Packages of Soy Curls just seemed like a good thing to have in the pantry during the early days of the pandemic - when it seemed like so many things were in short supply and folks were hoarding everything. Having bought several bags and tucked them away, I'd get one out occasionally and use some. "Hey! That's pretty good!", I'd say, and then, for some reason they'd slip back underneath my radar.
Recently, I'd decided that was nonsense, and was determined to audition this amazing food in several dishes - so that I'd get forever comfortable with it, and they'd become a go-to staple.
Another reason that I use Soy Curls by Butler Foods - my husband really dislikes tofu. No matter how I fix it (and I use a tofu press to get it firm as can be!), he'll pick around it. It's just something that he's got a bug about. I'll keep working on it, but since he likes the soy curls, it's one less battle to fight.
Soy curls are an inexpensive plant-based protein, they are certainly pantry-friendly (rather like pasta), and can be ready in a flash. But, here's another reason to like them: They are very minimally processed, and are WFPB (Whole food, Plant-based) compliant, unlike tofu or TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). TVP is made from defatted soybean flour dehydrated through high pressure and heat (read: very processed), which is not in keeping with the WFPB way of eating.
Butler soy curls are made from minimally processed soy bean strips, are non-GMO, preservative/additive/pesticide free, fiber-rich, and made from the whole soy bean. They are not 'food fragments'. They really do have a chicken-like texture, and with the right herbs, taste pretty close to chicken. Finally, they are so incredibly nimble, they can truly go in almost dish: from cold, chickin or 'tuna' (soy curl) salad, to a soy curl chickin soup, to stir-fry, to chili, to BBQ Pulled Chickin on a bun ... the list is pretty endless.
Soy curls just need to be soaked - right out of the bag - in warm water for ten minutes. Drain them in a colander and you're ready to rock and roll. You can chop them smaller, or leave them in whole strips. The choice is all yours, depending on the dish you're making.
Soy curls - once drained in the colander - sauté nicely in a non-stick pan, without any added oil. Using medium high, then medium heat, just keep moving the strips, as they begin to caramelize and get that browning that equals flavor.
You could stop right here, and douse the sautéed curls with your favorite BBQ sauce and have a great sandwich or pita filling. Tuck some coleslaw in with, and you'd be licking your chops!
After sautéing, you can cool the soy curls and use them just as you would chicken or tuna in a cold salad with my homemade plant-based mayonnaise. Add red or yellow onion, celery, perhaps some chopped sweet peppers, chopped pickles, sliced snap peas (which is really good!), sliced almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds and more.
But, let's say you need a satisfying hot meal fast. Soak the soy curls while you prep your fresh vegetables, and cook the rice/grain in the Instant Pot. Drain the curls and toss them in with your veggies. Add some sauce, if that's what floats your boat. Hoisin sauce, salsa, a curry sauce .... grab that jar out of the fridge, pour it over the al denté veggies and curls, stir to combine and you're in business!
One of my husbands' favorite dishes with curls is braised sweet mini peppers and leeks. I usually keep this simple with just the white wine herb stock that I braised the vegetables in. When the veggies are almost done, stir in the curls and let the broth reduce - over medium heat - for about five minutes. Adjust your seasonings. I like to toss in some French-inspired Bonnes Herbes blend.
This was possibly even tastier the next day! Really. It was awesome just warmed up for lunch, with a small salad and some fruit.
The soy curls reheat just fine, keeping their shape, texture and flavor. I've even used them in soups since they so closely mimic the texture and taste of rotisserie chicken, and they don't turn to 'mush' like, ahem, so other similar products I won't name. And, when it comes to using them in soups, don't bother with soaking and draining them. Toss 'em right into your soup stock/broth and let them soak up all that flavor. Which reminds me, I never soak/re-hydrate the dry curls in plain water, choosing instead to put in a small spoonful of the Better than Bouillon No-Chicken, Mushroom or Vegetable broth concentrates. It starts flavoring those curls right from the start! You could also use a splash of Worcestershire sauce.
A dash of dried, ground Sage - or Poultry Seasoning - really gives the sautéed soy curls a realistic 'chicken' flavor profile.
The sautéed curls are going to be perfect for whatever vegetables you've got in the produce bin - or freezer!
And, for those avoiding gluten, Butler Soy Curls are a gluten-free food.
I had some leftover Thai red rice, which really rounded out the meal. The red topping? It's just some of those little marinated Peruvian peppers that you see in salad bars. Toss 'em into the food processor, add some tomato paste or a handful of cherry tomatoes, a couple of minced garlic cloves if you like. Pulse a few times and keep the sauce in a jar, refrigerated, for a week to ten days. Spoon it over rice, pasta, potatoes and more.
I'm thinking that my next adventure with soy curls might be as Fajitas or, maybe a Veggie Wrap with crunchy, crispy lettuce, julienned Swiss Chard, grated carrots and whatever else I have of the moment. Or, Kung Pao soy curls? Buffalo soy curls? Soy curl casserole? Certainly!
I think you'll find that this versatile plant protein will fit in anywhere you need it - as a healthy and nutritious avatar for chicken, pork or perhaps even fish. They're less expensive than many of the newer meat analogues, and don't have the high fat and/or sodium that many of those new entries have.
BTW: Soy Curls are a trademarked product, made by, and only available from Butler Foods in Oregon. They are best stored in a cool, dry place ... similarly to pasta.
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