What Is Tofu and How To Cook With It

Tofu, also called ‘bean curd’ and ‘soybean curd’ has come to be synonymous with vegetarian food. With its invention presumed to be in China, over 2000 years ago Tofu is a replacement for meat and high calorie-containing edibles. There exist three theories around the discovery of Tofu; one of which ties tofu to the Han dynasty ruler, Liu An.

However, there is contention with regard to this theory since tofu apparently featured in Chinese cuisine ever since the 2nd century BC.

The second theory opines that tofu was an accidental discovery, wherein a slurry of boiled soybeans happened to come in contact with sea water, then considered impure, which led to its coagulation and into the jelly-like substance that is tofu.

The last theory maintains that the Chinese learned the art of curdling soy milk by emulating the process of curdling milk by the Mongolians, thus, making tofu.

What is it made of?

It has a high protein content, hardly any calories and high mineral content, including, Iron. Tofu is devoid of any animal protein.

The Texture

Made from soy milk coagulation using certain salts or enzymes, tofu finds usage in savory and sweet dishes. It is made by coagulating pre-made soy milk or freshly prepared soy milk using coagulating agents like calcium sulfate or gypsum, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride or acid coagulant like glucono delta-lactone; or enzyme coagulant called papain. Like curdling of milk, soy milk also gets curdled and results into an almost jelly-like substance with high moisture content. There are broadly two kinds of tofu: silken or soft tofu and firm tofu.

Silken tofu is higher in moisture content. This happens because it is allowed to coagulate within its packaging; hence, it is able to retain its moisture. Firm tofu, however, is drained of its moisture before it is packed. It is placed between wooden blocks that squeeze the water out of it over a period of time. It can be white or a light shade of red, depending on the coagulant used.

The Taste

Tofu has a very subtle to almost no taste, even if processed using enzymes. It has the ability to absorb the flavor of the spices and the vegetables it is cooked alongside.

What are the health benefits?

  • Since it is predominantly devoid of high calories, it is advisable for people of all ages. Its high protein content balances the otherwise increased intake of animal protein which is also inclusive of fatty acids.
  • About 10.7% in Firm tofu and 5.3% in silken tofu is made of protein, while only 5% and 2% fat, respectively. It is, therefore, helpful in reducing the level of bad cholesterol in our blood as well as contain the triglyceride concentrations. It does not, however, increase levels of the good cholesterol.
  • It is also a great source of calcium and iron and omega-3 fatty acids.

Using Tofu in recipes

  • Tofu is a very healthy source of protein to have in your meals and a great option for vegans and lactose intolerant people.
  • A number of quick and easy healthy recipes can include tofu as an alternative to poly-unsaturated fats, excess sodium and preservatives.
  • Tofu can be used to make delicious rolls, sandwiches, kebabs and even soups.
  • Crumble some fresh tofu into your salad for added proteins and a refreshing change.
  • You can also add tofu to your smoothies with berries and greens for healthy morning protein-rich drinks.
  • Grill tofu slices with a choice of sauce for yummy appetizers.
  • You can add it to noodles, pasta and even stir-fry them with seasonal vegetables for a nutritious change from the daily fare.
  • Add crumbled tofu into extra lean hamburger meat, it allows you to eat less of the fatty meat, and it will make burgers and meatloaf much moister.

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