Soymilk is a beverage made by soaking soybeans in water, grinding them, adding water, boiling the mixture down and filtering the grounds.
Soymilk has an appearance and flavor that are similar to milk. Plain soymilk has a particularly raw smell and is hard to drink, so soymilk sweetened with sugar is also sold.
It is written as 豆漿 (pronounced tochan) in Chinese. In regard to the Chinese culture, there is a custom of drinking hot soymilk with sugar for breakfast and eating fried bread called Yutiyao soaked in soymilk.
Also, 'edible soymilk,' which equates to rice gruel in the morning, called Shentochan, is cooked by adding salted broth to soymilk and putting minced Yutiyao and chives on top. Originally, people in northern China used to drink Tochan, but when a tochan shop called 'World Tochan King' (presently New World Tochan King), opened in Eiwa City, Taipei Prefecture, Taiwan, in 1955, the shop became popular and opened chain stores in various locations, so it became known as a snack representing the Chinese cultural area.
It's less common as a beverage than it is in China, but fresh soymilk is sold over the counters at tofu (bean curd) shops.
In China and Taiwan, soymilk is made from green beans and black beans in addition to soybeans. Soymilk made from black beans is also commercialized and sold in Japan.
Adjusted soymilk,' which is processed to achieve an agreeable taste by adding sweetener, perfume material and vegetable oil, is also sold. In order to distinguish such products, which aren't very different in appearance, 'plain soymilk' is printed on the ordinary product. A process for controlling the raw soybean odor has recently been developed, so the demand for plain soymilk is increasing due in part to the desire for healthful, natural products.
The representative vendors in Japan are Kibun Food Chemifa Co., Ltd., Marusanai Co., Ltd., and Soyafarm Co., Ltd. Mitsubishi-Kagaku Foods Corporation used to sell soymilk. The representative vendor in the United States is Eden Foods, Inc.
In the United States, vanilla and chocolate flavors are popular in diet foods, and it's also popular as a diet food in Japan.
Adjusted soymilk is often served chilled.
In Japan, many soymilk products are sold in cartons and plastic containers or bottles. In Hong Kong, the bottled soymilk called Bitasoi was popular, but the version in a carton became mainstream so fewer and fewer shops are selling soymilk in bottles.
Granular instant soymilk, made by adding sugar and drying it, is also sold in China. By adding hot water, it became hot-and-sweet soymilk that's enjoyed as a morning beverage.
Soymilk becomes tofu when a coagulant such as bittern is added. The labels for some adjusted soymilk state that tofu can be made. The soybean grounds squeezed from soymilk are called okara.
When soymilk is slowly heated, the thin skin that's pulled up from the surface is called yuba (tofu skin), which is mainly used as an ingredient in soup dishes and eaten as it is with soy sauce, as one would eat raw fish.
There are processed food products that soymilk is used instead of milk, such as yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. Also, for coffee, cafe au lait and cafe latte, increasingly items use soymilk instead of milk ('soy latte,' etc.).
In recent years, cuisine incorporating soymilk called 'tonyu nabe' (soymilk one-pot dish) has grown in popularity. Vegetables, meat and fish can be cooked in soymilk with broth. While such ingredients are cooked in the pot, yuba appears on the surface and a kind of oboro tofu (half-curdled tofu produced in the making of tofu) is formed, and these can also be eaten.
Other than that, soymilk can substitute for milk in many dishes.