Thursday, June 2, 2011


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I was craving this stew for a few  days, but I had to put off making it until we went to Nanaimo (a city down-island) to purchase the primary ingredient-- dried yuba or Chinese bean curd sticks. I devised this recipe for one of my books some years ago, but it was not included because the editor thought that the main ingredient would be hard for most people to find.  Perhaps she was right, but I think it's worth seeking out online, or when you're in a community with a large Asian population, because what most of us call "yuba" is a delicious, highly nutritious, natural soy product that can be stored for long periods of time.  It's a hearty, satisfying protein food-- good for cold weather (which is what we have been having, unfortunately-- though that is supposed to change tomorrow!).

This is a package of dried bean curd skin sticks
Before I get to the recipe, here's a little primer: What IS "yuba"? Yuba or beancurd skin (tou-p'i, doufu-p'i or doufu-i) is considered a delicacy Japan, but is a much more common food in China and Taiwan, where each city will have a number of shops or market stalls selling only beancurd skin and products made from it. It is made by simmering soymilk and lifting off the "skin" that forms on the top, just like that on dairy milk. This "skin" can be used fresh, or is dried in sheets or rolled-up "sticks". The sticks are used in soups, stews, and stir-fries, and can also be grilled. The sheets, either fresh or dried and soaked, can be cut up like "noodles", or used in soups, stews, and stir-fries as well. They can be rolled around fillings and baked, steamed or fried for delicious appetizers, or used as a crispy "skin" around vegetarian poultry substitutes.

Yuba: (I'm going to refer to this product by its Japanese name because it is shorter, becoming more universally accepted [like tofu instead of bean curd], and less confusing than the various English translations from the Chinese, such as "bean milk sheets", "pressed tofu", and other confusing things-- but don't refer to it as "yuba" in a Chinese market or the proprietor won't know what you're talking about!) This is a very concentrated soyfood. The dried version, available in Asian markets and some large supermarkets, must be soaked in warm water before using.

SOAKING: Dried yuba MUST be soaked before it's cooked, so don't skip that step. The sticks need to be soaked an hour or two, in warm water; the sheets about 10 minutes. I have never experienced sheets not becoming flexible in that amount of time, but the sticks often have certain spots in them (usually where they were bent) that never get flexible. If you are deep-frying them, it doesn't matter. If not, just cut those parts off and discard.

It's possible that really old yuba (like really old beans) doesn't rehydrate well. Try to go to a store that has a decent turnover.

Dried sheets of yuba/bean curd skin
  Fresh sheets are also available in large cities in Chinese tofu shops, and must be frozen for future use. They often come in 16"-diameter round sheets, or semi-circular sheets. These are sometimes labeled "Fresh Spring Roll Skins or Wrappers", but are not to be confused with the wrappers made from flour. The package will tell you that the ingredients are only soybeans and water. Some varieties are very thin, some are as thick as canvas. The sheets are folded into many forms and sizes to make rolls and stuffed pouches, or molded and steamed.

Sheets of fresh yuba/bean curd skin
 The Chinese have used amazing ingenuity to create "mock meats" using yuba. In Chinese yuba shops you will find replicas of chickens, ducks, fish, hams, rolled meats, sausages links, etc., all made primarily from yuba. These dishes, with names such as Buddha's Chicken or Buddha's Duck, as served on cold plates at fine restaurants or family banquets.

Here is how to make your own yuba!

Now, that recipe... I remember at the time I developed this recipe that I wanted to make a French-style stew out of an Asian product.  It's actually a very light, simple stew, but it's also complex in flavor and very satisfying.  I think it tastes even better the day after making it.

I hope that you can find this product (there is a link in the ingredient list to an online vendor) and give this recipe a try.

Printable Recipe

Serves 4
I like to serve this stew with mashed potatoes.

2 T. soy sauce
1 1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 1/4 c. hot richly-flavored vegetarian broth (like Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken), mixed with
1 tsp. Marmite or other yeast extract
2 large carrots or parsnips, peeled and cut into "matchstick" pieces
1/4 cup dry sherry (or marsala or Madeira)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, chopped
large pinch of dried rosemary
1 1/2 c. frozen petit pois (baby peas)
1 T. potato starch dissolved in 1 1/2 T. cold water
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Soak the yuba sticks in a large bowl or pot of warm water for a couple of hours. Drain them and pat dry on clean tea towels.

The soaked yuba/bean curd skin sticks
Cut them into 2" pieces. Toss them in a bowl with the soy sauce.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large nonstick or cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the yuba sticks with soy sauce and stir-fry until they begin to brown. Add the onion, chopped carrot and celery and keep stir-frying until the vegetables begin to brown. Scrape this into a small roasting pan or a large casserole. Pour the broth into the skillet and scrape up all the good "brown bits". Pour this into the casserole and add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the peas and dissolved potato starch.

Cover the pan and bake for 1 hour, adding the peas during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Remove from the oven and immediately stir in the dissolved potato starch. Stir until the juices in the stew have thickened. (Note: Potato starch does not have to be boiled to thicken a sauce or stew—it will thicken immediately in a hot liquid.) Taste for salt and add plenty of freshly-ground black pepper.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 276.4 calories; 48% calories from fat; 15.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 678.9mg sodium; 305.8mg potassium; 13.7g carbohydrates; 2.2g fiber; 9.2g sugar; 11.4g net carbs; 24.6g protein; 6.4 points.



Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

That looks great!!

Valerie said...

THANK YOU for solving a mystery of many years for me!!! I've had yuba in restaurants and have seen it talked about in cookbooks, but I could never find it in any Asian grocery store. Now I know why -- I needed to use another name for it.

Thank you!!!

Sarah E. Hoffman said...

Oh - Thanks! I love browsing in Asian grocery stores - but I almost never know what to do with the ingredient so I don't buy. But now I can try out a new one! Thanks!

Dori said...

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a chef competition on the food network, chopped I think. The competing chefs had yuba in their basket. I knew what it was because it creates a nice skin on a seitan roast. Neither one of the competing chefs knew what it was... I did. :-) I am surprised by how little the culinary world knows about Bryaana's awesome flavored food and cooking techniques.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Hi, Dori! Nice to hear from you! how are you?

Matthew B. said...

Lovely recipe!
Just an observation, ... adding soy sauce or anything coated in soy sauce to a hot cast iron skillet will immediate scorch the soy sauce and it will burn and stick to the bottom very quickly. It can then barely even be scraped off with a metal scraper.
If I ever add soy sauce, I first brown the ingredient then add a small amount of water and THEN add the soy sauce, stir quickly and dump everything out of the pan within 5 seconds.

Sarah R said...

Any chance you can give me the NI for the dried sticks? Can't find it anywhere.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Not sure what you mean by NI, but you can order them at the link in the recipe ingredient list or search in "Grocery & Gourmet Food" at and you will get at least 6 brands of the yuba sticks.