The soya bean is remarkable. From this single bean a plethora of products are borne, from tofu to soy sauce. It is also a vital component in the production of other basic Japanese ingredients, such as some types of miso, or served alone as a dish.
Daizu is soya bean in Japanese, and means “big bean”. It originally comes from China. There are three main types of soya bean used in Japanese cooking distinguished by colour: black, yellow, and green.
The yellow soya bean is the most popular one to use for producing miso, soya sauce and tofu. Fermented on its own, it becomes natto, a dish for the not-so-faint hearted (the smell is reminiscent of dirty feet). As a healthy snack alternative, this type of soy bean can also be dried and salted lightly.
Kinako is flour from grinding yellow soy beans, combined with sugar and a bit of salt. It is soft and velvety, and makes a wonderful coating for dango (skewered grilled flour dumplings). It is also an essential ingredient in making Japanese sweets.
Fresh young soy beans can be eaten after steaming or boiling them while still in the pod. Immediately after cooking, drain and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with a glass of beer, as is customary in izakaya (Japanese style pubs).