Sampling Soy

Karl Wells
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Here's something I bet you didn't know about soybeans. The inventor of the Model T, Henry Ford, was a huge promoter of soy way back in the 1920s and 1930s.

In fact, he was so keen on it he even established a lab to develop uses for soy. Some of them were quite revolutionary. Ford used soybeans in the manufacture of paint, window trim and accelerator pedals. Today soy continues to be used in similar ways in many industries, although most of us are familiar with soy as a food.

A selection of soy-based products from local supermarkets assembled for taste testing.

Here's something I bet you didn't know about soybeans. The inventor of the Model T, Henry Ford, was a huge promoter of soy way back in the 1920s and 1930s.

In fact, he was so keen on it he even established a lab to develop uses for soy. Some of them were quite revolutionary. Ford used soybeans in the manufacture of paint, window trim and accelerator pedals. Today soy continues to be used in similar ways in many industries, although most of us are familiar with soy as a food.

At the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago the Ford exhibit featured a display of soy food products developed by Ford researchers. People tried soy cookies, soy cheese, soy bread and other items.

As with many products featured at that particular exhibition, it took years for soy to gain popularity as a food throughout much of the western world.

In North America it wasn't until the 1970s that people started eating soy in significant numbers.

However, we owe a tip of the hat to Henry Ford for getting the ball (or perhaps I should say "the bean") rolling.

Supermarket soy

These days almost every supermarket has a display of products made from soy. It seems as time passes more and more soy-based foods are being developed. Many of us have decided that soy is a healthy alternative to meat. Physicians have been telling us for years that young men can avoid prostate cancer later in life by incorporating soy into the diet.

The question is, how do all of these soy products taste? Are they good, great or just OK?

I decided to see for myself and stopped by a few supermarkets to purchase several soy products.

Here's what I got: Vitasoy Regular Tofu, President's Choice Blue Menu Ground Soy, Yves Ballpark Style Jumbo Veggie Dogs, President's Choice Blue Menu Meatless Beef Strips, Tofurky Italian Style Tofu Sausage, Galaxy Nutritional Foods Veggie Cheddar Block, Natura Soy Enriched Soy Beverage, Yoso Soy Yogurt and Yves Chicken Veggie Tenders.

It took me a while to try all of it but eventually I was able to put together the following list in order of my personal preference.

If you've never tried soy or a soy product I should warn you that no matter what people tell you, it doesn't and will never taste like anything you're familiar with. It doesn't taste like meat or chicken or milk or cheese, regardless of how it's processed.

Having said that, on its merits, it can taste quite good and can easily be made part of your regular diet.

Vitasoy Regular Tofu - $1.99

I first tasted soy many years ago in the form of tofu. Tofu is commonly found as a rectangular block submerged in water. It has a somewhat delicate consistency (especially silken tofu) like a firm pudding or a cold dessert thickened with cornstarch (blanc mange). Tofu is my favourite way to consume soy. I enjoy the texture. It's lovely in a simple Thai or Chinese soup with vegetables and chopped scallions. I also love it - wait for it - in a peanut butter and tofu sandwich. I take a couple of slices, dry them in a paper towel, and stick them between two pieces of toasted brown bread slathered with good-quality peanut butter. There's a sweet dessert version as well flavoured with almond. It's nice with fresh fruit.

President's Choice Blue Menu Ground Soy - $3.99

Ground soy is a very good product. Often it can be used as you would use ground beef. My favourite way is in spaghetti sauce. I fry onions and garlic, add some sweet peppers, mushrooms and the ground soy. Finally I add tomato sauce, a little red wine and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Mixed through cooked spaghetti it's a tasty alternative to ground beef, pork or turkey.

Yves Ballpark Style Jumbo Veggie Dogs - $3

Veggie dogs cooked in boiling water for three or four minutes are very close in consistency to meat wieners. Slipped into a toasted hot dog bun with mustard, onions and ketchup they taste fine. I like to cut them up in rounds and mix them through hot baked beans for a Saturday feast of beans and wieners.

President's Choice Blue Menu Meatless Beef Strips - $3.99

President's Choice Meatless Beef Strips are commendable. I liked their colour, shape, size and texture very much. They don't look or smell great before cooking, but when fried in onions and added to stir-fried peppers and mushrooms they make a good evening meal.

Tofurky Italian Style Tofu Sausage - $3

The texture here is similar (but a little heavier) to the veggie dogs. The spicing makes a big difference - definitely Italian. My only method for utilising this product is in tomato sauce with some type of pasta, be it penne, spaghetti or something else.

Galaxy Nutritional Foods Veggie Cheddar Block - $4.49

It has the texture of slightly dry Velveeta and a vague cheddar taste. In a sandwich with chutney it's palatable.

Natura Soy (Enriched Soy Beverage) - $1.97

Most people refer to this type of soy as soymilk. You can buy it thin (as in watery) or thick (good for sauces). I tasted the light version by Natura. It was beige in colour, not white. The flavour was nutty and it had a chalky aftertaste. As a drink by itself it's just OK. In coffee and tea it is quite awful.

Yoso Soy Yogurt 6-Pack - $3.47

It has a similar texture but not the flavour of yogurt. I find the chalky aftertaste to be unpleasant. However, some might find it enjoyable.

Yves Chicken Veggie Tenders - $3.99

A rare occurrence for me but I could not eat this product. I tried, but after a few pieces I had to push it away. It looked great and had good texture. But it smelled strange and tasted worse.

Organizations: Italian Style, Galaxy Nutritional Foods

Geographic location: Chicago, North America

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Recent comments

  • Jess
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    anon, I completely agree with you on the Chocolate Silk! Its so rich, but it goes fast since it tastes so good. The Plain Silk, to me, tastes like raw bread dough. Not for me. I have yet to try other soy products, but I'm definitly going to!

  • anon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Soy is great. Plant protein is much easier on the body than meat protein. For Soy Milk, the best is Chocolate Silk or after that Sensational Soy or So Nice. The worst of all I find is Chocolate So Good. And, if you want a white milk substitute make sure to get PLAIN and not the VANILLA. Enjoy.

  • guy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I like soy,

    people don't know how to cook tofu.

    the type you can get at the price club is the best and cheapest for things like stirfry.

    for a more meat like texture some people wrap the block in paper towel and lay something heavy on it, or bake it for a short time before they use it.

    2 ideas for tofu

    is fried tofu and avacodo sandwiches.

    another is make a mexican wrap, with beans, peppers, corn, salsa, and tofu then eat it on a wrap with cheese and natural yogurt (as a replacement for sour cream..it tastes the same, but is way better for you.)

    another thing people don't know about is TVP which is flaked veg protien, I use it for pasta, chili and tacos, it is extremly high in protien and low in fat,

    you find it dried in the grain health food section or at bulk barn, it is very cheap, it looks like bran flakes when dried, but feels and tastes like meat when cooked.

    cooking is simple, just add it to a watery sauce and it takes on the flavour, most people can't even tell the difference between this and meat (unless you tell them).

  • Jess
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    anon, I completely agree with you on the Chocolate Silk! Its so rich, but it goes fast since it tastes so good. The Plain Silk, to me, tastes like raw bread dough. Not for me. I have yet to try other soy products, but I'm definitly going to!

  • anon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Soy is great. Plant protein is much easier on the body than meat protein. For Soy Milk, the best is Chocolate Silk or after that Sensational Soy or So Nice. The worst of all I find is Chocolate So Good. And, if you want a white milk substitute make sure to get PLAIN and not the VANILLA. Enjoy.

  • guy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I like soy,

    people don't know how to cook tofu.

    the type you can get at the price club is the best and cheapest for things like stirfry.

    for a more meat like texture some people wrap the block in paper towel and lay something heavy on it, or bake it for a short time before they use it.

    2 ideas for tofu

    is fried tofu and avacodo sandwiches.

    another is make a mexican wrap, with beans, peppers, corn, salsa, and tofu then eat it on a wrap with cheese and natural yogurt (as a replacement for sour cream..it tastes the same, but is way better for you.)

    another thing people don't know about is TVP which is flaked veg protien, I use it for pasta, chili and tacos, it is extremly high in protien and low in fat,

    you find it dried in the grain health food section or at bulk barn, it is very cheap, it looks like bran flakes when dried, but feels and tastes like meat when cooked.

    cooking is simple, just add it to a watery sauce and it takes on the flavour, most people can't even tell the difference between this and meat (unless you tell them).