Lecture 11: Specialty Products

Required: In both books, review info on soy products, vegan products, etc. Review product listings in Vegan in Volume. Read article (more info on soy products) at the end of the lecture
Recommended: Visit natural foods store, supermarket or specialty stores and look for products that would appeal/meet the needs of the vegetarian market

****** It’s Time!! Do I have your first project??*******

By the end of this lecture, the student should be able to:

  1. Identify and explain the various soy products on the market

  2. Explain several uses for “fake” meats
  3. Identify every-day consumer items that are also vegetarian

Virtual or Non-virtual Browsing
Before you read this lecture go to the following website: and browse around their web pages.

Okay - are we all back?

What you should have seen (and if you didn’t, go back after the lecture) was information about the following:

  1. Basic: tofu and pasta
  2. More frills:
  3. Specialty within a specialty:

Pretty good for just one site, no? If you want to consume specialty products yourself, be a resource about them or use them in a business, then you’ll have to start web browsing, writing, or calling for brochures, etc., etc., etc.

There are lots of good, bad, and indifferent vegetarian products being marketed out there, and you need to start building your own database of the products you like.

By the way, did you note at the Vitasoy site that they sell under several brand names? That’s good to know. If you ever have to contact them (or any other company) then you can ask your vegetarian-clarifying question about all the brands at one time.

Beyond the Produce Department
Several years ago, it was easy to buy vegetarian products. You went to the produce department or the dried goods department. Thank goodness that’s over with, for the majority of stores.

Ha, I hear some of you saying! My store or supplier doesn’t stock much of anything vegetarian. Hey, it doesn’t have to say “veggie” on the label to be vegetarian. Egg-less pasta, most canned and dried veggies, fresh produce, fruit dried without sugar, grains (barley, oats, etc.), rice, fresh and dried herbs and spices, many condiments, many hot cereals, many sugarless products, many sorbets, fruit and vegetable juice and some breads are vegetarian just the way they are prepared. Go browse the shelves and see how many “vegetarian” non-special items you can find. I think you’ll be surprised.

In addition to the traditional items, many “traditional” stores are beginning to stock some specialty veggie items, such as tofu, soy milk, soy frozen desserts, rice milk, soy yogurt, etc. Check these out, as well.

Speed Scratch
Whether you’re cooking for yourself or going to go commercial, you should understand the concept of “speed scratch.” This is very popular in the food industry, and probably in many homes. The idea is to purchase an almost-prepared item and add some ingredients to it to make it your own. For example, you could purchase some frozen bean burritos, add your own home-made salsa or shredded soy cheese - speed scratch. You could purchase a frozen (vegetarian) pie shell, bake it, add pudding (which you have created from a sugar-free pudding mix and rice milk) and create a wonderful “cream” pie - speed scratch. Cruise through both your books - you’ll find lots of examples of speed scratch. In today’s world, it’s pretty difficult to find the time to prepare full meals, nonetheless preparing them all from scratch.

This works well for vegetarian cuisine. Back to the Vitasoy site. Notice they have baked tofu in smoke, teriyaki, Thai peanut and Tex Mex flavors. They can be sliced straight from the refrigerator and served on top of salads or used in cold salads or they can be heated and topped with sauces for an entrée. Speed scratch and everyone is happy! These products (and similar products from different companies) make it easy to prepare and present vegetarian cuisine, if time is at a premium or vegetarian cooking training hasn’t happened as of yet. Consider this: purchase teriyaki tofu, mix it up with some pre-chopped veggies, roll up in spring roll wrappers (all specialty refrigerated items) and throw them in the fryer or steamer - speed scratch! Serve them with purchased dipping sauces and you’re a hero.

You’ll note the same could be said for the dessert department. Tofu is available in chocolate, tangerine, and almond flavors. There are already-made tofu puddings and mixes on the market. These can be combined to make puddings, mousses, chiffons, pies, tarts and frozen desserts with little effort or expertise. You just need to locate the products!

Something for Everyone
There are vegetarian “fake meats” that can be served for breakfast (veggie strips), lunch (fake deli slices) and dinner (soy and grain roasts). There are products that contain only wheat, only rice or only soy and some that combine all three. There are veggie mixes for smoothies, cakes, salad dressings, you name it! I’ve included a portion of an article I recently wrote to introduce chefs to the vegetarian world. You’ll find this helpful as well. There is a bit of a repeat of some info that you’ll find in Vegan in Volume, so treat it as a review. Notice at the end of the article there are some more product websites. You can also look through the links on this page:

So, get out there (or stay in your jammies and surf the web) and see what products you can find and think about how you’ll use them. See you at the next lecture.

And send in your projects!!!!!

Here’s a bonus “speed scratch” recipe:

Smoky Seitan-tofu dressing
Yield: 25 1-ounce servings

Use as a salad dressing or a cold sauce. We’ve tried this with chilled melon and have enjoyed the contrast in tastes.

Garlic, minced 8 cloves Place garlic, mustard, lemon juice, mint, seitan
Prepared mustard 3 ounces and tofu in a blender and process until smooth.
Lemon juice 6 ounces Slowly add oil and process until well blended.
Fresh mint, minced 5 ounces Serve chilled over green, pasta, "seafood" or
Soft tofu 1 pound "poultry" salads
Smoked seitan* 8 ounces
Olive Oil 12 ounces

*smoke-flavored seitan is available commercially or can be created by marinating seitan in soy sauce with liquid smoke, then grill

And Here’s More Info on Soy Products

What’s all the noise about soy stuff these days? There’s the health aspect, as in the possible prevention of certain cancers and heart disease and there’s the “ I’m your customer, tantalize me and amaze me with new and exciting things” aspect and there’s the “ I’m not immortal, maybe going a little vegetarian will slow do the aging process” aspect.

These “brand new” soy foods were new kids on the block about 13,000 years ago. Soy beans have been cultivated in Korea, Manchuria, Japan and China for at least that amount of time. Tofu, which originated in China and tempeh, which originated in Indonesia, have been traced back about two thousand years. Soy beans were introduced to the United States in the early 1800’s, but did not catch on as a crop until the 1930’s. Today the United States is the largest producer of soy beans, growing at least fifty per cent of the world’s crop. At this point, most of the US soy crop is used to produce soy bean oil (used largely in the manufacture of margarine) and livestock feed. Soy products, such as soy milk, okara, tempeh, and tofu use a very small portion of the annual crop.

Soy School
Let’s start with the actual soy bean and work our way through the side products which soy yields.

Soy beans grow on branching plants that grow from one to six feet. If you are thinking sowing soy in your kitchen garden you’ll need a warm climate, such as the type found in Brazil or Japan. Soy beans are encased in fuzzy pods that can be green, black or yellow. Fresh soy beans (in Japanese, edamame) are sold fresh and frozen, in the pod or de-podded and can be steamed and served as a snack or bar food (think fuzzy podded peanuts) or can be used in soups, stews, cassoulets or any where you’d use a mild-flavored bean.

Soy beans and their products have lots of nutritional pluses. Eight ounces of cooked soy beans contain as much protein as 2 ounces of cooked meat. Yes, soy is as high in fat as meat products, but it’s the good-for-your-heart type of unsaturated fat (and many soy products are available in low- and non-fat forms). Soy is as close to a complete protein as you will find in the veggie kingdom (for you science buffs, soy lacks the amino acid methionine, but is high in lysine; serving soy with grain products solves this problem).

Soy is an excellent source of potassium, iron and folic acid. It is currently thought that people who eat two to four servings of soy per day may decrease their chances of acquiring certain cancers and heart disease.

Soy beans can be ground into soy flour. Soy flour doesn’t have any gluten, which is great for your gluten-free customers. However, lacking gluten, this means that soy flour will not rise; soy flour is also higher in fat than wheat flour. So forget a soy genoise and think more along the lines of breading and thickening.

Soy nuts are simply de-podded soy beans that have been dried and roasted. Available whole and in granules, soy nuts can be added to bakery items, sauces, salads and any menu item that needs a little crunch.

Soy milk is made from crushed soy beans. The resulting liquid is filtered and heated and usually pasteurized. Low-fat soy milk is made from de-fatted soy flour. Soy milk has a slightly nutty flavor which will handle slow, high heat well. Fast heat breaks soy milk, so be prepared to stir to get it back into solution if you’ve got the flame on high.

Okara is what’s left of the soy beans after they’ve been crushed for soy milk. Okara is fine and crumbly in texture (think freshly grated coconut). Okara has no flavor of its own, making it perfect as a thickener and pastry enhancer. Okara added to muffins and biscuits makes them lighter and moister and can be a secret ingredient in crepe batters (especially if they have to hold for awhile, as on the dessert station for Sunday brunch). Okara can be used in place of some of the meat or dairy in croquettes, burgers and thick soups.

Okara can be purchased fresh or dried. Dried okara is reconstituted with water (or soy milk) as needed; once reconstituted, okara has to be handled like any perishable product. Use okara to top pizzas, garnish hot dishes (instead of cheese) or substitute for all or part of ricotta cheese or ground beef in many recipes.

Tempeh is a fermented product, usually made with soy beans, but can be made with wheat, barley, kidney beans or peanuts. When made with soy, the beans are split and cooked and then inoculated with good-guy fungus to encourage fermentation. The resulting product is chewy (think Brie rind), light brown in color and has an assertive flavor that lends itself to grilling, roasting and smoking. Use tempeh as a veggie “steak,” used in place of meat in ethnic specialties or as a filler for hot sandwiches.

Tofu, which is probably a friendly face to most in-the-know chefs, is the equivalent of soy cheese. Soy milk is treated just like any other kind of milk to yield a solid curd.

Soy Sidekick
Seitan, also known as the “meat of the wheat,” is made from flour, not soy, but is often put in the same category as soy products. Gluten is extracted from wheat flour and cooked in seasoned stock which contains soy or tamari until it forms a dough. This concentrated form of protein is highly nutritious and very firm.

Seitan is often used just like meat. It can be cooked like a cutlet, sliced roast, en brochette or any moist-heat cooking method you can to employ. Seitan can be used to make a meatless sate with Thai peanut sauce, a veggie dip sandwich (serve with a smoked wild mushroom sauce) or a chicken-less cacciatora.

If you don’t want to extract your own gluten, there are many ready-to-use seitan products available. Field Roast, developed by Chef David Alexander Lee, is a modern day version of seitan. Made with wheat gluten, Field Roast looks and handles just like roast beef and can be used where you would normally use whole or sliced beef, as in hot sandwiches, instead of chops or cutlets and as an ingredient in entrees. Go to for more info on this product.

Soy There
You can’t do much with tofu, seitan or tempeh only braise, bake, steam, grill, smoke, marinate, stew or poach it. And you can’t use soy products in place of many things, only meat, fish, poultry, cream, butter, cooking fat, milk or cheese; and forget about putting soy stuff in too many dishes, only soups, sauces, desserts, entrees, salads, baked goods, custards, sandwiches and hot and cold entrees.

The soybean is the bean of the new millennium, according to the United Soybean Board. So, stop saying “soy what” and step up to the soy plate.

Soy Sources

Vegetarian Resource Group or 410 366-VEGE: request Soy Basics
Foodservice Update Summer 1998) and Foodservice Update Product Listing

United Soybean Board or 1-800 TALKSOY; request a “US Soyfoods Directory” which includes how-to's for using soy products, soy cookbooks, resources and websites. Offers a Soyfoods starter kit (there is a charge) which has soy beans, soy flour, soy milk, soy nuts and soy bean butter.

Field Roast Grain Meat Company, or 206 762-5961 (Seattle, Washington) 3 pound roasts, 3 ounce patties, 3 flavors of gluten-based meat alternative

Harvest Direct (mail order) or 800 835-2011 mail order for meat alternatives, soy beans, flours, tofu and tofu products

Melissa’s World Variety Produce, Inc. or 800 588-0151 in addition to exotic and hard-to-find fresh and dried produce, offers soynuts, meat alternatives, tofu and tofu products

On to Lecture 12!

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Last Updated
January 23, 2001

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The contents of this web site, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

All contents of these lectures are copyright Chef Nancy Berkoff and The Vegetarian Resource Group.

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