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by: Keshun Liu

New York NY: Chapman and Hall 1997, $89.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-412-08121-0

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(2) page(s): 14

A plethora of letters have arrived these past five plus years asking for technical information about soybeans. Some could be categorized about how to grow or process soybeans, others how to use them in recipes. Still others could be grouped under the heading of technology. Finding answers for items in this latter group has not been easy, however, now they can be located because the above book subtitled Chemistry, Technology, and Utilization comes to the rescue.

Liu's book includes so many aspects about soybeans including all of the above, processing, making oil or milk, even manufacturing soy sauce. As a technical volume it should not and does not have recipes. However, this most complete technical volume is, we think, the best ever published in the United States. We highly recommend it to those who want comprehensive answers to their soybean questions.

The book starts out with early history of the soybean, tracing its path from China to Europe to North America. It discusses the characteristics and varieties, growing and harvesting, and marketing and trading of this multifaceted legume. Chemistry, composition and nutritional value, and changes during maturation comprise the remaining first quarter of the book.

The middle half of the book details non-fermented Asian soyfoods including soy milk, tofu, yuba, sprouts, okara, roasted beans, nuts and flour, even information about immature soybeans. One learns about fermented soyfoods such as miso, jiangs, koji, and the various ways to make soy sauce, tempeh, natto, sufu, and soy nuggets. Oil extraction and refining, with process details and properties and applications of soy oil, are also detailed. The protein products of soybeans follow including second generation foods such as the dairy analog of ice cream, yogurt and soy cheeses, meat analogs, and protein texturization processes. The last quarter of the volume includes the role of soy and soyfoods in disease prevention and treatment. It also includes newer approaches in plant breeding and genetic engineering and ways to reduce some people's concern, the beany flavor or aftertaste of some soy products.

Three of the eleven chapters are not written by Liu but by specialists in their own fields (extraction and processing by Andrew Procter; soybean protein products by Navam Hettiarachchy and Uruthira Kalapathy; and disease prevention and treatment by Mark J. Messina). All other topics are the efforts of Mr. Liu, who is project leader in the Soyfood Laboratory of one unit of the Monsanto Corporation (Stuttgart, Arkansas). Together, these chapters offer authoritative information clearly and succinctly. They make the science and the technology understandable. And, as an oft desired bonus, they and the book are loaded with additional references.

Not everyone will read every page. But everyone can sharpen their understanding of soybeans and soyfoods. Everyone can get their questions answered be they in the area of nutritional significance, scientific principles, traditional or westernized soy foods, current applications, emerging biotechnology, and more.

Marketing soybeans, 1970 to 1995, nearly quintupled, knowledge about this increasingly important agricultural commodity and its value to man did more than that. Though the soybean probably originated in central China more than four thousand years ago, it was first recorded by Chinese Emperor Shen Nong about 2838 BCE. Nowhere has so much valuable material been printed about this sacred grain of China; all five hundred thirty-two pages are research based, loaded with in-depth information, and up to date.

However, as the book does not provide recipes, perhaps Mr. Liu needs to write a follow up volume that becomes a comprehensive source for Classical and modern Chinese recipes. Mr. Liu, are you listening?

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