February spotlight: soy chunks 

 February 1, 2021

By  Tatiana

Hello February! Today is the first day of February and coincidentally also a Monday, and what does that mean at Casa de la Vida? That we put our ingredient of the month in the spotlight! This February we will spend on the soy chunk, a product that is still relatively unknown to many in the vegetarian world and an ingredient that I grew up with!

In the past, most people were not yet familiar with what soy chunks are. They were only in health food stores, where they looked horrible, but they were almost the only meat substitute back then that really looked a bit like meat. If you prepare them properly, soy chunks are really the bomb! I can still remember how many times I made chilis with it that people later said the meat was so good.

And I’d just smile, because it was not meat and people were immediately shocked when I said that. People who have never gone vegetarian or vegan will never have prepared soy chunks themselves. But at home we certainly loved it, also because my mother hardly ever ate meat and my father grew up as a vegetarian.

But what exactly is a soy chunk? What are they made of and how best to use them? I’ll answer that last question several times over the next few weeks, as there are a few great ways to use soy chunks in cooking. But if you want to start cooking right away, I have this recipe from last year that you can already start with.

What are soy chunks? Soy chunks are made from soy beans. First the oil is extracted and then they are ground. A paste is made from the dry ground beans which then passes through a pressing machine. The machine turns the paste into small chunks. Those chunks are put in the oven to get popped, a bit like corn. A long process that ultimately provides a delicious alternative to meat for vegetarians and vegans!

The chunks of soy are full of healthy nutrients, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9 (folic acid) and vitamin K. Unfortunately, there is no vitamin B12 in it, so that it does not suffice as a full-fledged meat substitute. Soy chunks are also rich in minerals such as copper, magnesium and iron. So it’s a really good product, and some manufacturers add B12 to it, which makes it absolutely great! They are very healthy but like all other ingredients, they should be taken in moderation. They are especially useful for people looking for a complete meat substitute that is rich in protein.

At home I really enjoy cooking with it. I have many recipes from the past where I can use these heavenly chunks and I definitely want to share them with you! But let me start at the beginning and explain how you can best prepare soy chunks.

How do I prepare them? In the past you had to soak the soy chunks in water for at least two hours, because when the dry chunks comes into contact with water again, they will soak it up. After draining in a colander, they are ready to go! But with most soy chunks these days you only need to soak them in water for 20 minutes and you can use them immediately after draining. But how do they get the right taste? You have to experiment with that and here I give you my first tip!

Seasoning of the dish is very important if you are going to cook with this wonderful ingredient. Because they absorb a lot of flavor during soaking, it is best to do this in stock. Then you can add more herbs to the pan as desired! But extra seasoning is necessary during the preparation of the meal as well, especially since soy chunks absorb the flavor well! In any case, I noticed during my Healthy January that with vegetarian recipes you have to use a lot more herbs and spices than usual, which is not bad at all!

Preparation and tips

So how do you get started with soy chunks? That depends entirely on the product you have. It is usually a good start to soak them in lukewarm water or stock. You have large pieces or small pieces. In the Netherlands I always bought the smaller ones when I could find one, because it is ready to use.

What I noticed is that 100 grams of dry soy chunks is about the same as 350 to 500 grams of ground beef. Keep that in mind, because it happened to me that I overlooked this and then had to double the recipe.

I always let them drain well and then I ‘wring out’ the soy chunks by squeezing them completely in batches in the colander. Then I fry them in a frying pan with enough olive oil so that they can fry a little. I then add about a tablespoon of salt to the soy chunks with the spices so that the flavor can absorb evenly.

The best thing about this product is that it really has a bite. It looks just like meat when it is cooked! And sometimes I eat them separately while they are still soaking, because I really love them! But be careful not to eat them dry, because then you can get a stomach ache, believe me. In Spain they are a lot cheaper than in the Netherlands and for sale in the local supermarket, which is great!

Soy chunks can be used for almost anything and really complement your meal. They look just like meat and well seasoned they are delicious! What else do you want? Well, next time you go shopping, buy a package right away, because on Wednesday I will share a delicious recipe with you!

Make sure you have everything you need for an Italian sauce, because we’re going crazy with the soy chunks! And I promise you one thing: by the end of February, you will be well acquainted with preparing soy chunks!

See you Wednesday, my friends, I’ve already gotten hungry!

Tatiana Tor

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

Wishing you a great day, love Tatiana.

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