Know your soya

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2008, 12:00am

Miso: This is a thick condiment paste made from soya beans, rice or barley, salt and water and the fungus aspergillus oryzae; production involves several stages and fermentation processes. It is mainly used in soups, but may also be used to flavour stews, casseroles and sauces. Red miso results from barley and yellow miso from rice.

Shoyu (soy sauce): True soy sauce is made by fermenting soya beans with cracked and roasted wheat, salt and water for about a year. Most of the soy sauce we buy is not shoyu, but is made from soya flour, corn syrup and caramel colouring, without any fermentation.

Soya milk: Made by soaking soya beans in water and then straining, or by hydrating soya flour. Commercial products may be sweetened (for example with apple juice) or unsweetened. Many are fortified with calcium and minerals. Soya milk is a useful substitute for dairy milk for those suffering from lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

Tamari: This is a soy sauce made without wheat and therefore suitable for those following a gluten-free diet.

Tempeh: Especially popular in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, this is fermented whole soya bean paste inoculated with the rhizopus oligosporous mould which 'binds' the beans and imparts the unusual taste and characteristic black specks. It can be cooked in many ways and used as a meat substitute. Extremely fibre-rich because the whole bean is used, it is also a good source of calcium and B vitamins. It is thought to boost the body's immunity, thanks to the natural antibiotic agents produced during its manufacture.

Textured vegetable protein (TVP): This is made by mixing defatted soya flour with water, and then heating under pressure to expand the protein. This protein is then dehydrated and cut into chunks or ground into granules. You can buy TVP flavoured or unflavoured, and prepare it by mixing with stock - it can then be incorporated as a meat substitute in vegetarian recipes. Meat substitute products generally contain TVP. Most are fortified with vitamin B12 (otherwise absent in the vegan diet); it is a rich source of protein and fibre.

Tofu: This is bean curd made from soy milk to which a coagulating agent has been added. The curd is pressed into blocks of tofu - either soft tofu or a denser version, which can be smoked or flavoured. Silken tofu is good for spreads, sauces and sweet dishes; firm tofu is for frying and cooking. Tofu is rich in protein, calcium, iron and B vitamins.