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Food Specialities

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- for more foods and drinks see the menu on the right
    What is miso? What is tofu? What is seitan?
    What is tahini? What is tempeh? What is TVP?
    Is there mail company in the US available for ordering vegetarian sauces (such as vegetarian oyster sauce)?
    What is nutritional yeast? / Which ones provide B12?
What is miso?
Miso is made from fermented soybeans, and usually is found in a paste form. It is used as a flavoring agent, and for soup stocks. Storing Miso: If it is a dark miso, like hatcho miso, or red miso, it will keep for a while unrefrigerated, especially if it is 3 year miso. However, it does not hurt to refrigerate it. If it is sweet miso like yellow, mellow white, or sweet white, it will not keep unless refrigerated. Also, if the miso has been pasteurized, it should be kept refrigerated. Warning! Some Japanese brands of Miso contain fish stock!

Nutritional value, per tablespoon: calories 36 g. protein 2 g. carbs 5 g. fat 1 g. sodium 629 mg. (from Pennington, "Food Values of Portions Commonly Used")

What is tofu?
Tofu, or Soy Bean Curd, is essentially curdled soymilk minus the liquid (a parallel is the way cheese is made from dairy). Its natural flavor is quite mild, but its natural ability to absorb the flavors of other ingredients has led it to be called a culinary chameleon. It's found in several varieties, from soft (silken) to extra-firm style. Soft tofu is often used to make frostings for cakes, dips for chips and vegetables, while the firmer styles are often found in stir-fries and soups where it will hold its shape. Frozen tofu is an excellent substitute for ground beef in many recipes. Tofu is usually found in the refrigerator sections of stores, near the vegetable or dairy sections.

What is seitan?
Seitan is a form of wheat gluten. It is a high protein, low fat, no cholesterol (of course, all vegan food is cholesterol free) food that is usually found in the refrigerated section of most organic groceries/health food stores. It is usually near the tofu and typically comes in small tubs (like margarine tubs). It is brown and sometimes comes in strips 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick. Seitan is made from whole wheat flour which is mixed with water and kneaded. This dough undergoes a simple process of rinsing and mixing, to remove the starch and some bran, until a gluten is obtained. After boiling in water, this glutinous dough is called Kofu, which can be further processed in many ways. One of which is seitan. Kofu becomes seitan by simmering in a stock of tamari soy sauce, water and kombu sea vegetable. Seitan can be used in sandwiches, or to make dishes such as sweet and sour seitan, seitan stir fry, salisbury seitan, etc. It can be made at home from scratch or with a commercially available mix. Some companies produce vegan seitan products such as Meat of Wheat by Ivy foods.

What is tahini?
from a reader in the USA: It's a `butter' made from sesame seeds, similar to peanut butter.

What is tempeh?
Tempeh is a somewhat meatlike substance made from cultured soybeans. It is used in dishes like barbeque, and has a rather strong taste compared to tofu.

What is TVP?
Textured Vegetable Protein (or TVP) is a meat-like substance that is used to boost the nutritional content of meals, while still remaining relatively attractive-tasting. TVP usually contains "defatted" soya flour, and is very low fat. It is quite often sold in mixes for meat substitute dishes, and can often be found in bulk bins in health food stores. It is sold in a dehydrated form and requires re-hydration before using. TVP may have a rather high fat content, so check the label. If it contains "defatted" soya flour, it should be low fat.

Is there mail company in the US available for ordering vegetarian sauces (such as vegetarian oyster sauce)?
from a reader in California I bought vegetarian sauces (such as vegetarian oyster sauce) from oriental market. The name of the chain oriental markets is 99 ranch market. Most of them are in CA. They have a whole section of vegetarian foods such as vegetarian ham,chicken nuts (made from soybean),vegetarian soy sauce,vegetarian instant noodles and foods.Or you would like to check oriental vegetarian stores in CA. They are good and the price is reasonable.

from a reader in China: May wah Health Vegetarian Food Inc. 213 Hester street, New York, N.Y.10013 U.S.A. TEL:(212)334-4428 FAX:(212)-3344423

What is nutritional yeast? / Which ones provide B12?
Nutritional yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a food yeast, grown on a molasses solution, and comes in powder or flake form. It has a pleasant-tasting, cheesy flavor and can be used directly on vegetables, baked potatoes, popcorn and other foods as a condiment. It is different from brewer's yeast or torula yeast. It can often be used by those sensitive to other yeasts.

Yeasts are not animals! Yeasts are part of the group fungii. They were originally considered to be plants even though they do not produce chlorophyll, now they have their own kingdom.

Ms. Carlyee Hammer at Universal Products (the parent company of Red Star, 414-935-3910) indicates that ONLY ONE variety of Red Star nutritional yeast (product number T-6635+) is fortified with B12 at the level of 8 ug/g.

Ms. Carlyee also claimed that other varieties of "nutritional" yeast contain vitamin B12 at less than 1 ug/g, but was unaware whether this was determined by microbial assay or not. Microbial assays for vitamin B12 are no longer considered reliable due to problems with the cross-reactivity of corrinoids. She indicated that Hazelton Laboratories (608-241-7210) did the assay.

From the above two paragraphs, one might conclude that Red Star T-6635+ nutritional yeast, and probably no other variety, is a reliable dietary source of B12 at this time.

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