Tofu 101

Let me start by saying that I am not a vegetarian.  I was at one time, but the chicken beckoned me back after about 5 years.  During my time as a vegetarian, I learned to cook the hell out of some tofu!  My home was known in our community as the tofu spot.  The place to get your tofu on! I still enjoy tofu and I use it regularly as a healthy, as well as cost-saving meat alternative.

When most non-vegetarians think of Tofu, their first thought is ‘yuck.’  They often wonder why in the world anyone would want to eat tofu.  Well, because it’s a healthful alternative to meat, and when done right is actually quite tasty. Tofu is like a sponge…it soaks up any flavor you give it. If your tofu tastes wrong, it’s most likely operator error.

What is tofu anyway? Tofu is also known as Bean Curd. Bean Curd? What the heck is that?  Bean Curd happens when ground up soybeans are curdled with a curdling agent (much like cheese).  The beans separate into curds and whey, just like cheese.  I guess you could say it’s like soy cheese.  The ‘soybean curds’ are then compacted down into blocks and most of the water is strained out using cheesecloth, and you now have tofu!

What is so wonderful about tofu is also what people complain the most about.  It simply has no taste of its own, except for a slightly nutty flavor. It is just a sponge for whatever flavor you choose to impart upon it.  This is a wonderful characteristic in that it can blend into anything. The possibilities are endless!

Tofu comes in a couple of different forms.  The ‘Silken’ variety commonly referred to as ‘Japanese Style’ is the softer, more custardy variety.  Silken tofu is very soft and is almost impossible to cook due to its brittle consistency.  It simply falls apart with minimal handling. This variety can be used in custards, flan and puddings. It also makes an unbelievably creamy and rich smoothie. It can be used anywhere a creamy and custardy quality is called for. In a way, it is the ‘dessert’ tofu.

The more mealy tofu variety (which curiously has no name) is your bread butter.  This tofu is widely available in soft medium and firm consistencies, depending on your needs.  I use the soft or medium tofu for a ‘scrambled egg’ type of dish. I reserve the firm variety for dishes such as tofu kebabs, ‘chicken’ nuggets, sandwich filling, barbecue tofu, ‘egg salad’ and any other dish that requires a ‘meatier’ taste.

Here are a few tips to help you along your tofu journey:
1. I have found that it’s best to marinate tofu, either in a sauce or a dry rub in advance of cooking.
2. Tofu contains a lot of water, which can wreak havoc on  your recipe. If you are making something like a sandwich filling, place the tofu slices on a paper towel and cover with another paper towel. Then weigh it down with a heavy jar or a book. This will help squeeze out a lot of excess water.
3. Whenever possible, make your sandwich fillings ahead of time and store in the fridge.  That way it is readily available when hunger strikes.
4. When pan-frying tofu, either scrambled egg style or in barbecue cutlets, I find it helpful to keep the lid on the pot. This keeps the steam in, but also helps to form a slightly browned crust.
5. Season, Season, Season! Tofu has no flavor, you must add flavor.  Some of my favorite seasons are adobo, thyme, curry, cajun mix, montreal steak mix, and others. Onions are also a wonderful starter.

As you can see, tofu is really quite versatile. I will be adding tofu recipes (and possibly some videos) shortly, but in the meantime, feel free to experiment, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

 

Here are a few Tofu Recipes that I’ve invented or tweaked. Feel free to adjust them as you wish.  Cooking recipes are very forgiving, so tweak it till it works for you, if the original doesn’t!  I will be adding more as I finalize them.

Scrambled Tofu with Vegetables

This dish is a great substitute for scrambled egg with pancakes or hash browns.

Ingredients

1 14oz block of medium firm or extra firm tofu (not silken or japanese style)
¼ Chopped onions (red or white)
1 small ripe tomato, diced
¼ cup diced green pepper
1 ½ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp italian seasoning mix
salt to taste
1-2 tbsp canola/vegetable oil to saute

Method:

  1. Crumble up tofu into fine chunks and drain in a colander.
  2. Chop/dice tomato, pepper and onion.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet.  Add chopped tomato, pepper and onion. Saute veggies for about 2 mins.
  4. Add crumbled tofu and stir together.  Add salt and spices.
  5. Cover with lid and let saute for approximately 10 minutes, stirring to keep from burning.
  6. When your tofu has a golden brown crust on most of the chunks, it is ready.
  7. Serve with pancakes, hash browns or anything else.  Enjoy!

One thought on “Tofu 101

  1. Ena Coast says:

    I spent a year as an exchange student in Kyoto Japan, and I have to say I probably wouldnt have gotten by if it wasnt for a delicious bowl of udon a couple of times a week! There is even one shop where you can eat for free if you do 30 minutes of washing after! Anyway, I found a load more tasty looking ideas at this udon recipe site.

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