Freshly Squeezed Soy Milk

In food on 01/13/2009 at 7:02 pm

Silk and its myriad clones have basically ruined soy milk for us. Instead of celebrating the wonderful nutty earthiness of the natural bean flavor, American manufacturers decided to make an alterna-milk, producing a white liquid that is bland, artificially-flavored to taste like fake vanilla or chocolate, and achieving the goal of turning off a whole new generation of kids to the real thing.

Soy milk has been dumbed down, like a lot of ethnic food, for the American meat and potatoes palate. So imagine our surprise when we were strolling in the geriatric home-esque hallways of the Hilldale mall in Madison to run into Hong Kong Wok at the food court and discover ‘soy bean drink’ in the beverage section of the menu. It couldn’t be, we thought. Maybe it was a Vitasoy or Yeo boxed juice-type item, which is decent in a pinch. But no, it was HOMEMADE soy milk, the kind you get at one of those booths in Chinatown that exclusively sell Prunella, bags of fried tofu, bags of firm tofu cakes, massive rice cookers of tofu flower dessert 豆腐花 that they skim into plastic containers with a side of simple sugar syrup; it was a huge 12oz styrofoam cup for $1.00! We were floored by the freshness and pure bean flavor of it, and vowed to make it once we got back to NYC.

After watching some Youtube videos, and remembering Mother’s technique for making it back in the day, we got down to business. Since I was actually the spectator for this momentous occasion, I will interview my other half on the actual process:

Q: What do you like about soy milk?

A: I like the salty sweet creamy, but it’s not like milk-creamy, it’s almost like horchata, but not made out of rice or chufa. It’s a refreshing beverage, better cold than warm. (I beg to differ on this point, because I find the warm, savory type of soy milk you sip with a porcelain spoon out of a rice bowl better than cold, especially if you are dipping fresh fried Taiwanese crullers into it like Oreo cookies in milk. That’s an Ironman breakfast!)

Q: Why would you want to make soy milk when you can buy it?

A: Yeo’s is the most traditional that I’ve tasted, but it’s still thicker and chalkier than homemade soy milk that I buy at stands. It’s still kind of artificial tasting. It’s the best of the bad, but that doesn’t make it good. I’m also a proponent of anything homemade.

Q: Why do you like recipes with so many steps? Isn’t it hard to make soy milk?

A: Soy milk is one of the easiest recipes I’ve made in awhile; it’s more time intensive, but that’s only because of the overnight soaking of the beans. It really can be broken down into 4 steps: soak beans, grind beans, boil bean water, drain.  (This is true. As an eyewitness, it was declared 1 hour before departure for the morning that soy milk would be made, and lo and behold, soy milk was produced before my eyes with minutes to spare).

End Interview. Time to chug some freshly squeezed soy milk.


1.5 cup dry beans (We happened upon organic beans at a health food store in Chelsea, which I guess was the real impetus of this sudden desire to make soy milk, besides the strip mall anecdote)

Water to cover (NYC tap water being the best, natch)

Large Pot/Dutch oven

3:1 ratio of water to bean for boiling

1/3 cup sugar (we like a milder, bean-forward flavor, so this is really to taste)

1/4 tsp salt

Place dry beans in a large bowl and cover with water up to second knuckle with your fingertip just touching the beans. Let sit for about 24hrs (or at least overnight). The round beans will swell to resemble the shape of kidney beans.

Drain beans and place a small amount in blender with water in a 3:1 water/bean ratio. Blend thoroughly and pour into the pot. Repeat until all beans are blended.

Bring bean water to a boil, skimming foam off as it forms with a slotted spoon. When water reaches a rolling boil, remove from heat, add sugar and salt to taste. Drain water mixture through a cheesecloth or clean dish towel, and squeeze out all the liquid.

Chill; soy milk will last for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

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