On my way home after traveling for three weeks overloaded with all kinds of adventures in Japan, I’ve been trying to predict what was going to be my first meal in Texas. It was sukiyaki. I tricked my taste buds pretending my trip to Japan isn’t over, I guess. How about the first recipe on my website?
It takes time to process a shamelessly enormous amount of pictures after traveling for so long. The same is true for notes, even though capturing the moments on Instagram and Facebook was convenient and priceless. So, here I am, living my travel moments again in the Lightroom and in my kitchen.
Yesterday, I was talking to the owner of Asahi Imports: “It’s funny how my friends in Japan often hunt for western ingredients and food, and in the U.S. we do the opposite seeking Japanese.” Actually, it’s not the opposite. It’s the same. We want what we miss. With globalization and help of entrepreneurs who know that side of human nature (ethnic grocery stores rule!), we can indulge some of our cravings, though not all of them.
I say those are lucky who have never tasted certain delicacies because they don’t know what they are missing. If you didn’t enjoy eating fresh creamy and dreamy melt-in-your-mouth soy milk skins in Kyoto — kumiyage yuba — you obviously don’t miss it. With a tiny drop of freshly grated wasabi and diluted with dashi soy sauce for dipping, it is something to crave for. Fortunately, it is easy to make at home. But I am not going to mislead you. Unfortunately, it is VERY time-consuming and meditative. It works only if you have another pleasant and easy task to switch to every 5 minutes that soy milk needs to form a skin. I made yuba while processing tons of pictures from Japan. Setting a timer helps a lot.
The quality of soy milk matters. To successfully harvest soy milk skins you need a soy milk without additives. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find at stores. What is sold (even organic) is either flavored or has some kind of preservatives to prolong its shelf life. For that reason, I am including the step of making soy milk at home. If you are crazy enough to make yuba at home, you can start with making your own fresh soy milk as well, which is actually a piece of cake. Buy dry soybeans at any Asian grocery store, soak them overnight, puree them with water, cook for 10 minutes, and strain milk. Keep it refrigerated for later or start making the yuba right away. That’s it.
The size of cooking vessel matters. Now we need a frying pan with a large diameter. The larger the diameter, the larger the surface of soy milk to form a skin, the faster you make yuba. Fill the frying pan with the soy milk 1/2″ deep and place over low heat. The level of heat should keep the temperature of milk right below simmering point.
The timing matters. The longer you let a soy milk skin to form, the thicker and firmer it will be. We are talking about the difference between 3-5 minutes and 10-20 minutes per a skin. If you want it creamy, give it less time.
There is kumiyage (scooped) yuba and there is hikiage (pull-up) yuba. Both are fresh, but the second is let to drip excess soy milk and dry a little bit. Only then it is cut and rolled or folded. They have slightly different textures. If you want your yuba creamy, collect the skins into a container with a little bit of soy milk to be reabsorbed. Keep the container covered while harvesting the skins.
Fanning the milk doesn’t matter, proved by experiments.