Vegetarian food sometimes gets a bad rep for being labor-intensive, but nothing could be further from the truth when you cook with soya chunks. These bite-sized soya nuggets are a handy alternative to meat, and they’re less fussy to prepare. All you need to do is simply rehydrate the chunks, and they’re ready to go. For the best flavor, remove the excess water and marinate the soya pieces.
What Are Soya Chunks?
Soya chunks are a variety of textured vegetable protein (TVP), rich in protein, omega 3 oils and vitamins. The nutritional content of the chunks makes them a healthy meat replacement. When shopping for vegetarian food, you might also have seen similar items labeled “meal maker” or “soy meat.” All these products are made from soy flour, and you can buy them as granules, flakes and strips as well as in chunks.
Without any added flavoring, the taste of these soy products is quite bland, though their texture is somewhat chewy, like meat. The trick to making them taste great is to add flavor with spices and herbs or serve them in a delicious sauce.
Cooking With Soya Chunks
Before cooking with soya chunks, immerse them in water to rehydrate them. For a quick preparation, add 1 teaspoon of salt to a saucepan of water and heat the water until it begins to boil. Add the chunks and cook them for 4 to 5 minutes or until they turn soft. Drain off the water and place the chunks in a separate bowl, ready to use in your recipe.
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If time isn’t an issue, soak the chunks in water at room temperature. Fill a bowl with water and add the chunks. Next, place a small lid or something similar on top of them, so they remain submerged and soak up the water evenly. After an hour, the chunks will be ready to use.
After rehydration, the soya pieces contain water, but not a whole lot of flavor. To remedy that situation, squeeze the chunks and then soak them in a marinade. If you used the cool water method, you can squeeze the chunks with clean hands, but if the chunks are hot, place them in a strainer, and press them gently with the back of a large spoon. This is also a good time to cut any particularly large chunks in half with a knife or scissors.
Marinade Ideas to Add Flavor
The spongy texture of soya chunks is what makes them so versatile. Covered in a marinade, they’ll soak up its flavors in no time. Curries, pasta sauces, Chinese or Mexican dishes ‒ these little pieces of soy protein supply any taste you want.
For a mild, vegetarian version of butter chicken, marinate the chunks in a mixture of yogurt, garlic paste, ginger paste, garam masala and paprika for 10 minutes before frying them in butter. Create a sauce from garlic, ginger, tomato paste and cream, and cook the marinated chunks in the sauce for another 10 minutes.
Alternatively, give your soy protein a meaty flavor by soaking the pieces in a paste of ground spices. Chop shallots, ginger, garlic and grind them with coriander, cumin, fennel, chili and garam masala powders. Add pepper and salt and a binding agent like coconut cream before soaking the soy pieces in the marinade for 30 minutes. Stir-fry the chunks for about 10 minutes until they turn golden brown, and serve them with boiled potatoes prepared in the same way as the soy protein or roast vegetables.
Jenny Green has a Masters in English literature and has been a freelance writer since 2008.