rice and Japanese omelet. Soy sauce is included in kinpira, nikujaga and teriyaki fish. Miso is literally dissolved into a miso soup. The two traditional seasonings, soy sauce and miso, are all made from soybeans. Some prefer to eat omelet with grated radish and soy sauce. Without soybeans, you could eat only boiled rice. That is to say, Japanese cuisine and soybeans are inseparable.


There are various soybean foods. First of all, please let you savor two important seasoning made from the all-round beans.




What are Soy Sauce and Miso?



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Soy sauce and sushi




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Light soy sauce and dark one




Soy Sauce

Instead of soy sauce, Kikkoman may be a word that is familiar to you. The name is a major Japanese soy sauce manufacturer. Do not be surprised! In Japan, there are as many as 1,500 soy sauce makers, small and large, which establish each brand.


The basic ingredients are wheat, salt, malted rice or kōji (Reference: THE KŌJI, ESSENCE OF FLAVOR) and, of course, soybeans. Wheat creates distinctive aroma and soybeans bring pleasant savory taste or umami. Generally, a litter of soy sauce contains about 180 grams of wheat and soybeans respectively, and 160 grams of salt. For this reason, unfortunately, no matter how delicious it is, too much using this sauce causes high blood pressure.


The Image 4 shows typical two types of soy sauce, dark and light. The former can be used in any cuisines and the latter is manly for the base of Japanese soup or bowls of noodle (udon) and so on. The best brand is called “tamari soy sauce” which contains little wheat. The process is boiling soybeans, adding kōji and aging them in salt water. Sashimi sliced raw fish dipped in the high-quality soy sauce is exquisite, but the price of the top quality product is amazingly over about $100 per a litter.




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Miso paste




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Miso soup




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Pork cutlets with miso




Miso soup is a very famous Japanese cuisine. Miso is commonly cooked as a seasoning the same as soy sauce rather than being eaten plain. Ramen (Reference: WELCOME TO RĀMEN WORLD!) is a now-familiar Japanese cuisine. The three major and popular seasonings of ramen are soy sauce, pork bones and miso. The good point of miso can be stored for long periods of time. The storage life is about two months at room temperatures and a year in the refrigerator.


The ingredients of miso are soybeans, kōji and salt. They are mixed and mellowed for about ten months. The fermented food is good for digestion and absorption. The dietary fiber contained in miso gets your cholesterol down.


Aichi Prefecture, where headquarter of Toyota Motor Corporation is based, is very famous and popular for various miso cuisines. The Image 7 is a pork cutlet. People usually pour Worcester sauce on it but people in Aichi have cutlets added to or soaked in miso. It is named miso katsu and strongly flavored. However, once you eat miso-katsu, you must get addicted to cutlet with miso, not Worcester sauce.


For you who make soy sauce and miso for yourself, please consult the websites below. Please click the phrase “言語を選択” and again “英語”. The recipes and images are introduced in a knowledgeable way.


Recipe for Soy Sauce


Recipe for Miso





Why Has Soybeans Been Important in Japanese Cuisine?



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In pre-modern times, Japanese culture had meat taboo. One reason is the influence of Buddhism which prohibits taking any life. Another is that horses and cows were used to plow fields. Eating those animals means the loss of precious labor force. Today, farming in Japan is almost mechanized and, as far as I know, farming by the use of animals is now extinct. The Image 8 is a farming scene in Java, Indonesia which looks like traditional Japanese cultivation.


Well, what was a major source of protein in the Japanese diet? Fishes accounted for much of the nutrient. Although Buddhism prohibits eating meat, the creature was exception. Protein is absolutely necessary for human beings. Above all, soybeans have served as a chief protein source. Japanese people still call soybeans “meat in the fields”. Fresh fishes were not available far away from the sea or revers, but soybeans are easily grown in the mountain areas.


The circumstances develop various soybean cuisines and enrich dietary life in Japan.




Various Soy Bean Foods



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Boiled tofu




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Tofu Burger and grated radish






Tofu used to be translated into “bean curd” a quarter-century ago. The word, tofu now gets across to you. MS Word also recognizes tofu as a correct spell.


I would like to briefly explain how to make tofu. First, soak soybeans in water and stir them into soybean milk. Add bittern as a coagulant agent, and boil it. After taking the heat, soybean milk is coagulated into curd.


Tofu is used in any kinds of Japanese cuisine. Like the Image 9, you can eat cold tofu plain in summer. On the other hand, it can be boiled in a broth from kelp and eaten dipped in soy sauce with grated radish in the Image 10. You may feel it looks bland, but boiled tofu makes your body become warm from inside especially in cold winter.


Instead of ground beef, mashed tofu can be cooked into a hamburger steak in the Image 11. Tofu burgers are recommendable for health-conscious people.




Natto (Fermented Soybeans)



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Natto and boiled rice




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Natto in straws




Stringy and gooey soybeans are called natto which are “notorious” for its taste and smell for visitors to Japan. They always rank the top of foods that non-Japanese people don’t like. However, the traditional fermented food is very healthy and is said to keep the doctor away.


The recipe is not difficult. Wrap soybeans in straw, and Bacillus subtilis accelerate their fermentation. It is recommendable to eat natto on boiled rice like the Image 12 and is good for snakes going well with sake. Whether you feel natto is delicious or not depends on your getting used to.







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Boiling milk makes a skim on the surface. Boiling soybean milk gets the same way. The skim is called yuba. It tastes plain but you can enjoy soybeans’ flavor. The easy-to-digest ingredient is used for baby food.



Kinako (Soybean flour)



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Kinako flour



In the Image 15, soybeans flour is sprinkled on sweet dumplings made from starch and sugar. The Flour goes well with rice cakes as well. Recently, milk in which kinako is dissolved has become popular as protein supplements.




Green Soybeans and Black Ones



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Edamame or green soybeans




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Boiled black soybeans




Edamame are immature and green soybeans in pods. You can see a glass of beer as well in the Image 15. It is because edamame go well with cold beer. The most enjoyment for many Japanese middle-aged men may be to snack on edamame while watching baseball games at night.


Black beans are also a type of soybeans. They are boiled with sugar and a rusted nail which brings out glossy black color, and are eaten on New Year’s Day (except the nail, of course). The beauty of appearance is an important element for Japanese cuisine.




Soybeans are Keys to Longevity.



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A full-course Japanese meal




As just described above, soybeans are used in anything and everything from seasoning and ingredients. When we glance at beans themselves, the appearance are non-descriptive. The trial and error of chefs for a long time has given birth to sophisticated processed food.


Nowadays, Japanese cuisine enjoys high popularity and many people have experienced Japanese food. At the next opportunity, it is interesting to think which dishes contain soybeans and ask it for a chef.


Japanese life expectancy is the world’s best. It owes not only Japanese diets but also soybeans.