Soy Beans - Many Forms Used in Thai Cooking
Soy beans have been used in Asia for thousands of years and are actually an oil seed, not a pulse, which they are commonly mistaken for. The beans were once considered to be important in Asian countries such as China, Thailand and Korea as they were called sacred by farmers, who up until 1920 did not use the bean for food but rather for industrial purposes when growing other crops.
One form in which soy beans are used and commonly sold throughout Thailand is oil. Soy oil can be found everywhere in the country in large and small supermarkets. The soy beans naturally contain 19% oil, which is extracted by first cracking them and rolling them flat so they take to a flake like form. After being blended and refined, the oil is ready. Leftover flakes are then given to animals to eat, or sold to those with farm animals.
Another large section of the supermarket will be predominantly for dairy substitutes, which are also made with soy beans. Milk and drinks are the most common one will find, and they are often sold in small bottles with extra calcium supplements added. Yogurts can also be found.
Possibly the most common use for the soy bean in Thailand is soy sauce. The sauce usually comes in a dark variety or light. The light sauce is mainly used to flavour rice and noodles, whereas the darker sauce, which is thicker, is mainly used more sparsely in soups or sauces. Both are salty in taste, explaining why conventional salt is not used as much.