Learn to Make Go, a Soybean Puree used to Prepare Tofu

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Scrambled eggs are just one of the tasty dishes you can make with gô.
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Figure 4

Excerpt from “The Book of Tofu”, copyright ®1975 by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi. Excerpts used by permission of Autumn Press, Inc.
Click on the Image Gallery to see referenced figures.

Gô is a thick white purée of well-soaked uncooked soybeans. It is more full bodied in texture than whipped cream, but not as thick as cream cheese. It is interesting to note that the Japanese character for g6 is also used to represent the verb kureru meaning “to give”. This is appropriate, since gô is the source of each of the various tofu products, and it is the first transformation of whole soybeans in the alchemy of tofu-making. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Tofu is a protein-packed food made from soybean curds . . . learn how to make it here..)

Gô is the only stage in the tofu-making process where the entire soybean is still together. In the next step, the gô will be separated into okara (soybean pulp) and soymilk. Thus by using gô in cooking, we can enjoy the full range of the soybean’s nutrients in their natural balance and completeness.

By soaking and grinding the soybean into gô, we greatly reduce the amoôunt of time and fuel required for its thorough cooking, just as it is quicker and more economical to cook rolled rather than whole-grain oats.

Moreover, gô need be simmered for only 15 minutes or pressure-cooked for 10 if it is to be used directly as a food (or be further processed into soymilk). It requires as few as 10 to 15 minutes of simmering if it is to be made into tofu, since trypsin inhibitor is contained in the soluble carbohydrates that dissolve in the whey during the curding process.

To prepare gô with the best flavor and nutritional value, soak your soybeans for the correct length of time (see graph with sidebar cited above). Puree or grind them to a fine, smooth-textured consistency using an electric blender, a Corona- or Quaker City-type hand mill, a meat grinder with a fine attachment, an electric grain mill, a coffee mill, a mortar and pestle, a suribachi (an earthenware grinding bowl), or a juicer. Most important, cook the fresh gô without delay, and do not overcook lest some of the protein value be lost.

The word “gô” is used by Japanese tofu makers in three different ways. First, it refers to the white purée mentioned above. Second, it is used to refer to a property of dry soybeans, similar to the gluten in wheat, which is a measure of the quantity and quality of the protein in the beans. The presence of this property depends on the soybeans’ variety and grade, the region, climate, and soil in which they were grown, and their particular year of “vintage”. It is important in determining the amount of tofu that can be made from a given quantity of beans, and it determines the cohesiveness and delicate resilience of both the purée and the tofu made from it.

Finally, “gô” may refer to an elusive essence of the purée which determines the amount of tofu it will yield. Improper treatment of the purée can cause a decrease in this vital essence … tofu makers assert that this gô can “fall” or “drop out”. Combining the three usages into a single sentence, a tofu maker might say: “To make fine tofu, use soybeans containing good gô, grind them between slowly turning stones to make smooth, fine-textured gô, and cook immediately, to prevent any of the essential gô from escaping!”

Since ancient times and until really quite recently, most Japanese kitchens were equipped with a pair of 10-inch-diameter, hand-turned grinding stones (Fig. 1). These were used to grind soybeans into gô during the preparation of farmhouse tofu or Gô jiru soup. On special occasions, they were used to grind whole grains into flo or, roasted soybeans into kinako, or tender tea leaves into matcha used in the tea ceremony. In farmhouses where tofu was made regularly or in large quantities, and in traditional tofu shops throughout Japan and China, an interesting design was developed where- by large, heavy stones were turned using a push-pull system (Fig. 2). While one person worked the push-pull handle that revolved the upper stone, another ladled soaked soybeans into the stone’s upper surface. Working in this way, it often took 1 or 2 hours for tofu makers to grind enough beans for a single cauldronful of tofu yielding 120 cakes. Work usually started as early as 2 o’clock in the morning and, during the summer, the beans were often ground and cooked in two separate batches each day to ensure freshness. In several of Kyoto’s elegant old tofu shops where granite stones are still used, the stone floor near the base of the grinding platform is distinctly indented and worn smooth in the spots where many generations of fathers and sons pivoted their feet as they turned the great stones by hand.

While all of the gô made in Japanese tofu shops is still ground between stone wheels, the great majority of the shops presently use relatively small, lightweight wheels that revolve more rapidly than the traditional, heavy stones. Some shops, however, have carefully preserved their beautiful heirloom millstones, mounting them vertically and driving them with a fan belt and electric motor (Fig. 3). The tofu master must chisel the cutting grooves of both stones every three months to keep them sharp. Like the finest Western stone-burr mills used for making stone-ground flours, these heavy stones yield gô, and hence tofu, of the finest quality.

It is interesting to note that although grinding stones have been used for more than 2,000 years in East Asia, the power to revolve them was traditionally provided entirely by man. It apparently never occurred to these craftsmen that natural forces–such as wind and water–could be used as energy sources. Less than a century ago, most of the flour prepared in the West was freshly ground each morning in stone mills powered by either water wheels (Fig. 4) or windmills (Fig. 5). The large stones were 3 to 4 feet in diameter and 12 inches thick, whereas in Japan and China, we have never seen a stone larger than 17 inches in diameter and 5 inches thick.

The same basic principles used in making high-quality whole-grain flours are also applied in preparing gô. Each morning the tofu maker drains and rinses his well-soaked soybeans, then places them in a hopper above the grinder. He runs a slow trickle of water-often drawn from the shop’s deep well–over the beans, down through the hopper and in between the stones to give his gô the desired thickness. The stone wheels revolve slowly and at medium pressure to ensure that the germ, skin, and body of the beans are smoothly blended, and to avoid overheating, which would cause the essential gô to escape. This way of grinding yields gô with a very fine grain … the latter, in turn, increases the tofu yield. It also helps to develop the natural cohesiveness or glutinous quality found in soybeans in much the same way that kneading develops gluten in bread.

Lest the essential gô escape, the purée should be used as soon as possible after it has been ground. Thus, in tofu shops it is scooped immediately into a cauldron of boiling water. Gô loses its potency the longer it sits unused and the tofu yield consequently declines.

In modern Japan, most of the gô made in tofu shops is used directly in the tofu-making process. Only occasionally do the more tradition-minded order it from the tofu shop for use in home cooking. Since most homes are now equipped with a blender, cooks can make their own.

G” can be added to soups or breads, or it can be sautéed with vegetables, mixed with diced foods and deep-fried, or used as a protein-rich base for casseroles and other baked dishes. Try using it in place of prepackaged soy flour, meal, or grits in your favorite recipes. In most cases, cooking time will be reduced by 50 percent or more. This creamy-white, smooth purée invites imaginative experimentation to find new uses for a food that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in Western cookbooks.

Homemade Gô Puree


G” purée has the consistency of a thick milkshake. Ground gô (below) is a thick paste. The two types may be used interchangeably in most recipes. To make 2 cups of gô purée from ground gô, simply mix the latter thoroughly with 7/8 cup water. (Note: 1 cup dry soybeans expands to about 2-1/2 cups when soaked overnight.)

1/2 cup dry soybeans, soaked for 8 to 10 hours in 1 quart water.

Rinse, then drain the beans in a colander. Combine beans and water in a blender and purée at high speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. Or, if a crunchier texture is desired, purée for only 1 minute.

Homemade Ground Gô

(MAKES 1-1 /4 CUPS)

This variety of gô is slightly thicker than that made in most tofu shops, but resembles that made traditionally in Japanese farmhouses using either hand-turned grinding stones or a suribachi.

1/2 cup dry soybeans, soaked for 8 to 10 hours in 1 quart water

Rinse, then drain the beans in a colander. Using a hand mill or meat grinder with a fine-blade attachment, grind beans to a smooth paste.

Scrambled Eggs with Gô


2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced mushrooms

1 cup Homemade Gô Purée

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt Dash of pepper

1/4 cup grated cheese (optional)

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add onion and mushroom and sauté until onion is just transparent. Add gô and–stirring constantly–cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until purée has a subtly sweet fragrance. Mix in remaining ingredients and cook for a few more minutes until eggs have set.

Gô in Oven Cookery

When used in place of–or together with–eggs as a basis for casseroles, baked grain or egg dishes, or even for cheese-cake-like desserts, gô lends body and flavor to each dish while providing the tasty richness and high protein usually supplied by dairy milk.

Whole Wheat Bread with Gô


This high protein bread has a delightfully moist texture and rich flavor. By properly combining soy and wheat proteins, we increase the total amount of usable protein by about 30 percent.

2 cups soybeans, soaked overnight in water, drained and rinsed

4 cups lukewarm water

1/2 cup honey or natural sugar

2 tablespoons dried yeast

22 cups whole wheat flour, approximately

1/4 cup oil

2-1/2 tablespoons salt

Combine half the beans and 2 cups water in a blender and purée for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. Pour the purée into a large mixing bowl. Purée the remaining beans in the same way and add to the bowl together with honey, yeast, and 4 cups flour. Using a large wooden spoon, mix for about 5 minutes to form a smooth sponge. Cover bowl with a moist towel , and allow to stand for about 40 minutes in a warm place until sponge doubles in volume.

Add the oil and salt. Fold in about 2 cups flour at a time to form a smooth, firm dough. Turn dough out onto a well-floured bread board and incorporate the remaining flour while kneading. When dough has been kneaded 200 to 300 times and is fairly light and smooth textured, place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to double in volume. Punch down and allow to rise once again.

Preheat oven to 350°. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured bread board and divide into 6 equal portions. Knead each portion about 20 times, shape into a loaf, and place into a lightly oiled bread pan. When the last loaf is in its pan, allow all loaves to rise for 5 to 10 minutes more. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve warm with butter.

Corn Bread with Gô


1/2 cup soybeans, soaked overnight in water and drained

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon honey or natural sugar

2 tablespoons sesame butter or ground roasted sesame seeds

1 -1 /2 teaspoons salt

2 cups water

1-1 /2 cups cornmeal


Preheat oven to 375°. Combine the first five ingredients in a blender, adding 1-1 /2 cups water. Purée for 3 minutes or until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl and add remaining 1/2 cup water and cornmeal. Mix well. Bake in a lightly oiled square pan for about 45 minutes. Serve with butter, molasses, or sesame butter … or try cottage cheese.

Gô Casserole


2 cups Homemade G” Purée

1/2 cup milk (soy or dairy)

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons ground roasted sesame seeds or sesame butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour into a lightly oiled casserole or bread pan and top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Deep-Fried Gô Patties


2 cups Homemade G” Purée

2 cups bread crumbs or bread crumb flakes

1/2 carrot, diced or slivered

1 small onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground roasted sesame seeds or sesame butter Oil for deep-frying

Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. Shape the mixture into 2-1/2-inch patties or 1-1/4-inch balls. Heat oil to 350° in a wok, skillet, or deep-fryer. Slide in patties or balls and deep-fry for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve topped with ketchup or ketchup-Worcestershire sauce.

Gô Croquettes

Into 1 cup Homemade Ground Gô mix 1/4 cup minced and steamed sweet potatoes or yams and 1/4 cup minced onions. Add just enough bread crumbs to hold the mixture together, season lightly with salt, and shape into 2-inch patties. Dust each patty with flour, dip in lightly beaten egg, and roll in bread crumbs. Deep-fry and serve as above. Or, substitute grated lemon or yuzu (a citrus fruit similar to a lime, citron, or lemon . . . but slightly larger) rind for the potatoes. Use grated glutinous yam as a binding agent, adding flour only if necessary.

Rich and Spongy Loaf with Gô


2 cups Homemade Gô Purée

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons natural sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten


1/4 cup thinly sliced or grated cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the first seven ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture into a bread pan coated lightly with butter, and top with the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve hot or cold.