Kitchen Tips

The History And Uses Of Soybean

Soybean is a species of legume that has a sweet flavour and is native to East Asia. It is first described in Chinese manuscripts in 2850 BC and was first farmed for domestic use by 1100 BC. By the first century AD, soybeans were grown in Japan and over the following centuries, soybean cultivation spread to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal and India.

More recently, soybean has been cultivated around the world thanks to its popularity and versatility. It was first introduced to the United States in the 1800s and by the early 1900s, it was a commercial crop, noted for its durability and hardiness.

Today, the world’s top producers of soy are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, China and India.

In China, the soybean is called ‘beef ’because of its high protein content (38%) and extensive use. It is concentrated in essential fatty acid (including Omega 3) and contains more protein than milk without the saturated fat or cholesterol. It is often used a feed for farm animals, but is also a valuable source for many products we eat.

The versatile soy bean

There are many products that come from the humble soybean.


These are soybeans, picked green before maturity. They have a firm and crispy texture and can be eaten as a starter or as a snack, particularly with beer. Edamame is available frozen (in pods or shelled) in Asian grocery stores.

Soba Noodle Salad



Miso is fermented soybean paste. It is often made by a double fermentation process from a combination of soybeans and a cultured grain, such as rice or barley. Miso has a salty, earthy, savoury flavour and it is often used to make soup, to flavour pickles or grilled dishes, or thinned and made into a dressing. As a general rule, the darker the colour, the stronger the flavour. Check out these great recipes using miso: Miso glazed eggplant , Miso ramen, and Nobu-Inspired Miso Cod

Miso Ramen with Salmon and Silken Tofu Recipe

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is perhaps the most famous use of the soybean. It is brewed (like beer) from fermented soybeans mixed with water, wheat and salt. It is used in recipes across Asia including, Stir fry pork with soba noodles and sweet soy sauce, Braised chicken with port and soy sauce, Cantonese Soy Garlic Pork Fillet and Mushrooms with Egg Noodles


Soy milk

Soymilk is made by soaking and grinding whole soybeans and stirring, or hydrating whole, full-fat soy flour to form a rich, creamy liquid. It has a nutty taste and can be drunk, or used as a substitute for milk for the lactose intolerant.


Tofu is made by curdling soy milk with a coagulant. It can then be made into many different types of tofu including silken tofu, firm tofu, tofu puffs, aburaage and atsuage. Tofu is used in many Asian dishes and can be used in any dish as a meat or seafood substitute such as Mabo don, Hijiki no Nimono and even salads such as Classic Gado Gado



Tempeh is the fermented cooked soybeans. Originally used in Indonesian cuisine, it can be used as an ingredient in soups, spreads and salads.


This is the powder of roasted whole soybeans. It is used in desserts and sweets, mostly in Japanese cuisine, in such dishes as sticky rice cakes and sticky rice flour dumplings. Available in Asian grocery stores.

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