Thank you to Best Food Facts for sponsoring this post!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I love cooking with soy. I grew up eating foods like tofu, Asian-style soy milk, tofu skins, edamame, and miso. They are my comfort food.
Although I’ve eaten soy practically my entire life, I had little knowledge about how they’re grown and processed. That’s why I was incredibly excited when Best Food Facts invited me to their 2019 TASTE tour in Ocean City, Maryland, to learn more about soybean farming and production. Best Food Facts is an organization supported by The Center for Food Integrity and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. They are devoted to providing accurate information to consumers about food and agriculture.
LAZY DAY FARMS
One of our stops on the tour was at Lazy Day Farms, which is owned by the Layton family. The soy plants just started flowering when we arrived at the farm (see photo below). Eventually, immature soybean pods that are green and furry will grow on each stalk. These immature soybeans can be harvested and sold as edamame (毛豆, maodou, in Chinese). If you leave the pods on the stalk for a few months, the entire plant dries up and the leaves fall off the plant. That’s when soybeans are harvested to create other soy products.
When visiting the farm, I was amazed by all the detailed planning and assessment that goes into making soy farming sustainable. Nutrient management of the soil is very important. Every year, the Layton family analyzes soil samples and evaluates crop yields to determine what they need to do the following year to maintain the health of their fields. Additionally, the farm employs crop rotation and no till farming methods to preserve soil nutrients, soil structure and waterways that run through the soil. I also learned that soy is a nitrogen fixer for soil. Soy actually produces their own nitrogen so that you don’t need to use fertilizer to grow it!
Our next stop on the tour was at Perdue Agribusiness, where they process soy plants to make soy protein meal and vegetable oil. (As an aside, did you know that what’s labeled in supermarkets as vegetable oil is actually soybean oil?) When the soybeans arrive to the plant, the beans are extracted from the pods, cleaned, and cooked.
Next, the soybeans are cracked to remove the hulls. Hulls are used as ingredients for other food products, like crackers. The remainder of the bean is crushed and flattened into flakes. The flakes can either go through a further process to produce protein meal for farm animals, or they go through oil extractors to produce vegetable oil. That plant handles a lot of soybeans; it crushes 1900 tons of soybeans a day!
I also want to mention mention a quick note about soybean oil. People with soy allergies don’t need to avoid soybean oil, as it is highly refined. As a result of the refining process, the protein that triggers soy allergies will be extracted. Of course, double check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to consume.
Finally, we talked about soy nutrition with Dr. Julie Garden-Robinson. Soy is a great plant-based protein, which is why I love cooking it for my vegetarian meals. It has no cholesterol and it’s low in saturated fats, making it the only protein that carries the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s heart-healthy claim. Furthermore, soy contains essential fatty acids for humans, provides fiber, B vitamins, and calcium. Some studies have also shown that soy consumption can help reduce the risk of breast cancer (contrary to popular misconception). It’s great to learn that one of my favorite foods has so much nutrition.
Edamame was highly featured in our meals during the TASTE tour. Inspired by those dishes, I created this spicy roasted edamame recipe. Although boiled edamame is tasty, roasted edamame is even better. You can actually taste subtle nutty flavors once edamame is roasted.
To step it up a notch, I tossed the edamame with a homemade chili oil. The chili oil is made with soybean oil, minced garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes (from cayenne), and gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes). This spicy roasted edamame was so good that my husband and I couldn’t stop eating it!
HOW TO ROAST EDAMAME
All you need to do is toss the edamame pods with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt. Then, spread them over a large baking sheet lined with parchment. I highly recommend lining your baking sheet as the pods can stick to the baking sheet when they are roasting.
Roast the edamame at 375ºF for about 20 minutes. I noticed during my test batches that dark baking sheets tend to roast the edamame faster than light baking sheets. Make sure to check the edamame around the 15-minute mark to see if they’ve started to brown. If they are lightly golden, bake them for 5 more minutes. If they are barely brown, increase the total cooking time by 3 to 5 minutes.
MORE SOY RECIPES
- Pan-Fried Teriyaki Tofu
- Yellow Curry Tofu Wonton Soup
- Ginger Miso Udon with Five-Spice Tofu
- Thai-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
Spicy Roasted Edamame
- 12 ounces edamame (in the pods)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable/soybean oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn (see note 1)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon gochugaru (optional, see note 2)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable/soybean oil
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Position an oven rack to the center. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Add the Sichuan peppercorn to a spice grinder and pulse until the spice is ground (see note 3).
- Transfer the ground Sichuan peppercorn, red pepper flakes, gochugaru, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to an oven-safe bowl (such as a thick glass or thick ceramic bowl, see note 4).
- Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. The temperature of the oil should be around 325ºF.
- Carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl with the peppers and garlic (see note 5). Let the oil sizzle and rest as you roast the edamame (see note 6).
- In a bowl, toss the edamame with 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread the edamame over the lined baking sheet.
- Bake the edamame for about 20 minutes. At the 15-minute mark, check to see if the edamame have browned on the bottom. If they are looking light golden, bake them for another 5 minutes. If they have barely darkened, bake them for another 8 to 10 minutes (see note 6).
- Remove the edamame from the oven. Drizzle the chili oil over the roasted edamame. Make sure to incorporate the pepper and garlic sediment from the chili oil, as most of the flavor is there. Be generous! Quickly toss the edamame. Serve immediately.
- You can find Sichuan peppercorn in Asian supermarkets (particularly ones that sell Chinese groceries) or online. If Sichuan peppercorn is difficult for you to find, you can add another 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or leave it out entirely.
- I use gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) here mostly for color. The chili oil will not look as vibrant without the gochugaru. You can find it in Korean markets or online. If it is difficult to obtain, leave it out.
- I ground the peppercorns in a coffee grinder that I dedicate for spices. The peppercorns are easier to consume once they’re ground. You can leave them whole, if you like. When eating the roasted edamame with whole peppercorns, bite into the peppercorns for the mala sensation and then spit it out.
- Make sure to use a fairly thick bowl for this. One of my porcelain bowls started cracking because of the heat from the hot oil.
- If pouring hot oil into a bowl seems too risky, you can remove the saucepan from heat. Then, add the rest of the chili oil ingredients into the saucepan. Keep an eye on the garlic, as they tend to burn more easily this way.
- You can make the chilli oil a day ahead. In fact, I think the flavor of the chili oil is more developed if you make it the day before. Leaving the chili oil in a jar on the counter for 24 hours should be fine. Store any leftover chili oil in the refrigerator. You can serve it with fried rice, stir-fries, or dumplings.
- The color of the baking sheet matters. If you are using a light aluminum baking sheet, you’ll probably need an additional 5 minutes of baking. When I used my aluminum sheet, I ended up sticking my roasted edamame under the broiler for 3 minutes to give them extra golden color.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Best Food Facts, which is supported by The Center for Food Integrity and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. To learn more about soy foods and soy nutrition, visit their website or check out Soy Connection.