There are lots and lots of Amazing Tofu Dishes out there but tofu can spark some very passionate responses in people. There are Five Things You Need To Know To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes. Tofu is a LOVE IT or LOATHE IT ingredient.
There is a great deal of talk of how much people ‘hate’ tofu and how it is ‘tasteless’. Well most of Asia can’t be wrong so, what is the deal with tofu?
First, let’s start with the some of the basics of tofu.
What Is Tofu And Where Does It Come From???
Tofu (AKA beancurd) is effectively cheese made from soya milk. Soya milk is boiled and a coagulant added. The coagulant reacts with the soya milk and a curd forms. The curds are then pressed into moulds and set.
The coagulants used in commercial tofu are usually salts. Calcium sulphate (gypsum), magnesium chloride (nigari) and calcium chloride are widely used.
Tofu-making was first recorded during the Chinese Han dynasty approximately 2000 years ago. The production and consumption of tofu were then introduced into Korea and Japan in the mid eighth century. The use of tofu then spread throughout Asia and is now a staple in many countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. There are subtle regional variations in production methods, texture, flavor, and usage.
What Is The Nutritional Value Of Tofu???
If you know about the (pretty great) nutritional contribution tofu can make to a balanced diet it makes it easiser To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes. Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It may also be a good source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorous. Tofu may also be a source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.
Firm tofu contains around 8 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fat (per 100 grams). If calcium sulphate is used as coagulant then tofu be a source of calcium and contain around 162 mg per 100 grams.
Soya seems to be a controversial food source (just Google it!). There are some claims that soya is bad for you and the environment and should not be part of your diet. As far as I can see none of these claims are substantiated by credible research or published, peer-reviewed papers.
More on nutrition and junk/pseudoscience in another post…
Five Things You Need To Know To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes
Like all great ingredients you need to know how to select, prepare and use it To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes.
Personally, I LOVE tofu. But it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980s, tofu was in short supply in the industrial north west of England. I used it in dishes because it had protein and calcium in it. Back then, I did not love tofu!
1. To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes – Buy The Right Tofu
Over the years (I moved and) I found Oriental/ Chinese/ Vietnamese supermarkets and the vast array of tofu they sell. There are so many types of tofu from dried tofu skin (the skin that forms on the surface when making tofu), dried tofu knots, silken tofu, medium, firm and extra-firm tofu, fermented tofu and pre-fried tofu balls.
Silken tofu is readily available in tetrapaks from most supermarkets and it tastes pretty OK. Well, it doesn’t really taste of anything. Silken and soft tofu are super delicate (in flavour and texture) and will crumble or fall apart very easily. This makes silken and soft tofu very suitable for desserts (where it will be whizzed-up for vegan cheesecake for example) where it is flavoured by other ingredients. It is also great in very light and delicate Japanese style soups.
Medium, firm and extra firm tofu (you can see medium tofu, on the left, in the main picture and below) have the same very light, slightly beany taste and can take a little more robust handling. Medium tofu is still rather delicate but can be used, carefully, in stews and soups. It also makes a good tofu scramble. Firm and extra firm tofu are sturdy and can take almost anything.
Pre-fried tofu balls (you can see the balls, on the right, in the main picture) are one of my favourite things in the world. You buy tofu balls ready fried and they can be added to any suitable dish. Especially good with black bean sauce…
Dried tofu (you can see dried knots, in the front, in the main picture) is a great cupboard staple. I usually get dried tofu in knots or as sheets. They have a long shelf life and are great when you have no fresh tofu. Especially good with long, slow cooked rich sauces.
All these types of tofu are readily available in Oriental/ Chinese/ Vietnamese supermarkets and health food stores. The tofu available in Oriental/ Chinese/ Vietnamese supermarkets is much cheaper, fresher and of a much higher quality (and flavour) than the tofu you can buy in supermarkets.
This brings me to the tofu available in ‘normal’ supermarkets. There is the plain, unflavoured tofu which is usually firm (including Cauldron brand). I haven’t tried all of them but I do know the Cauldron tofu is just not worth the money, time or effort. I really don’t like the taste or the texture. I don’t know what makes it so bad but it is horrible. There are also a number of smoked, flavoured and blended (e.g. with olives or sesame seeds) tofu products available. If you like these, great, they are probably good in sandwiches or in Buddha bowls but not as a cooking ingredient.
I am lucky to live close to some great shops that sell a huge variety of good quality, good value tofu. There are a number of online Oriental/ Chinese/ Vietnamese stores that sell tofu online. If you don’t live near an amazing Oriental/ Chinese/ Vietnamese supermarket it is well worth finding a local health-food store that sells good tofu or looking into mail order.
2. To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes – Handle It Right
I LOVE all types of tofu BUT only when handled right…
Fresh tofu is sold in packets with water to keep it fresh. Fresh tofu needs to be drained before using it.
So, you know a little about silken tofu now. Usually sold in tetrapaks, cut open the package and carefully slide the tofu out. There will be a little water in there that you should drain at the same time as removing the tofu from the package. Place on absorbent paper. It is super delicate and will fall apart very easily.
Medium tofu can take a little bit of careful handling so, all you need to do with medium tofu is drain the liquid it is stored in, remove it from the packaging onto absorbent paper, pat it dry and cut it to the size you require.
Many, many years ago a friend on mine was making a dish with medium tofu that had a rich sauce with it. Another friend offered to help and took the wooden spoon to stir the sauce She had never seen tofu before and spent the next few minutes pulverising the delicate cubes of tofu into a smooth mess. Not quite the dish my friend had intended.
You can be a little more ‘robust’ with firm and extra-firm tofu. Drain the tofu place on absorbent paper and pat dry. You can then cut it into slices or chunks.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY OR USE A TOFU PRESS. I have seen lots of very proud posts on social media of people pressing tofu. If you buy the right tofu you do not need to press it. If you need to press it you are using the wrong tofu. Don’t waste your money on a tofu press. You get the idea.
3. To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes – Use Tofu In The Right Recipes
I have already touched on using the right tofu texture in a dish. Now, onto the right tofu, in the right recipe.
If you want to scramble tofu or want to use very delicate cubes of tofu in a light soup use silken or soft tofu. If you want to fry tofu and you want a chewy texture you need to use a firm or extra firm tofu. For a casserole and a good texture that doesn’t fall apart you can use firm or extra-firm tofu or dried (and re-hydrated) tofu.
Taste. Taste is a super important part of enjoying food. If the food looks amazing but tastes awful (or not what you expected) you are not going to be happy.
I see lots of recipes on the internet that have been ‘veganised’ where tofu has been substituted for an ingredient because tofu looks like the ingredient. For example, cubes of tofu used instead of feta in a salad or tofu used instead of paneer in a paneer curry. The taste, texture and character of the tofu is a world away from feta or paneer. They just look a bit similar. These dishes do not work. They will be horrible and disappointing!
Tofu is an Asian/ Oreintal food stuff, it works really well with other ingredients from this part of the world. With the notable exception of ‘cheesecakes’ I almost exclusively use tofu in Asian/ Oriental dishes with tamari, chilli, sesame, greens and other such amazing ingredients.
4. To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes – Cook The Tofu Right
There are lots of fabulous recipes using tofu appropriately and I have a few too. These are six of my favourite tofu recipes. All work really well, all are delicious and I could eat any of them every day.
A very delicate soup like Miso Soup with Tofu and Shitake Mushrooms makes the very best of silken or soft tofu. The light soup works so well with the small and perfectly formed cubes of tofu.
If you like a spicy kick to your food you will love Ma Po Tofu. This dish is prefect for medium or firm tofu. A spicy and moreish dish. Wonderful!
You probably are looking for a crispy tofu recipe. I think Salt and Pepper Tofu will hit the mark. It is super light with a crunchy coating and delicately flavoured with Szechuan pepper corns. I adore this dish which uses firm or extra-firm tofu.
I worked up a recipe for my old Chinese take-away favourite (before I had to stop eating gluten). This old-favourite uses pre-fried tofu: Tofu and Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce. I adore it. This is a very popular dish in our home.
Lemongrass Tofu Bowl is really light and tasty. Perfect for a healthy evening in or even a cold packed lunch.
If you are under the weather and want a warming, nutritious soup you cannot go wrong with Comforting and Tasty Gluten-Free, Vegan Pho. I love, love, love pho. Perfect for anytime of year and any day of the week.
5. You Made Amazing Tofu Dishes – And You Still Don’t Love Tofu and Amazing Tofu Dishes?
So you have followed the information and advice about tofu in steps 1-3 and have made one of the dishes in step 4… What do you think??? If you have followed all of that (great dedication by the way) and you still DO NOT like tofu… I think tofu is not for you.
Don’t worry. I don’t think there is a single thing that everybody loves. So, no shame in not liking tofu. You gave it your all, you tried it, you don’t like it. Fine.
There are LOTS of things I can’t stand (grapefruit) and no amount of amazing recipes or cajoling will change that.
What are Your Favourite Tips To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes?
There are lots and lots and lots of Tips and Tricks To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes out there – this is just a tiny selection of ideas. There are lots more…
What are Your Tips and Tricks To Make Amazing Tofu Dishes? Drop a comment below or ping me on social media! 🙂