Soya bean milk, also known in Malaysia as tau chui, susu soya or air tauhu, is a popular drink in the hawker culture, regularly available alongside the various dishes on offer at Malaysian Chinese stalls. It’s also gaining popularity in the West, with dairy being removed from many peoples diets, and soy milk and other nut milk alternatives all seeing increased sales. And, it’s also one of my wife’s favourite drinks, with a certain hawker in Penang being ‘the best tau chui in the world’ according to her.
The soya milk products available in the UK tend to aim to simulate the taste and feel of daily milk – something that Malaysian tau chui definitely does not. The soya milk in Penang is usually fragrant with Pandan, and can be rich with brown sugar. My wife doesn’t usually rate the taste of tau chui available in Chinese supermarkets either, so after hearing from family that it was supposedly easy to make, I decided to try my hand to it.
The basics of any seed or nut-based milk is to grind the seed/nut with water, then finely sieve to produce a stable emulsion of protein, water and oil, with hopefully a nice taste too. There are kitchen gadgets available to simplify the process, but I thought I’d go the manual route for my attempts. For my first attempt I filtered the ground beans through a couple of different sieves, and whilst this produced a drinkable milk, there was a lot of sediment (which my wife was really put off by). I now use some sterilised tea-towels as cloth to strain the beans through. This involves more effort, but produces a smooth creamier milk.
Ang Moh’s Tau Chui Recipe
Serves 3, or 1 Malaysian Wife
100g dried soya beans
1 litre water
1 pandan leaf
White or brown sugar to taste (around 3 tbsp)
You will need to soak your dried soya beans for at least 12 hours before use, so give them a rinse, then place them in a large bowl/container and fill it up with fresh water, making sure that the beans are well covered. Leave these aside for at least 12 hours, so probably best to just leave them soaking overnight. After soaking, rinse again in fresh water and then place about half the beans in a blender and add enough water so that the beans can be blended into a slurry texture. Take this water from the litre specified. Add in the rest of the beans and a bit more water, and blend again.
Now comes the filtration. You are free to use whatever method you want, but you really need to get as much liquid out of the bean mixture as possible. You can use a sieve, with some implement to push the liquid through, but the method I found best was to pass the beans through a cloth – you can probably get a muslin cloth in most supermarkets which will do the job. You need to twist the cloth and exert some pressure, but you get a lot more liquid out compared to sieving. Once you’ve got lots of liquid out, I’d recommend adding the bean pulp and a bit of water to the blender again, give it a quick blend, then carry out your filtration again. This should get the maximum amount of soya bean extract out.
Next, add the liquid to a pot with the rest of the litre of water, and bring it to a boil over a gentle heat. Knot up your pandan leaf and add it to the milk, then reduce the heat and simmer it for around 10-15 minutes, making sure it doesn’t boil over.
Now comes the time to sweeten the tau chui, unless you’re one of those masochists who prefer it plain. White or brown sugar will do here, with the brown sugar probably adding a deeper flavour. Take the milk off the heat, remove the pandan leaf, and let it cool for a minute or two before sweetening, and add as much sugar as you want, at a spoonful at a time. I found that 3 tbsp per litre was to my taste, you may prefer more or less.
Let the milk cool to room temperature, then transfer to a bottle or container and let it chill in the fridge. It’s probably best to drink the tau chui within 24 hours of preparing, but I’m sure that won’t prove a challenge!