04 March 2010

tofu tutorial


I've posted a few recipes containing tofu (links below), and a friend recently asked me to write up a tofu tutorial. She's not at all familiar with tofu, so she asked me to run down the basics and suggested I share it with all of  you as well. Now, I'm no tofu expert. If you are, please feel free to correct any misinformation I may give! Here's what I know about tofu:

Tofu can usually be found in the produce section of any grocery store. It is usually in the refrigerated case, next to the bagged salads, fresh herbs, packaged prepared veggies, etc. You may also find non-refrigerated tofu in the Asian food section. A third place to check would be the organic section, if your store has one and if you're looking for organic tofu. Tofu comes in packaging that usually looks like these:
Photo Source: http://www.asianfoodgrocer.com

 Photo Source: http://www.yumsugar.com


There are four basic types of tofu that I regularly deal with:
  1. Silken--Silken tofu is just that, silky. It has a texture similar to flan. I don't use this very much, because it just disintegrates when you try to stir it into something. However, due to the disintegration, it's great for blended/creamy soups (like my Corn Chowder) and smoothies.
  2. Soft--Most of the soft tofu I've seen is Silken, but even if it's not, they have the same characteristics. Soft tofu also falls apart when you add it to something. Try putting some in a blender with some frozen fruit and fruit juice--you get a tasty, protein-packed smoothie.
  3. Firm--This one you can cut into bite-sized chunks and plan on it retaining its shape. I use this for stir fries mostly, but you could also add small chunks to a broth-based soup.
  4. Extra Firm--This is your best choice for frying. Fried tofu is pretty common in Asian restaurants (or Americanized Asian restaurants, like the Coconut Curry Vegetables at PF Chang's). Before frying, you should press out as much moisture as possible (this tutorial might be helpful).  I don't fry tofu often, because it takes much longer than I expect it to, so I never plan enough time. It can take a while to get it brown and crispy. This recipe for Tofu Parmigiana is a good shortcut for that, and also uses Extra Firm tofu.
Other notes:
  • One of the best things about tofu is that it takes on the flavors of whatever is around it. You can marinate it or just add it plain to a soup or stir fry (to which I usually add soy or teriyaki sauce) and you won't taste the "soyness" that you would if you ate it straight from the package.
  • It doesn't need to be cooked. You can eat it right from the package. If you're adding it to a stir fry, add it last and for just long enough to heat through.
  • Some people worry about the texture. It is not like meat at all, but some people think it should be. That's why fried tofu is popular at restaurants--it gets crunchy on the outside and a thicker, meatier texture inside. You choose tofu because it is a healthy, lean source of protein. Cut in super small pieces if the texture bothers you. Or just start with soups and smoothies and really ease into it. 

I do think you should try it, though...you might be surprised. :)

How was that? I hope it was helpful. If you have more specific questions or you think I left anything out, please leave a comment or email me. Thanks!

1 comments:

PeZzY! said...

Sure, tofu's nice, but nothing like that chocolate cake doughnut recipe! YUMMY!

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