Hello again, dear readers!
I have had a very busy past week! There has been much ado over a big proposal I am writing for work, a number of meetings, and I took a little road trip with fiance and friend to Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms in their fully bloomin’ state on Saturday (bucket list check!). It was quite magnificent!
In honoring my commitment to post a bit more on tofu, I am going to start with a little how-to guide and in the coming days and weeks, I will be posting recipes using all sorts of different tofu types.
First of all, there are so many different resources available online that offer information about food (I’m looking at you, veghealthguide!), that a quick google search could certainly provide a lot of know-how. But since you’re here, I can offer a cursory run-through of the tofu products out there and how best to use which for what.
So first, what is tofu?
In many ways, it’s kind of like cheese made from soybeans. It starts off as a thick liquid (like a very heavy soy milk) that is made from ground soybeans. It’s curdled/solidified with the addition of salts and acids that act like rennet that is used in the cheese making process.
What is the difference between silken and regular tofu?
Silken varieties are a more delicate version of tofu. They are usually packed in the foil asceptic containers and keep un-refrigerated for months. Silken tofu comes in soft, firm or extra firm versions which vary in consistency in the same way that yogurt, custard and cream cheese might. Silken tofu works well as a substitute for yogurt in smoothies or when making vegan “cheesecake.” Silken tofu is usually used in miso soup or prepared salads.
Regular tofu is a more all-purpose product. It’s more durable than its silken bffs and it usually comes packed in a tub with water. This variety must always be refrigerated. There are also varying consistencies of this as well (Soft, firm, extra firm). The variation in consistency is a result of how tightly the curds are pressed into its block form, and thus, how much water is present. The softer the ‘fu, the higher the water content. Of these varieties, the soft version is good for making “creamy” purees, adding to baked goods or for making veggie burgers. The regular/firm versions are best for frying/saute-ing or tossing into stir fry or other one-dish meals. The nice thing about this variety is that it can be baked or fried and will be crispy on the outside but still creamy on the inside. The extra-firm version is best for more heavy duty culinary adventures. Extra-firm tofu is great for marinating, grilling and can be crumbled into a consistency similar to ground beef or turkey.
To prepare the water-packed tofu, it is usually best to drain the water out of the tub and gently press the block between a few paper towels (or regular, clean kitchen towels are optimal as they are more absorbent and can hold more water). If you are marinating your block, it is best to get as much water out of the tofu as possible so that it can absorb as much flavor from your marinade as possible.
Are there any brands of tofu I should look for?
The nice thing about tofu being used more pervasively is that it can be found in a number of varieties and some of them prepared. Some companies make pre-cubed extra firm tofu, which is great because it can be drained and tossed right into stir fry on into dish without a second thought. Some places also provide seasoned/baked tofu in a number of flavors which can be another easy fix for preparing sandwiches or grabbing something healthy on the go. Like any other brands for any other types of food, it is a matter of preference. Be adventurous and try different varieties until you find one that is to your taste. I like the Trader Joe’s tofu, but in the absence of that, I rather fancy the Naysoya brand goods. The only caution I have about getting prepared tofu (fried, baked, etc) is that they can contain extra oils, salt, calories and other things that usually appear in prepared foods. Just be aware, read your labels and use in moderation!
As always, post any questions or comments about this you may have. I do love tofu and love to help people find new ways of thinking about and preparing it!