Tofu: The Healthy Protein
The Humble Tofu
Tofu is one of the most common food product here in Japan and it is served in various ways. I myself always have a block of tofu in the refrigerator and it usually gets used within days if I don’t eat it that day. I love tofu for it’s neutral flavor and versatility in cooking.
Tofu has been eaten by the Japanese as a source of protein for centuries. It has its origins in China and was introduced to Japan during the eighteenth century along with buddhism. At first, tofu was predominantly a food for the wealthy, however by the sixteenth century, tofu was being eaten and prepared by the common people.
Tofu slowly spread to North America around 1900 and was sold mostly to Asians living in the US and Canada. Sometime in the 1960s, zen buddhism and macrobiotics started to become popular with vegetarians and people started to use tofu in western dishes. By the 1980s, Japanese food was becoming popular for its health benefits and tofu was being served in miso soups and other easy dishes at restaurants and sushi bars.
Shortly thereafter, adventurous chefs got creative with tofu and used them to make western style dips, sauces and dessert. Various manufacturers came out with various tofu products such as tofu burgers, tofu sausages and tofu desserts.
Tofu comes in many forms with soft tofu and firm tofu being the most common. You can also find them deep fried into blocks and pouches called aburaage . A freeze-dried version called koyadofu has the highest concentration of nutrients and is convenient because it doesn’t have to be refrigerated.
Storing Your Tofu
If you buy tofu from the supermarket, simply store it in the refrigerator. Once opened, make sure to keep the remaining tofu submerged in water and change daily to keep it as fresh as possible.
Tofu has a slightly sweet smell. If it’s smelling sour at all, it is time to discard it. The texture of the tofu should never be slimy.
Cooking With Tofu
When cooking with tofu, you should follow these simple guidelines to ensure that your dishes turn out great.
- Make sure you drain the tofu before using. Never use the water it’s submerged in.
- Some recipes require you to press the excess water out of the tofu. In these cases you should always use firm tofu. The easiest way to do this is to use a tofu press. If you don’t have one, slice your tofu into an even thickness and place them on a clean linen on top of your cutting board. Cover the tofu slices with another clean linen. Tilt the cutting board slightly so that excess water can drain off. Place a heavy plate or baking sheet on it with some kind of weight to help press the water out. I sometimes just use a heavy skillet. You can let it stand for 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how dry you like your tofu.
- Marinating your tofu is a great way to add flavors to the otherwise bland tofu. After pressing excess water out of firm tofu, marinate them in your favorite mixture.
Did you know you can make your own tofu right at home? It’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it. You can also use tofu for western style dishes and desserts such as lasagna and chocolate mousse! If you’re making stir-fries or other dishes with tofu, make sure you remove excess water from the tofu before use. If you don’t the end result will be something very soggy.
Try Scrambled Tofu at Home
Here’s a great recipe to try at home. Iridofu is basically a scrambled tofu dish with added ingredients that’s usually eaten with a bowl of rice. It’s a humble dish that’s enjoyed by many here in Japan and it’s easy to make. Watch the video tutorial to see exactly how it’s done.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the humble tofu today. Let me know what you thought in the comments below and come on over to my YouTube Channel, where I release daily videos of food, recipes, travel adventures and more! Thanks for reading!
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