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left coast

Recipe: savory chinese soybean milk soup

Hi hi hi hi! We up and left town a few days ago…

denver international

across the sierra nevada

I’m in California, spending a quiet evening with my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother. We’re having a really sweet visit together. Jeremy picks me up tomorrow morning to head into the sticks. Before he drove south to meet with colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, we had a lovely lunch with Lisa Is Bossy at Sushi O Sushi. I love sushi. I love Lisa. She gave us some of her special passion fruit French macarons. There are no pictures because they were THAT delicious (thank you, sweetheart).

sashimi for me me me (and lisa and jeremy)

the something something roll – exceptionally wonderful

You just can’t have a visit with family without some GOOD Chinese food (at least you can’t in my family). We’ve been enjoying the noms in between running errands for Grandma. I swear it blows me away that these three beautiful women each look several years younger than they really are. Mom just told me I couldn’t divulge her age on the blog, but I think it’s okay to say that Grandma is 88 and still kicking ass. In fact, all three of these ladies kick ass.

mom (left), my aunt (right), and grandma (bottom)

beef noodle soup

soup dumplings (tan bao)

I thought an appropriate recipe to share this time would be a Beijing-style Chinese breakfast. It’s my Daddy’s favorite. He used to make this on weekends when I was in high school. So I’m posting this in honor of Dad since we’re having a girls-only visit this time. It starts with Chinese doughnuts.

chinese doughnuts – not quite what you were thinking

soybean milk

Chinese doughnuts (yo tiao) are fried dough, but neither sweet nor salty. It’s a special kind of dough and I have heard Chinese doughnuts are tough to make. The outside is delicate and crispy, the inside is airy, light, and chewy. I found some at the H-Mart in Denver recently. That was pretty exciting. For me, it’s the essential ingredient in savory Chinese soybean milk soup (do jian).

preserved mustard greens, red wine vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, green onions

pork sung (shredded dried pork)

The other goodies (it’s all about the goodies) include preserved mustard greens, green onions, sesame oil, chili oil, red wine vinegar, a little bit of pork sung (shredded dried pork), and of course slices of Chinese doughnut. Mom told me that you only need a couple of drops of the vinegar to thicken the soybean milk.

everything into the bowl except for the soybean milk

when the soybean milk is hot, pour it on

Please please please don’t buy sweetened or flavored soybean milk for this. It will totally suck if you do that. I know there are a gazillion soy milks out there, but you want unflavored soybean milk. In fact, the kind you get at the Asian markets is better than the kind you purchase at non-Asian markets. I don’t know why, but they are just different. Mom says (she’s sitting right here next to me) that you have to watch the soy milk carefully when you heat it up because it boils over VERY quickly. Mom is always right, you know. Pour the hot soy milk over the goodies and serve with more goodies on the side including a long strip or two of Chinese doughnuts. Good stuff!

serve with a side of hot chinese doughnut and extra toppings

now that’s a chinese brekkie

Savory Chinese Soybean Milk Soup (shian do jian)
[print recipe]

8 oz. Chinese doughnuts (yo tiao)
3 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup preserved mustard greens, diced
1/2 cup pork sung
dash of vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
sesame oil
chili oil (optional)
1 quart unsweetened soybean milk

Heat the Chinese doughnuts in the oven (350°F) for a few minutes until just crisp, but not hard (still want them relatively chewy in the middle). Slice two or three of the strips into 1-inch thick pieces. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of green onions, preserved mustard green, pork sung, a few drops of vinegar, a dash of sesame oil, and if using – chili oil in each bowl. Top with five or six pieces of Chinese doughnut. Meanwhile, heat the soybean milk in a pot over high heat. Watch it carefully as it boils over VERY quickly. Just as it begins to boil, remove from heat and pour the hot soybean milk into each bowl. Serve hot with extra toppings on the side and a strip of Chinese doughnut. Serves 4. Note: The purpose of the vinegar is to thicken the soup, so you only need a couple of drops – don’t go crazy or it will get incredibly thick.

55 nibbles at “left coast”

  1. Memoria says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow. Each “wow” is for each member of your family in that photo of lovely women! I can’t believe how young and beautiful they look!! Goodness!! That bodes very well for you, doesn’t it? haha I can’t believe your grandmother is 88!! Wow!

    This dish looks so lovely and colorful. I love when you share traditional, family dishes. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  2. Alexandra says:

    This looks so fantastic. I’ve had a lot of Chinese-by-Taiwan cuisine but not much of anything Beijing. I feel like this is the kind of dish I (as an american) would try, inititally find weird, but then grow to L-O-V-E. Like this one dessert I had, that was comprised of some cold sweet watery stuff, with jellies (one of them was Lemon Grass Jelly) in it and also lentil-ish textured beans. Served as a cold refreshing desert. Just seriously delicious stuff. I miiiiss chinese food :(

  3. Kitt says:

    What a nice portrait!

    Are the yo tiao the same thing as ma hua? (Or marhuar, as that northern accent has it.) I’d forgotten about those. That soup looks really tasty. I’d like it for lunch!

  4. Melinda says:

    I’ve never seen a more beautiful 88 year old. Not ever.

  5. jenyu says:

    Kitt – I didn’t know what ma hua was, but my mom and aunt tell me it’s not the same. Ma hua is apparently thin, crispy and sweet. Yo tiao is crispy, but chewy and hollow and neither sweet nor salty. I’ll have you over sometime and you can try some :) xo

  6. Rosa says:

    It looks like you had a great time together! That shot of the Sierra Nevada is amazing. What great food too!



  7. amy says:

    I had this growing up. My parents and I would go to this restaurant in the ‘burbs near Chicago and it specialized in this kind of breakfast. In fact it’s still there. : )

    Love love the food (you have posted/shared).

  8. Lisa is Bossy says:

    My blog is so cob-webby these days I knew when I checked my hits and it was WAAAY above normal that you must’ve linked to me. LOL!

    Was sOOOOOOO great seeing you guys! I’m sOOOOOOOOO happy you had a spare couple hours! (A little embarrassed to admit I went back to SOS for lunch today to take an old coworker friend to lunch. I hid from our waitress we had yesterday ‘cuz I didn’t want her to think I was as big a freak as I am…) Oh and that something something roll was the Golden California: CA roll, battered in tempura and fried. *DROOL*

    Can’t WAIT to see you guys in June!! Yay!!!!! Happy trails along the rest of your CA trip!!

  9. Lisa is Bossy says:



    Hit me that you only just now posted this. Um. I guess my major hits were from passionfruit macaron food porn on foodgawker.

    *embarrassed grin*

    But for certain they’ll be way up tomorrow – mostly coming from URB. ;)

  10. MD says:

    OM NOM NOM, everything looks delicious!

    And just because I’m a freak about these things, it’s “tang bao”, “you tiao”, and “xian dou jiang”. :]

  11. Ruth Ann says:

    Beautiful photos and great story as usual. Enjoy your visit!

  12. Danielle says:

    That looks delicious, but I would skip the pork floss. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get used to that stuff, but the Taiwanese put it in everything here!!

  13. Clare says:

    What an unusual dish! I love the idea of a savory doughnut soup for breakfast. Seriously my mouth is watering!!! Now if only I could find Chinese doughnuts here in Ireland…

  14. Sharlene says:

    I love exploring authentic Chinese cuisine. While my boyfriend is Taiwanese, he really appreciates good Chinese food (since Taiwanese restaurants are few and far between here). I’m excited to make this!

  15. Esther says:

    That looks soooooo interesting. Sounds like a good breakfast, I’m always craving savory, and dairy and me don’t get along too well either, so.. I’ll just have to find those doughnuts. Thanks! (And I’ll need to make those Chinese dumplings again, aka Daring Cooks challenge hosted by you!)

  16. Eileen says:

    Looks and sounds amazing! And thank you for sharing a family portrait, lovely ladies!

  17. Maria says:

    Beautiful family portrait. All of the food looks amazing. There is nothing better than sharing good food and good times with the ones you love.

  18. Sandy a la Mode says:

    omg, i LOVEEEEE yo tiao and this soup looks sooo delish! it makes me want to go back to taiwan, instantly!!!!

  19. Margaret says:

    Don’t know which looks more beautiful. The family portrait or the brekkie. Okay. Its the photo, but the brekkie is a CLOSE second. YUM!!

  20. Bing says:

    Funny, you tiao is one of my dad’s favorites too – reminds me of weekend brunches in Boston’s Chinatown back when we all lived on the Right Coast. I do miss Chinatown…

  21. Joy says:

    This is lovely Jen — the minute I saw this picture a huge smile spread across my face. My dad would always make me this dish on Saturday mornings, he would make fresh soybean milk and buy some you tiaos from the local asian market. I would always tell dad “Wo yao DA LA DA LA” the spicier the better!!

    Thank you for bringing me that memory this morning. The women in your family are beautiful and vibrant, it must be what they eat :) Have a great week!

  22. ashley says:

    i haven’t had the soybean milk soup & the chinese doughnuts since I was a kid. Its my grandma’s favorite though. Next time I’m in Chinatown, I should hunt some down!

    you’re post made me incredibly hungry for beef noodle soup… my absolute favorite!

  23. @jeannesamary says:

    So gorgeous, and so inspiring, Jen! Your grandmother isn’t the only woman who kicks ass :)

  24. Manisha says:

    It would be a shame if Kitt’s car drove up with empty seats. :-D

    This is my kind of breakfast – not sweet! And, you need to complete the picture of lovely ladies. I hope you took one for yourself with you in it.

  25. kirbie says:

    I love this dish. I’ve never tried to make it myself before. Your photos are gorgeous. You know it’s weird. A couple weeks ago I had chinese breakfast at a new restaurant and I ordered the savory chinese soybean milk and I was surprised to see chili oil in it because I had never had a version with chili oil. But yours has it too!

  26. Kitt says:

    Thanks, Jen! I googled around and found a photo of mahua. I guess it’s more of a northern thing. I’ll be glad to try to you tiao any time!

  27. Grace J. says:

    My dad used to make his own yo tiao from refrigerated biscuit dough. I not a good cook so I haven’t tried it but if you’re interested here’s what he did…flour the work surface, (can’t remember if he cut them in half), stretch the dough into sticks put 2 side by side. Then put them into the frying pan using 2 pair of chopsticks to hold them momentarily. Ummm. I can still smell them cooking!

  28. marianne says:

    Yum, yum, yum! I’d take this for breakfast over cereal any day.

  29. Mrs Ergül says:

    Over here we have these Chinese doughnuts freshly made and sold! They are wonderful! Some people like to dip them in hot soy milk drink, some like to dip in their congee. I love the version I had in Hong Kong where they wrap the doughnuts in a layer of steamed silky skin. When I dip this combo in congee, it is the best feeling ever!

    You can take a look at the HK version here:

  30. shelley says:

    Oh, I love these! Unfortunately even in Beijing youtiao is getting hard to find unless you wake up at 5am. A lot of the breakfast stalls have been closed down or moved inside bland supermarkets in order to “beautify” the streets. But what we lose are the city’s authentic street foods… I don’t know when the last time I ate youtiao was, and your blog has made me realize that I need to rectify this right away!

  31. emtee says:

    You had me on the nostalgia train up until I realized you wouldn’t just be drinking the soy milk on the side, but make it the breakfast. I’m so used to the rest being eaten with plain congee that it threw me. I feel like I need to try this now. Thanks for the idea!

  32. Jane L says:

    This too reminds me of home. I will definitely try, I never use the frozen you tiao, but I will get them. It simplifies the process a lot, instead of hunting for the fresh ones. Delicious. Where did you get that beef Noodle soup ?, looks so Yummy !!

  33. Simone says:

    That all looks so insanely beautiful. And that picture of your family is also very cute…

  34. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Jen, the women in your family are incandescent! Absolutely lovely. You grandma looks a decade younger, and your mom and aunt have glorious skin.

    I’m glad you had such a wonderful visit with them!

  35. Cynthe says:

    Jen ~ Sounds like you’re in our ‘neck-of-the-woods’…..anywhere near the SF Bay area? For how long? We’re an hour’s drive north of SF. How long are you going to be in CA? Can we entice you with fresh strawberry-orange-ginger jam?

    Gorgeous ladies in your fam, too. Great group portrait!

  36. Luney says:

    My own grandmother is pushing 90 but she has a beautiful head of pure-white hair and perfect skin. *envious sigh* If only /I/ could look that good in 70 years…

    I’ve never been a fan of soy milk, but this looks really good. I’ve never thought of it being used in a savory dish, but you’ve got be curious.

    Oh! And it’s cool to know you’re a local. =3 I pass by Happy Family Vegetarian Restaurant all the time on my way to Japanese school and church. It’s ten minutes from my home.

  37. Xin says:

    We don’t have this in Singapore or Malaysia, only the sweet version of soya milk. I tried a version of this savoury soya bean milk at a street stall in Beijing once and it so darn delicious. That was many years ago and I have been trying to savour this again.

    Thank you for actually posting a recipe for this. I can’t wait to try this at home!

  38. Keeley says:

    I love this post! My two favorite shots: Sierra Nevada and the lovely ladies in your family.

    P.S. I am making your pan seared scallops for my mother today. Wish me luck! I’ve never made scallops (but I’ve eaten them many, many times”.

  39. Stella says:

    I love the sound of this soup-so easy and homey. I suppose one could do a vegetarian version (no pork) that would be good, yes??

  40. Katie says:

    Wow, that looks really delicious! I’ve never tried shredded dried pork (is it the same as pork floss?) but I’ve seen it in different places. I think the texture is just scaring me, like pork flavoured fairy floss!

  41. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    Well, now we know where you get your good looks! And I’m guessing you’re going to age well, too.

    It must be all that ridiculously delicious-looking Chinese food.

  42. JoJo says:

    this looks awesome! wow.

  43. wendy says:

    wow…that takes me back… like all the way back to when i was 5 or so and still living in china. my favourite breakfast then (and still probably is) dipping chinese doughnuts into sweet soy milk and then try to get as much of the sweet/savoury/crispy/chewy combination into my mouth as much as possible.

    tho i have to say, if you havent had real fresh fired before your eyes chinese doughnuts then you havent had it at all.

    beijing is now too clean for the roadside breakfast stands but go to tianjin (nearest city to beijing, its a 20min train ride) and they have the BEST ones. some of my favourite memories is of going to a breakfast tent with my relatives to have bowls of soy milk with freshly fried doughnuts.

    anyway, if you’re ever in beijing, go to tianjing for a day just for the food. the city is great for that if nothing else.

  44. kim says:

    beautiful family portrait! i have a recipe for chinese donuts if you’d like to try making it yourself (super easy) and delicious coming straight out of the fryer! let me know, i can email it to you =D would love to see the pics when you get around to making it

  45. jenyu says:

    Thanks for all of the sweet comments about the lovely ladies in my family. I think they’re quite beautiful too – and they are all three very special to me. You guys are awesome :)

    Alexandra – yes, I’ve finally grown to reconcile those common Chinese style foods with my American upbringing :) I think as I get older, I crave the traditional Chinese dishes from home more and more!

    Lisa is Bossy – thanks for meeting up with us and for introducing me to a GREAT sushi place. Hugs hugs hugs!! See you in June :)

    MD – yeah, most of my readers know that I don’t pin ying properly – it’s all based on what I’ve heard.

    Joy – I love spicy too!! :)

    jeannesamary – you’re really too kind. thanks, hon.

    Manisha – you know the age old problem – no tripod (well, it was in the trunk of Jeremy’s car and he was in Santa Cruz) ;)

    kirbie – I like it better with the chili oil – it’s so good!

    Kitt – oh wow, I’ve never seen that before. Now I’m curious to try some :)

    Grace – thanks for that. I do have a recipe for homemade yo tiao, but not sure I want to deal with the frying.

    Marianne – next time you come up for a visit, I’ll try to make some for ya.

    Mrs Ergul – we have those in some dim sum places in California! That’s good stuff, no?

    Shelley – that’s so sad :(

    Jane L – the beef noodle soup was from e-Noodle in Milpitas, CA. EXCELLENT beef noodle soup.

    Cynthe – ah, you’re so sweet. As most of our friends in the bay area know, when we roll into town there is rarely ever time to visit with others because my Grandma is the priority (and any shoots that I have). But thank you!!

    Luney – I don’t live in So Cal anymore :( I REALLY miss Happy Family Resto. Enjoy a meal there for me!

    Keeley – I’m sure your mom loved the scallops. That is so nice of you.

    Stella – oh absolutely! You don’t have to include the pork floss. You can add or omit whatever you like :)

    Katie – yup! Gosh, I love pork floss, especially on congee.

    Tamar – you crack me up! I wish I could parade around with my mom’s good looks, but I have to settle for my dad’s side of the family ;) ha ha.

    Wendy – yes, I’ve had fresh yo tiao before, but it ain’t happening here in Colorado!

    Kim – sure thing, if you want to email it that would be great (my email is on my “about” page). I want to avoid frying this summer tho ;) Perhaps in the fall when the fall shoot is over? Thank you!

  46. nikki says:

    That beef noodle soup looked sooooo good! maybe one day you’ll show us how to make that.

  47. Jenn says:

    I think finding your blog today made my day! & WOOT for UCSC, that’s where i’m at too :)

  48. Jamie Parker says:

    Yes, Jen, please show us how to make that beef noodle soup. :)

  49. Kari says:

    That sounds so good. I have had ice cold soy milk soup in Korea that was amazing but never had hot soy soup. I am thrilled to see that you got the ‘doughnut’ at H mart in Denver. Have a business trip there next week and have been searching the internet for grocery stores there that carry something more than Mexican and the apparently required on everything here green chili (not that it isn’t good) of my new home in southern New Mexico. DH wanted Laksa recently and I had a hard time explaining to him that even what we consider fairly basic Asian ingredients can be a bit hard to come by here. Looks like I will be reviewing your blog for ideas and making up a shopping list.

  50. tahmina says:

    this sounds so good but is there anyway i can subsitute the pork sung? i cant eat pork

  51. jenyu says:

    Tahmina – just omit the pork sung, not a big deal.

  52. tle says:

    ah Jen! I am a horrible asian that doesn’t like soy milk particularly much but this recipe makes me tempted to re-evaluate!

  53. Patty Lin says:

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this recipe and the awesome pictures detailing the ingredients. My husband is from Taiwan and loves this salty soy milk breakfast, so I will make it at home instead of going out. I am more of a sweet soy milk person, but I enjoy trying to cook traditional Chinese meals.
    Thanks again.

  54. Taiwanese style savory soy milk soup – om nom nom says:

    […] Use Real Butter: Recipe: savory chinese soybean milk soup […]

  55. Saharastar says:

    I’ve used organic unsweetened soy milk from non Asian store to make dojian. It always gave my daughter and me a terrible stomach. Recently I switched to a fresh locally made soy milk in a plastic jug, rather than a paper carton from a very reliable Asian market. We have not had any stomach aches.

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