Tofu 101 – A Proper Introduction To Tofu
When most people hear the word “tofu” they think of words like “mushy”, “slimy” or “tasteless” so they stay completely away from tofu.
I’m here to say that, yes, tofu can be all of these things if not prepared right, or used incorrectly in a recipe, but it can also be one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen as well as good for you too.
So let’s not stay away any longer, let’s get to know a little about tofu.
First of all tofu is made from soybeans. Soybeans are very versatile and are used to make a huge array of products that are used in cooking. Such things as tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, flour, miso, soy milk and a variety of sauces, one of which is soy sauce.
The soybean is the most nutritious of all beans. It is rich in high quality protein, it is one of the few vegetarian foods that contains all eight essential amino acids that can not be made in the body and are vital for the renewal of cells and tissues.
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made almost like they make a soft cheese. The beans are boiled in water, then they are mashed and then they are strained to make soy milk. They then take the milk and curdle it with a coagulant. What’s left is curds. They take the curds, drain and press them to make tofu, and there are several different types you can get in the store. Let’s talk a little about the different types.
This type of tofu is sold in blocks and can be cut into slices or cubes. Sold as “Firm”, “Medium Firm”, “Extra Firm”. This type is most commonly used in stir-fries, soups, and casseroles. It can also be mashed and used in bakes and burgers. The tasteless bland flavor of firm tofu is improved by marinating, because tofu is like a sponge and easily absorbs flavors and seasonings.
Soft (silken) Tofu
This type of tofu is soft with a silky, smooth texture. This type is ideal for use in sauces, dressings, dips and spreads as well as in some soups. It is a great alternative to cream, soft cheese, or yogurt, and can be used to make creamy deserts. It is also called silken.
Other Forms of Tofu
You can now buy all forms of tofu in your local supermarket. Smoked, marinated, and deep-fried tofu can all be found in health-food stores and Asian stores as well as in most supermarkets.
Deep-fried tofu is fairly tasteless, but it has a great texture. While it cooks it puffs out, and under the golden brown crisp coating the tofu is white and soft, it easily absorbs the flavor of other ingredients. It can be used just like firm tofu. I like it best with a peanut sauce over it.
Tofu also comes in a medium firmness, extra firm and in bean curd skins or strips. I use most often either the firm, extra firm or the silken.
Buying and Storing Tofu
All the different types of tofu can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Tofu has a expiration date on the package just like cheese or milk so be sure to buy the freshest.
Firm tofu should be kept covered in water, which must be changed regularly. Freezing tofu is not recommended because it alters the texture.
You can prepare tofu many different ways. For use in Stir-Fries and dishes of the like, I either bake mine or marinade it and then bake it before I use it. Here is how to bake tofu.
Use the firm or extra firm tofu. Cut the tofu block into1/2″ pads then put them on a nonstick baking sheet and bake them at 350 deg. for approx. 2-4 hours until they have a golden brown appearance and a thin casing has in cased the pads, keep an eye on them. Remove and cut into 1/2″ by 1/2″ cubes now use them in your stir-fries. Or you can buy it pre-baked from the store.
You can first marinade them in any marinade then bake them the same way. Note if the marinade has a lot of sugar in it watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Good luck and have fun!
Soft (silken) Tofu
Add soft tofu to a fruit smoothie to really make it healthy, smooth and creamy. Add it to soups to make it thicker, smoother and creamy. Make a ranch dip with it instead of sour cream. And yes even make a chocolate cream pie with out the cream. Get creative, and again have fun!
Batter it in your favorite batter or just fry it raw, then dip in your favorite sauce, yummm.