Start the day with comfort of savory soy milk bowl

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Savory soy milk

As it’s getting chilly, it’s also harder to get up in the morning. A comforting breakfast will not only wake you up but also warm you up. Culinary researcher Asami Kuchio shares her recipe for a Taiwanese-style savory soup made with soy milk, a standard breakfast in Taiwan.

It’s common to eat out for breakfast in Taiwan, and its cities’ restaurants and food stalls are crowded from the early morning. Various dishes such as porridge, noodles and rice balls are available.

“In Taiwan, I’m always looking forward to getting out early in the morning to go restaurant-hopping,” Kuchio said.

She said this is how she encountered this salty soy milk, called xian dou jiang. It is made with soy milk and black vinegar, and often topped with such ingredients as you tiao (Chinese fried doughnut) and tiny dried shrimp.

“It’s so delicious and easy to digest. It’s a great way to start your day,” she said.

For toppings, Kuchio uses wonton wrappers instead of you tiao, which is hard to get in Japan. Cut the wanton wrappers into strips and deep-fry until golden brown. The dish generally tastes plain overall, so the shrimp is sauteed in sesame oil to give it flavor.

Bring the soy milk to the boil in a pot, pour into a bowl, add salt and black vinegar, and stir with a spoon once. If you stir too much, it won’t solidify. Let it sit for about a minute and the soy milk will start to congeal. The protein in the soy milk reacts to the vinegar and coagulates.

“It’s done when the soy milk becomes thick enough to hold the toppings. Add chili oil or salt to taste,” she said.

I added plenty of toppings and ate it with a Chinese soup spoon. It’s like a thick soup, with the aroma of sauteed shrimp and the saltiness of chopped zha cai pickled mustard plant to complement the soy milk’s subtle sweetness and umami.

It’s a good dish for a morning when you have no appetite.

Shredded potato

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Stir-fried shredded potato

In Taiwan, stir-fried shredded potato is a popular side dish that is as common as salty soy milk.

The shredded potatoes are soaked in water. Chopped red pepper and garlic are fried in a frying pan with oil. When fragrant, the potato is added and cooked until transparent. Season with vinegar and salt and it’s done. The crunchy texture is addictive.

Xian dou jiang

Ingredients (2 servings):

  • 600 milliliters unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 tbsp tiny dried shrimp (sakura ebi)
  • 2 tbsp zha cai
  • 4 to 5 wonton wrappers
  • Coriander, as desired
  • Vegetable oil (for frying wanton), as needed
  • Chili oil, to taste
  • 2 tbsp black vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Directions:

1. Put sesame oil in frying pan, saute shrimp quickly then remove.

2. Cut wonton wrappers into 1-centimeter-wide strips. Pour vegetable oil into a pan until 1-2 centimeters deep and fry wonton until crispy.

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Left: Stir-frying tiny shrimp. Right: Deep-fried wanton

3. Heat soy milk in a pot until just before it boils then divide into two bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of black vinegar and a pinch of salt to each bowl, stir once and let sit for a minute.

4. When soy milk becomes firm, top with fried wonton strips, shrimp, zha cai and roughly chopped coriander. Drizzle chili oil on top and eat while stirring.