Soya beans are an increasingly important source of protein, with the Western world slowly catching on to what the Asian populations have grown for thousands of years. The beans are versatile – eaten whole or refined as tofu, tempeh and milk. Soy sauce flavours much of Asia’s food and is the exemplar of umami – the deep savoury flavour that is our fifth taste. Here are a few of my favourite soya bean things. 

Edamame + Monsuta Okinawa Premium Draft, Japan, A$4, 350ml

Our Tokyo visit was timed with the opening of the Sumo wrestling season – a cultural experience I’ll never forget. Eating and drinking was as much part of the occasion as the wrestling, where psychology is the key along with weight and muscle. On the sidelines we ate edamame and drank beer – as did the thousands that filled the vast stadium. Check the label for the runaway Sumo wrestler. 

Yakitori chicken + Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi Sake, Niigata, Japan, A$18, 300ml

On my one and only visit to Japan, we were steered to the Michelin-starred Birdland in a Ginza subway. It’s owned by Toshihiro Wada, a friend of our own Japanese chef Tetsuya Wakuda. The yakitori lived up to expectations. I opted for ‘the lot’ with gizzards and all. Good soy sauce is key to the marinade and the cooking is on white-hot Hibachi coals. Needless to say, I drank chilled sake but I’m not sure if it was this excellent, dry Yoshinogawa. 

Firm tofu stir fry + 2021 Sutton Grange Fairbank Rosé, Central Victoria, A$35

I endeavour to balance meat and seafood with other protein, so kidney beans, lentils and tofu are regularly on the domestic menu. My signature stir fry has cubes of firm tofu wok-fried to a crisp exterior then set aside while the rest of the stir fry ingredients are tossed in the wok. The tofu returns at the last minute to give a bold textural element to the dish. The wine is always a rosé; the latest Fairbank is a zesty, watermelon flavoured delight. 

Soba Noodle Salad + 2021 Coriole Fiano, McLaren Vale, A$28

I was casting around for inspiration for this article when I spotted a Karen Martini silken tofu recipe in a magazine. It’s easy-peasy and the family approved. The key is the textural contrast of the soba noodles, shiitake mushrooms, silken tofu and peas. I tried several wines with the salad but the Coriole Fiano was the clear winner with its lemony pith flavours and tight, bright acid-etched finish. 

Masala soya bean curry + 2021 Renzaglia Nuovo di Renzo, Central Ranges, A$32

More research and cooking trials unearthed this simple curry. I made it with a medium spice level and served with brown rice. More taste tests were needed to find a wine match involving several dry whites and a rosé. I settled on this fresh, buoyant red from Sam Renzaglia, who claims the wine is, “As light as a red can be or as dark as a rosé can be.” Lifted red berry fruits, modest (skin-only) tannins and a complexity derived for carbonic maceration – plus whole-bunch fermentation in a 2,000L concrete cube. This is a fun and funky red, which I served with a light chill.

Soya bean moussaka + 2019 Thymiopoulos Young Vines Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece, A$32

This vegetarian take on moussaka wouldn’t pass the ‘taverna test’ in Greece but I think it really works. It’s a recipe that makes a simple substitution of soya beans for the meat sauce with the cornerstone eggplant and cheesy béchamel providing a grunt of flavour. I wickedly paired a xinomavro to keep the Greek thing happening. It worked well. For a local hero, try a gutsy GSM such as the 2019 Langmeil Three Gardens (A$24).