Saturday, September 19, 2009
Yup, Still Asian
You can go to the trouble of making this yourself, or do what I do- go to trader joe's and buy a carton of the organic unsweetened soy milk. That's all it is.
I have many thoughts about this dish. Dad used to make "bean milk" from scratch when I was a kid, and sometimes tofu. I didn't like it. Soybeans have a strong earthy taste, and I only started to enjoy earthy flavors as an adult.
I think that in the late '70s and early '80s, there was no really good source of tofu and soymilk in Michigan, and dad always had a swath of mad scientist in his personality anyway so it suited him to make it himself from time to time. Family legend has it that dad was the guy who taught the first reliable hippy outfit in Ann Arbor how to make decent tofu to sell at the food co-op, but there is no evidence for this that I know of.
The procedure for making soymilk is to take your dry soybeans and soak them overnight to 24 hours in about a double volume of water. The beans puff up a lot, which you'll have noticed if you've ever cooked any other kind of dry bean. Then you put the raw beans in a blender with enough water to cover them in the pitcher and grind them as fine as possible. It takes a long time, is really noisy, and makes a mess. The finer the bean particles get, the better. Once the beans are all ground up, strain the slurry through a cloth bag (dad used an old t-shirt) and reserve the liquid; that's the soymilk. Throw away the mass of gunk left over. I don't know what the ideal proportion of water to bean is, alas. Also, I can't remember if you grind the beans in the soaking water, or throw it away and use fresh. Probably the latter.
You have to cook the soymilk before eating it of course. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and let it get some skins on it from condensation. The skins are a key part of the whole bean milk experience. To serve, put it in large bowls and throw in any of the usual chinese flavored things, according to taste: green onion, bacon bits (not chinese I know, but that's what was in it at my house) cilantro, spicy pickled radish, sesame oil, fresh grated ginger, szechuan pepper-salt, soysauce, hot chili pepper sauce or slices. Good for breakfast.
Supposedly, this should be served with chinese beignets. I never liked them, but I do appreciate their authentic chinesey-ness.
Also, you need to drink green tea with this. I always forget that I like green tea. Don't fool around with any bagged crap though. Get the real stuff. I've been hoarding some excellent green tea for a while, it has a sweet, floral, grassy taste to it. Very zen, makes me feel extra oriental, as if the bean milk wouldn't do it. Here's what real green tea should look like. Sorry, I have no brand names to give out, I have no idea what this is. It came out a mylar bag given to my sister by some of dad's minions before I moved to NYC. Which tells you that it keeps really well.
So, how do you get tofu out of bean milk? You need to curdle it, then strain and press the curds, again with your cloth bag/t-shirt aparatus. The way to curdle it is, you throw in some magnesium sulphate. Yeah, that's what I said. A very dilute solution, of course, but I swear that's what dad used. I told that to a guy I had a crush on in college, and he was repulsed. He said something like 'ohmigod! Thats the the stuff my mom puts on her feet!'
Hey, I'm asian. What do you want?