Unleashing the Power of Tofu: The Ultimate Guide to This Plant-Based Delight
Written by Kyobin Hwang and Taylor Mertens
For those who have predominantly embraced the meaty realm of culinary delights, venturing into the world of tofu might seem like a leap of faith. But fear not, because we are here to unlock the secrets of transforming tofu into a tantalizing treat that even the most devoted meat lovers won’t be able to resist. Discover how to embrace the wonders of tofu like never before.
This webpage is a beginner-friendly guide to tofu. It has great photos and written instructions on different types of tofu, draining methods, cutting techniques, and marinating methods. As detailed on Tofupedia, tofu comes in various styles and textures, satisfying diverse preferences and cooking needs.
Pressing tofu removes excess moisture from the block, resulting in improved texture and better absorption of marinades or sauces. It helps to create a firmer, denser texture that is less likely to crumble or fall apart when cooking. One way to press tofu is through gravity, as you can see in the image below where the weight of the water and towels are used to apply pressure on the block. Alternatively, paper towel and textbooks work too!
Frying tofu is an excellent method to achieve a crispy texture. It is a simple and healthy way to add a delightful crunch to the dish. For further detail, check out Tofupedia’s Cooking Techniques page.
Tofu Around the World
Most, if not all, food is impacted by people, food systems, and the complicated interplay of migration, history, and intergenerational teachings. Without delving into the origins of tofu, there are delicious recipes all over the world and with the internet, people can share their recipes and experiment.
Some cool global recipes:
- A Korean side dish, Dubu Jorim or Braised Tofu, is a great protein hit over some rice, and a great experience to learn how to use a Korean traditional spice called, “gochugaru.”
- Using an Indonesian chili paste (Sambal Oelek), Pan-Fried Sesame Garlic Tofu.
- South Asian Tofu Stir Fry – this stir fry is a quick flavorful meal if you are comfortable with cooking spices and thickening it up.
- Tofu Tikka Masala. This dish is from a diaspora response to the widespread love of Chicken Tikka Masala in the West.
- Za’atar Spiced Tofu takes the delicious savory and toasty dried herb mix of Za’atar.
- Three recipes from the Canadian African with a Senegalese-Inspired Yassa Tofu, Mishkaki Tofu Skewers, and Suya Tofu Skewers.
The Ultimate Meat Imitation
If you read through the recipes, you will find that a lot of dishes around the globe involve seasoning and cooking tofu in a way that mimics the flavors and textures of the meat it’s replacing. For example, you can crumble and season tofu that is sauced and spiced correctly to create a ground meat substitute for tacos or spaghetti sauce. In short, tofu can be treated as meat when sauced and spiced correctly.
Got a tofu hater? Add tofu, do not subtract meat.
Tofu is not always a substitute or replacement for meat. Instead, you can also cook tofu with meat — the same way people cook beans with meat for added protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
Take Korean Sunduba jjigae for example, which is a stew that is primarily about tofu, but often times has optional meat like ground pork. Tofu and meat can complement each other, making for a more filling meal. When you do your next stir-fry, drain and press your tofu, cut your vegetables, cut your tofu, cut your meat, and marinate the tofu and meat at the same time; combine it all together with a sauce and serve over rice or noodles. You can sneak tofu into your dish, adding more complexity and dimension at the same time.
My Personal Experience with Tofu
Korean cuisine is known for its diverse and inventive use of tofu. Growing up as a Korean Canadian, I have faint memories of my grandmother’s kitchen, filled with tantalizing aromas and the comforting presence of family. Through conversations with my relatives and the guidance of cherished family recipes, I recreated several tofu-based dishes that shape my heritage. From silky soft tofu stews to crispy tofu pancakes, each dish was a connection to my past and a celebration of my Korean roots.
Most notably, I cooked Yubu-Chobap, a delightful snack where tofu pockets are stuffed with a mixture of rice, vegetables, and sometimes meat or seafood. The filled tofu pockets were pan-fried, resulting in a delicious and portable treat, usually being tangy and sweet through seasoning/a yubuchobap kit. This is a common picnic snack in my culture, and I have fond memories of eating this dish on school field trips growing up. I found the dish to be slightly bland for my liking, so I coupled it with soy sauce. Though delectable, Yubu-Chobap is a relatively messy dish as the rice within the tofu pockets kept spilling out.
Contrasting the sweet and tangy flavours of Yubu-Chobap, I also cooked Sundubu-jjigae, a comforting and spicy stew featuring soft tofu as the star ingredient. I packed my stew with an assortment of vegetables and seafood, creating a hearty and satisfying meal. For a fusion of flavour, I experimented by adding pre-cooked dumplings and rice cakes into the Sundubu-jiigae, adding a chewy consistency to the dish. I advise serving this stew with some rice to mitigate the overall spiciness.
With each dish prepared and enjoyed, I not only savored the flavors but also felt a deep sense of belonging and identity. Tofu became a bridge that connected me to the vibrant tapestry of my Korean heritage. Through the exploration of this ingredient, I celebrated the culinary traditions of my ancestors and was reminded of the rich cultural legacy that I carry within me.
- Drain your tofu properly, marinate it, sauce it, and aim for your preferred texture.
- Treat it like a meat you would marinate and sauce.
- Add tofu to your dish instead of doing a tofu-only dish for people who are skeptical.
- Tofu is found in numerous cuisines and can be incorporated into your cooking to reconnect with an aspect of your heritage.
Through marinades, different cooking techniques, and a focus on texture, tofu can transform into a culinary superstar. Remember, everyone’s tastes and preferences are unique, so it’s essential to be open-minded and patient when introducing this versatile ingredient into your meals. Experiment with different cooking techniques, flavors, and recipes until you find a combination that appeals to your palate. So, grab your apron, gather your ingredients, and let the tofu tales unfold as you embark on your own journey of culinary delight and possibly reconnect with your own roots.
Food & Nutrition