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China bites: Salty soy milk

By Owen Fishwick | | Updated: 2017-08-01 09:02

China bites: Salty soy milk

Pickled vegetables, strips of tofu, and pieces of fried bread await hot, salty soybean milk to be poured over them. [Photo provided to China Daily]

If the wondrous soybean were to be transformed into a modern day blockbuster superhero it would not be as Captain America, instead it would be Captain Asia.

Where the west for the most part limits soy's role to nothing more than an extra or one line bit part, the east projects it as its headline headlining act, the star of the show. In western cooking, soy is flaccid, limpid and flavorless, but in the east, it is diverse, shape-shifting, and deliciously dexterous.

Xian doujiang, or salty soy milk, is an example of soy performing toat its very best – hot, velvety soy milk is mixed with miniscule dried shrimp, shallots, crunchy pickled vegetables, and a cheeky twist of vinegar.

It's the vinegar which helps elevate the soy above its material into an Oscar-worthy performance on the dinner table. It curdles the milk into a salty, sour tour de force. Alongside our hero is its ever faithful sidekick youtiao, fried bread sticks, which can be torn off in chunks and dunked at will for that perfect unctuous punch of smooth and crunch.

Xian doujiang is served at breakfast at a cost of around eight yuan ($1.18). Thanks to the internet, many small mom and pop purveyors are becoming a hit online with the younger generation who yearn for traditional authenticity.

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