For the Love of Tofu
Ahh, tofu. Tofu is one of those ingredients that people seem to either love or love to hate. I happen to love tofu, but there’s a catch – don’t try to make me eat it as a meat substitute. For me, tofu is best when used as a binder or when enjoyed simply as tofu.
So what is tofu? Tofu, sometimes referred to as bean curd, is the result of “milk” made from soy beans that has been coagulated. The curds from the process are then pressed into soft white blocks. The firmness of the tofu – soft, firm, or extra firm, is determined by how much water is pressed out of the blocks. Soft tofu has a higher water content, while extra firm tofu has much less. The choice of which texture and brand to use is a personal preference.
My preference is silken extra firm tofu. Silken tofu is a Japanese style process that maintains the highest water content. The end result is fluffy and custard-y. I exclusively use the Mori-Nu Extra Firm brand because it has a reliable kosher certification, can be stored in the pantry until opened, and has the flavor and texture I prefer.
For any the recipes, you can use your preferred brand of tofu. Don’t have a preferred brand? Time for a tofu taste test. Luckily this little experiment won’t break the bank – tofu is extremely reasonably priced. Check your supermarket refrigerated section. You will likely find several brands and styles of tofu. For the Japanese style silken brands, check the natural or organic sections. These brands do not require refrigeration until they are opened.
How to press tofu aka how to make your tofu taste awesome. Before using, it is best to press tofu. Pressing removes some of the excess water and helps the tofu to maintain a better shape. Also, if you like to grill, saute or fry tofu, this method will help your seasonings and sauces adhere better. Many people skip this step and wonder why their dishes don’t quite turn out as anticipated. Try it. It only takes about 10 minutes. To press tofu, place a few paper towels or clean, lint free kitchen towel in a shallow bowl. Lay tofu on top and cover with more paper towels or kitchen towel. Place a bowl or plate on top and add a couple of canned foods. Let this set for about 10 – 15 minutes. Then your tofu is ready to use.
How to store tofu. Regardless of the style or brand, once opened, leftover tofu requires refrigeration. Place unused portions in a non metal container with a lid and cover with fresh, cool water. Keep refrigerated up to a week. For best results, change the water daily. To freeze tofu, cut into small chunks and freeze in a single layer. After frozen, the chunks can be transferred to a plastic zipper bag or other container. This will keep for about 3 months. Thaw chunks in the refrigerator. Be sure to press excess water out before use.
Recipes Using Tofu