Tofu is a vegetarian and vegan staple, able to stand in for meat or dairy products.
Tofu is a smooth, white solid made from
soymilk curds. Tofu is made through a process of heating fresh
soymilk, treating it with a coagulant to form curds, and then shaping
the curds into a firm block.
With a variably soft or firm
texture and pliable flavor, tofu is a vegetarian and vegan staple, able
to stand in for meat or dairy products in almost any food.
Tofu originated in China over 2000 years ago, supposedly during the
time of the Han dynasty. According to legend, the world’s first tofu
sprang from the fluke experimentation of an adventurous chef who tried
flavoring a batch of cooked, puréed soybeans with nigari (a magnesium chloride powder made from seawater) and wound up
with bean curd. Nigari remains a common element in soybean production,
and soybeans remain incredibly popular in Asian dishes.
Tofu comes in a wide range of both fresh and processed varieties. The
two primary types of fresh tofu are traditional
are available in soft, firm
varieties, which differ in
the amount of water that is extracted during their processing.
tofu indicates that more water has been extracted during processing,
leaving it with denser consistency. The firmer the tofu, the more
likely that it will keep its shape after being prepared. Softer tofu is
useful when the tofu will be blended with other ingredients, such as in
soups or pureed dishes.
Silken or soft tofu, a traditional
Japanese variety, is made through a slightly different process than
traditional tofu, yielding a creamier, more delicate result. Even the
extra-firm variety of silken tofu maintains a custard-like texture that
is much smoother than other tofu. This makes it ideal for any dish that
calls for blended tofu, often including sweeter recipes such as
Tofu can also be bought in more processed varieties such as flavored, baked or steamed tofu.
Tofu is an excellent source of soy protein
, isoflavones, B-vitamins and iron
tofu is made by adding calcium salt to soy milk (rather than by adding
magnesium salt or nigari), it is also a significant source of calcium
If looking to use tofu to increase your calcium intake, be sure to
check the ingredients when purchasing.
All tofu is
-free and low in salts and saturated fat, with softer tofu
generally yielding a lower fat content. Tofu is also available in
Before purchasing, consider the tofu variety that will best meet the needs of your specific recipe.
natural food stores, tofu can be found alongside refrigerated dairy
products, and in supermarkets it will generally be located in the
Tofu is often sold in aseptic boxes in
specialty and Asian markets and is sometimes even sold loose, in
water-filled bins. If buying loose tofu, pay attention to whether or
not the water in the bin is clean, and make sure that the tofu has been
resting fully-submerged underwat