Joy of Soy

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My husband is very fond of all things tofu.  It is part of the Asian flavor that even the Japanese can’t make flourish in the western world.  Raw fish, yes.  Tofu, no.  So I performed a little psycho analysis on why Asians have such a fix on soy products.  And when I say soy products, people think the word “tofu”.  It isn’t wrong.  A  lot of the Asian soy-based products are, in one form or another, tofu.  So why do we like’em so much?  They are bland.  Nobody eats tofu solely on its own.  It needs another support system to transform into an actual dish.  They taste like… well soy, which strikes a note that many westerners would regard to as unpleasant.  After some wiki-ing and googling, I have to call in the diagnosis.  It is a nostalgia thing.  Tofu to the west, is just like cheese to the east.  Each side would forever stare and scratch their heads at the other and ponder, “how peculiar…”

So coming back to why there will be a swirl of soy recipes.  My dear husband who could rightfully be understated as a toddler in the kitchen couldn’t find adequate “dried pressed-tofu”, in BJ.  He immediately resort to the gospel of easy-living here, Taobao, looking for answer and found just the tools.

“Can I make it myself?  Can I make it myself at home?!”

A sensible woman would’ve picked up the alert within the transmission, but it was disguised all too well.  The genuine enthusiasm and unmistakable drive on his expression was nothing short of professional grade.  Any woman who welcomed a Dyson into her home under the pretense that her hubby/bf was finally gonna help with vacuuming,  would know what came next, and give me a warm embrace.  So here I am spending hours, soaking, grinding, cooking, draining, pressing soy beans for a piece of tofu I could buy outside for 6 RMB.  But today is not about tofu.  Today is about the byproducts of tofu.  It’s what soy beans leave behind in this life, to go on their ways to  reincarnate into tofu.

I can’t write about pressed-tofu yet, because I still suck.  But what I can do is write about how I deal with all the ground up soy beans, and there’s A LOT of’em.  What is 豆渣?  It’s ok not knowing because in our perfectly and efficiently industrialized world, this goes straight into the tummies of sad, depressed pigs who have never seen sunlight.

Yes, it is swine feeds.  But it is nutritious and delicious nonetheless!  It is a little…bland.  But nothing can’t be fixed after being thrown into a pot of hot grease and fried to perfection.  It is just calling for some help from some pepper, and chedder cheese, and ham…  Ham?  No, better.  SPAM!

Don’t like SPAM?  LIAR!  Everybody loves SPAM, but just can’t admit it!  I love SPAM!  There.  I said it, and I’ll say it again.  I love SPAM!  What’s so wrong with SPAM and why are people so afraid of them?  They are just…bologna, ground up meats!  Ask O-s-c-a-r  M-a-y-e-r!  Ok, yeah, these meats may come from all different parts of an animal, but hey! where do you think hotdogs come from?  Just because these parts may used to reside a little too close to you-know-where of a cow or pig, doesn’t make it not real meat.

I don’t discriminate against the birth of a cut of meat.  It’s against the constitution.

Can I take a second to mention my frying pot now?  Just a second.

Frying at home is a daunting task.  In some cases it will hurt, physically…  And that’s why a good frying pot designed for this specific task deserves some publicity.  I have just the one that rises to the occasion every time for me. I bought it from IKEA a few years back, and we’ve been comrades in arms ever since.  It is narrow and deep, which reduces the amount of oil you need for frying.  It comes with basket and a lid, which allows easy removal of foods, and protects me from angry oils that really wants to hurt me.  Invest in a good frying pot.  It may, literally, save your life some day.

Serving: 12~15 soy meatballs

Soy Meatball:

  • 260 g of 豆渣 (ground, cooked soy beans)
  • 100 g ground pork
  • 1 cup of grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp of chives/scallions
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of diced SPAM
  • 6 long green pepper
  • 1 cup of diced cheddar cheese
  • Salt and black/white pepper


  • 1/2 cup of 地瓜粉 (tapioca flour) or fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of corn meal
  • 1/2 cup of Parmigiano cheese
  • salt’n pepper

2 cups of canola oil for frying

First, make the foundation.  Combine ground soy bean, ground pork, parmigiano, egg and chives in the food processor, and process until roughly combined.  Season with salt, black and white pepper.

Now I open my beloved can of SPAM, lovingly slide them out onto a plate, sniff and cut a piece and eat it, then dice the rest until I have 1 cup of 1mm cubes.  Heat up a saute pan and brown the SPAM dices with some black pepper.  They should get crispy on the edges.  Dice the green pepper into equal sizes and add to the pan.  Saute only for a minute while snacking on cubes of SPAM, then pour it into the ground bean mixture, along with the diced cheese.  Combine the mixture.

Heat up the frying oil in a frying pot over medium heat.  Combine the breading mixture evenly and now, before my hands get dirty, toss a couple more cubes of SPAM and cheese into my mouth, mm…  Get a ice-cream scoop, TIGHTLY pack a ball of the soy bean mixture and release it into the breading.  Press the breading into the soy ball until it has a good, even coating.  It should yield 12 to 15 soy balls.  I eagerly wash my hands in order to grab more bites of SPAM cubes before frying.

This shouldn’t be a secret or anything but in case anyone doesn’t know this already, the most convenient way to check the temperature of frying oil is to stick a wooden chopstick into the center of the oil.  If the tip of the chopstick bubbles up gently, the oil is medium hot, suitable for frying something that takes a bit of time like this one.  If the tip bubbles up big and fast, then the oil is really hot, suitable for quick frying like basil or crisping up french fries.  In this case, I need it to be medium-hot.  Place the meat balls into the frying basket spaced equally, and lower the basket slowly into the hot oil.  I avoid dropping things into hot oils.  I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Keep it on medium heat.  Put the lid on.  Turn the meatballs occasionally for even frying.  Snack on SPAM.

Now, lid is not a usual practice in frying because that allows steam to form in the pot, and what happens when steam turns into water and drops into the hot oil?  Yes, *Science:  Explosion of sizzling oils*, which will turn any home cooks screaming and running in extreme panic.  But this lid has a hole for the steam to escape, and I realized that, hey, the oil can explode in all its heart desires because… the lid is on!  Not only the food cooks faster but the splatters are contained within the pot.  Having said that, a mitt is always my best friend in combat.

Once the soy balls are fried to golden brown, lift the basket and let the oil drain a little bit.  Move them onto a parchment paper and, while they’re still hot, dust with cayenne pepper  and a few grains of sea salt.  Repeat with all the soy balls.  I like to drizzle truffle oil on top before digging in, just because I can.  Chive mayo or mustard is optional for dipping.




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