Long popular in the East, soyfoods have only recently found a home in Western kitchens. Yet beyond tofu, many people are still at a loss about what to do with the versatile bean. Use the primer below as one might use a tour guide to a foreign culture. All these soyfoods can be found in supermarkets, natural-foods stores or Asian groceries.
What it is: Fresh soybeans (also called "sweet beans"), picked in their fuzzy pods just before they reach full maturity, look like bright green lima beans. Their flavor is sweet and mild, with a touch of "beaniness."
What to do with it: In Japan, edamame are often boiled in salty water still in their pods and served as bar food (the pods are inedible, but it’s fun to pop them open between sips of beer). On these shores, you’re most likely to find frozen, partially cooked edamame, either in pods or shelled—but fresh ones might turn up at farmers’ markets. Use them in bean salads, toss into stir-fries or soups.