Ode to My Pantry: Soy Foods

Learning to feed yourself can be one of the most terrifying things. Am I about to give myself food poisoning? If I eat this too often will I end up with scurvy? How can I get the most nutritional bang for my buck? Why does this still taste like ass?

With Ode to My Pantry, learn to navigate a grocery store without having a meltdown in aisle three. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a queer to cook and stave off malnutrition for another semester.


Even though I love food and holidays, I cock my eyebrow when I realize how ridiculous it can be when you combine the twoNational Caviar Day? More Herbs, Less Salt Day©? 4/20 aka Lima Bean Respect Day? Who the fuck celebrates those? But I have to give some of them a pass, especially since I’m about to break out the party hats and pompoms.

Happy Soy Foods Month! Since the soybean is so ubiquitous and versatile, it makes sense that it gets to call an entire month its own. As a legume with a complete set of amino acids and shitload of them to boot, it’s no wonder that some iteration shows up every vegan/vegetarian/poor college student’s kitchen. Admittedly it’s disturbing that Monsanto has a stake in all of the beans we consume, but until I find something else, I’m keeping them around and you probably are too.

Quickly blanche so they stay bright and green
Serve up pods or plate’em shucked clean
A fine sprinkling of salt
Is the serving default
What’s a better snack than the bean?

People cringe after hearing that word
It’d still fail if we called it bean curd
The familiar white brick
Is simply too slick
Squeeze out water for a texture preferred


Agedashi Tofu
Skeptics won’t give tofu a try
But howsabout a deep fry?
It’ll inflate and puff
While the outside stays rough
Still hate it? Then you’ll be That Guy

Texturized Veggie Protein (TVP)
A vegan’s ground beef magic trick
Being meaty is kind of its schtick
I like to add smoke
When I give it a soak
Plus your sauce’ll become super thick!

Veggie Ground Round
You can buy seasoned veggie ground round
It’s packaged pre-flavoured and browned
Or make your own block
Using spices and stock
Either way, you should keep it around

Heat soy milk ’til it’s pipin’ hot
Pay attention as it starts to clot
Just peel off the skin
Forming sheets super thin
Serve it flat or tie into a knot


Wait for your spores to be sent
Mix with soybeans and let ’em ferment
It’ll set into a cake
That can grill like a steak
And your farts won’t be as potent!

Dessert Tofu
Tofu for dessert leaves some flustered
Dive in with any courage you mustered
A high protein treat
That’s a tiny bit sweet
Still freaked? Pretend it’s just custard

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Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 139 articles for us.


  1. Silken tofu + hot brown sugar syrup (thin and watery, not thick)+ tapioca/sago pearls = like seeing god with your tongue.

    • I remember going to my best friend’s house as a kid and her mom whipped this up. Ah, I’ll need to track down a recipe.

    • YES.

      this whole post was an ode to one of my favourite foodthings (tofufa/tauhuay with brown sugar syrup is one of my favourite desserts in the world), but i also have conflicty feelings about the whole soybean monopoly thing D:

      does anyone really make their own tofu? i met a girl who did this once but it seems like a lot of trouble.

      • My roomie and I would have so many late night conversations about the Monsanto Monopoly. (Weird, I know) I feel uncomfortable about monocultures and monopolies, but soy is “somewhat” better than the cornopoly? At least soy is more nutritionally beneficial than HFCS and soy fields can do some nitrogen fixing? As a consumer it feels like I can’t really do anything

        My girlfriend’s mom used to make her own tofu when it wasn’t readily available in Montreal. I have been meaning to get a lesson from her, but I think we’re both too lazy.

  2. Dessert Last Night

    Tofu is not a food always known to entice
    I’ve seen recipes that have made me think twice
    it may seem ambitious
    but it’s just so delicious
    to make a a chocolate mousse oh so nice

  3. Sear tofu on both sides ’til golden
    Add fish sauce, gochuchang and sugar to embolden
    Spicy, salty and sweet
    It’s my favorite treat
    When in a tortilla it’s rolled in

    • Ooh. I make a similar spicy-sweet tofu with Chinese chili garlic paste, sugar and peanuts. I’ll have to try this!

      • I mix the sauce ingredients (with a little rice vinegar sometimes too), pour it over the tofu in the frying pan and turn the tofu to coat as the sauce reduces. I hope you try it!

  4. My Mother tells me I shouldn’t drink soy milk because having too much soy is bad for you. But then I read things that say soy is good for you. Basically I’m super confused…

    • yes! can someone break down the soy convo, plz?

      i’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, so soy isn’t my main source of protein — but i love edamame and tofu and soy milk. i’ve sort of ignored the convo re: soy being bad for you because i hear so much conflicting stuff that it all gets overwhelming.

      can a food/nutrition/health-knowledgable human please help a confused soy-lover out???

        • Kristen, thanks for sending people our way for more information – that’s what we’re here for! There are a lot of myths and misinformation out there about soy and we want to help direct people to evidence-based research.

          Here is a link to our FAQ, which touches on most of the information people have questions about, including the elusive estrogen (fyi, plants don’t have estrogen, but there are “phytoestrogens,” which have actually be found to improve the health of arteries, prevent certain cancers, and reduce bone loss.) http://www.soyfoods.org/soy-information/faq

          Let me know if you have more questions and I’ll try to respond in haiku!

          • Lol, it seems I’ve used your website (totally by coincidence) as a reference in my response to Kate W below. Perhaps you could share any information on the potential for phytoestrogens to interfere with a prescribed hormone replacement therapy? From the section of your FAW I quoted it seems there is.

      • I know that some have expressed concern over phytoestrogens in soy foods. Though as a trans woman I’ve always thought, “Bonus!!!” :)

        • I’m a bit late to the party here, but trans women may have reason to avoid soy foods if they are on pharmeceutical hormone replacement therapy.

          Evidence is still coming in but the National Institute of Health says: “in humans, it is generally accepted that consumption of isoflavones-rich soy foods suppresses circulating estrogen and progesterone levels” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/)

          The most common prescribed estrogen in HRT is 17beta-Estradiol, which apparently bonds more quickly to receptors than phyto estrogens (although some receptors will still be snatched by phytos “17beta-Estradiol and phytoestrogens induced an increase in ER binding to ERE in a concentration-dependent manner. 17beta-Estradiol was a more potent activator of binding than the phytoestrogens studied.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14664520)

          And from a pro-soy website:
          “15. What are isoflavones?

          Answer: Isoflavones are bioactive compounds that are often described as phytoestrogens, plant estrogens because they are structurally similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. Soybeans are uniquely rich in isoflavones, primarily genistein and daidzein. Even though isoflavones have a similar structure to human estrogens, they act very differently in the human body, and therefore, should not be considered similar to human estrogens. Isoflavones are much weaker than naturally circulating human estrogens, as they have approximately 1/1000th the biological activity of synthetic estrogens. ****They do not have estrogen-like effects in humans and may actually function as anti-estrogens, inhibiting the effects of estrogen.****”
          (http://www.soyfoods.org/soy-information/faq, emphasis mine)

          So talk to your endocrinologist if you regularly eat a lot of soy-based foods. I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV (but I do read a lot about HRT!).

    • Basically, the research I’ve seen is pretty inconclusive. I think that as long as it’s not your main/only source of protein and you mostly eat whole soy foods and not weird manufactured soy isolates, you’re probably fine. People all over Asia have been eating soy for generations, so!

      • Dina- do you have links about this, perhaps? No pressure if you haven’t, but I’ve been googling but to really no avail. While I eat meat, I really only cook it when doing dinner for girlfriend….and, other than that, I’ve been sort of subsisting on chik’n nuggets and clif bars.

  5. also i’ve never heard of yuba before but it sounds amazing / fun to make. confirm / deny?

    • I think yuba’s my favourite way to eat soy. I just buy mine dried in knots (super cheap!) and rehydrate it as I braise them. If you buy it in sheets, they’ll stack them up layers sort of like a pastry which you use as spring rolls wrappers or shred into “noodles.” It has a rubbery chewy texture, but it’s delicate and tears easily. So if you like squid but get pissed off when you can’t bite through your calamari, you will love it. And plus, who doesn’t love food shaped like tiny bows?

        • If you’re buying fresh sheets, you’ll normally find it in your asian grocer’s tofu refrigerator. My mom will shred it, napa cabbage, onions, red peppers and carrots into a stirfry with a vinegar-soy based sauce. You can also use it to make fresh spring rolls which I’ve been dying to try.

          If you’re going for the dried stuff, it’ll be alongside the black fungus, mushrooms and rice noodles. Cover it in boiling water to rehydrate while you prep the rest of your ingredients (about 5 minutes). They expand, but not significantly. I’ll simmer it in whatever I’m cooking for about 10 minutes. My go-to dish uses garlic, oyster sauce, light soy, dark soy, a bit of sugar and cornstarch to thicken. I’ll also sweat a slivered onion, some sliced shiitakes, wintermelon and serve it over egg noodles or rice.

          • Ooh, that sounds nice. My grandma has been vegetarian for years, so I have memories of tofu stir fry, really good, especially when followed by home made ginger ice cream!

  6. Edamame! I grew up surrounded by soy fields, so I like to think of edamame as a local specialty, even though I’m pretty sure most of our edamame came from frozen bags from the supermarket… Either way, delicious!

  7. I can’t do soy cause I have endometriosis, BUT I LOVE YOUR LIMERICKS. Also, your little graphic about the different types of tofu would have been more useful last fall when my vegan sister came to visit and I was like ‘this is the tofu they have at the co-op! I will buy it so she can make tofu scrambles’ but it was silken tofu and apparently I just fail.

      • I know, I still feel like I should have known better. It’s sadder when you find out that the tofu was never eaten (I pointed it out to my roommate who was trying to eat more vegetarian things, but he is bad at remembering) and it expired last month and we had to throw it out.

        buhbye, non-GMO tofu, I wish I didn’t have to waste you. :(

        • Aww that’s really sad. But let your sister know she can just pulverize silken tofu into “mayo” for picnic-approved potato salad!

  8. Food is great. I’m glad to know there is a while month on soy awarenss …just bought a cube last night!
    Soy helps balance the Yin in our body out and keeps us humans “cool”
    Fuck yes to National Soy Month. This vegans favorite steak substitute.

    Thanks for the sweet article Kristen

  9. I’ve a friend who says ‘soy makes you gay’
    (He’s a big fan of the NRA)
    You’ll never serve him Silk
    He prefers cold rice milk
    But somehow he’ll eat edamame?

  10. Oh wow, you’re a freakin’ genius, Kristen! I have a tofu restaurant and I never even thought about half of these suggestions.

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