Jane Lawson is my kinda woman. Finding herself stressed and overwhelmed with life and all of its needs and expectations, Jane decided to take time out and headed for the calming, peaceful and traditional Japanese city Kyoto. Lucky for us Jane is a chef and passionate food writer so while there she used her time not only de-stressing but also writing ‘Zenbu Zen’.
This week on The Main Ingredient Jane tells us about her full immersion into Japanese culture, her wonderful journey into the food that is eaten in the average Kyoto home and available in the bars and restaurants that the locals frequent, and the special way that the Japanese have of just being….. Zenbu Zen. She talks about the incredible contradiction that is Japan. The complex simplicity, the quirky humour, and the stories behind the food.
As always I ask to steal a recipe from her new book and Jane has offered ‘nama yuba’ …. Fresh Soy Milk Skin. Not what I was expecting but Jane assures me it is absolutely the most delicious thing she has ever eaten. At first it doesn’t sound that appetising, but read on as Jane explains the history and benefits behind this highly regarded Japanese delicacy. I can’t wait to try it.
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Nama yuba – Jane Lawson -
Courtesy of Murdoch Books ‘Zenbu Zen’
110817_Zenbu_NamaYuba_02Fresh soy milk skin
Makes 4 nama yuba servings, or 1 litre
(35 fl oz/4 cups) soy M ilk
Unlike the skin that forms on regular milk when it boils, which turns my stomach, this curious foodstuff made by boiling soy milk is quite a delicacy. It may not sound all that inviting and it takes some patience to make a batch, but it is worth making — if only once, to experience this unusual treat.
The most crucial elements are good-quality (preferably Japanese) soy beans and pure water, otherwise the yuba will be inferior and bitter. Nama yuba is highly regarded both for its healthful properties (high protein and fibre) and its deliciously creamy texture and flavour, with slightly nutty, malty undertones.It is great served warm from the pot with a little good-quality shoyu or ponzu (a soy and citrus sauce) and freshly grated wasabi or ginger. It can also be served cold the same way.
Nama yuba, when allowed to dry out just a little, can also be deep-fried and seasoned with salt orshichimi togarashi (seven-flavour spice mix) for a crisp snack of yuba chips — served with lots of finely sliced spring onion on top.Dried yuba is more readily available than fresh yuba, and once lightly rehydrated is used to wrap foods for simmering or deep-frying. It can also be shredded and used in stir-fries, soups or rice dishes. Yuba is popular in Chinese cookery, and there is some debate whether it was introduced to Japan alongside Buddhism, or whether the recipe was in fact taken back to China from Japan.
235 g (81/2 oz/11/4 cups) whole dried soy beans
good-quality usukuchi shoyu (light Japanese soy),
freshly grated wasabi or ginger, to serve
First, make soy milk ( tonyu ). Put the soy beans in a large container and fill with water. Cover with plastic wrap and soak at room temperature for about 15 hours, or until the beans have doubled in size. (If the weather is particularly warm, soak them in the fridge.) Drain, discarding the water, and rinse the beans. Pour 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) fresh water into a large pot. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Line a large colander with a large square of doubled-over muslin (cheesecloth) and place it over a larger bowl. Set aside.
Put half the beans in a blender or food processor with 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the simmering water, then process until as smooth as possible. Scrape into a bowl and repeat with the remaining beans and another 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) simmering water. Then pour all the bean purée back into the remaining simmering water and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into the lined colander. You need to work quickly, but the mixture is hot, so wear clean rubber gloves for the next step and take good care. Bring the edges of the cloth together, then twist and twist to form a firm bag. Hold tight to the twist so the beans cannot escape; press and squeeze the bag with your other hand, over the colander, to extract the liquid. nama yuba
If the mixture is still too hot to handle, you can use a wide wooden spoon or the base of a jar to help press out the liquid. If the bowl underneath becomes too full, tip the milk off into another bowl. When you are certain that you cannot get any more milk out of the beans you can stop pressing. You should have about 1 litre (35 fl oz/ 4 cups) of soy milk. The cloth bag will be filled with a grainy, nutritious substance called okara — don’t throw this away as it can be used in the stir-fried tofu lees recipe on page 140.
Bring all the soy milk to the boil in a large pot over medium–high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool — the milk will thicken slightly on cooling, making it look more creamy. The soy milk is now ready to chill and use as you would dairy milk, or you can proceed with making the nama yuba below, or the tofu on page 116. The soy milk will last 3 days in the refrigerator.
To make nama yuba, place the soy milk in a donabe or a ceramic-lined saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer — do not let the milk boil, otherwise the skin won’t form. It will take about 11/2 minutes for a fine skin to cover the top of the liquid. Use a chopstick to slide under one edge and lift off the skin to a waiting dish. Keep repeating this step until the milk is used up — however please note that you will need to reduce the heat as the level of milk in the pan decreases. Also, towards the end, the soy milk can start to caramelise and then burn on the bottom, and can make the yuba bitter, so it is best to stop at that point.
The very best way to eat yuba, in my opinion, is to have it straight from the pot, dipped into a little shoyu and some freshly grated wasabi or ginger. If you have access to four small donabe and individual burners, this is a fun dish to have family or guests make themselves at the table. If making it ahead of time, wrap the yuba in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Yuba also freezes well for up to a month. Note: Store-bought soy milk can be used to make yuba and tofu — but only if the sole ingredients are soy beans and water. Most commercial varieties produced outside Japan contain sugar or preservatives and they will not work. Look for pure soy milk in Asian food stores (it is sometimes sold in tetra paks).
Once you have soy milk at hand, it is simple to turn it into fresh tofu.