Tofu – what is is and how to use it

Tofu!

Tofu is one of the most common ingredients in the Asian kitchen, and it’s getting more common outside Asia too. Even here in in Europe is has become a food staple in many homes, but still it’s mostly vegetarians and vegans who use it. Many still don’t even know what tofu is! That’s so sad, because this magical block of soy beans is incredibly healthy and tasty (with the right spices), and I have said this for years – if most Norwegians (or any other nationalities who don’t use tofu very much) had known how wonderful tofu is, they would have been eating it all the time, and all our food stores would sell it (now we have to buy it mostly from health food stores or international shops).

What is tofu made from?

Tofu is made from curdled soy milk (which again is made from soybeans), kind of like when cheese is made. It’s pressed into a white, firm (or soft) block which looks like a feta cheese, but has a very neutral taste. And it’s very nutritious.

What does tofu taste like? 

Well, it don’t really taste anything. It depends on the type of tofu. It has it’s own distinct flavor, but you don’t want to use it as it is. Boring! The fact that it’s not very flavorful is actually a good thing. That means that you can make tofu taste whatever you want it to taste. Bacon, scrambled “eggs”, vegan sausage/pepperoni, vegan meatloaf, you can make so many delicious things out of tofu! Just remember to squeeze most of the water out of it, marinade it and give it a good fry in oil og bake it in the oven until it’s a bit crispy outside and soft on the inside. Once you have eaten good tofu, you will start having serious tofu cravings several times a week!

Is it healthy?

Yes it is. Tofu contains lots of protein, vitamins and minerals. Protein deficiency is very uncommon, it almost doesn’t even exist other than among people who experience hunger or have Anorexia and such. Vegans (who eat food) does not have to be afraid that they don’t get enough protein, never ever! But hey – if you still choose to buy into this huge protein myth, you should eat lots of tofu. It’s rich in vitamin B, iron and Calsium, low on fat and free from cholesterol.

But what about the estrogen in soybean, doesn’t it increase the risk for cancer, and give men boobs?

This is actually one of the biggest and most stupid myths that exist. I’m so tired of hearing about this, but since this article is about tofu, who is made from soy, I have to write about it.

No – soy does not give you cancer, and if you are a man who loves tofu, you don’t have to go and buy yourself a bra. Asian men doesn’t have boobs. If you see men with boobs, it’s more likely that they are from this part of the world where they eat lots of meat and dairy. And listen; if you are afraid of estrogen, remember that cow’s milk is full of it! And this is the estrogen you would want to avoid. The estrogen you find in the body. Soy doesn’t contain this type of estrogen, it contains a plant estrogen (phyto estrogen) that you find in for instance walnuts, broccoli, linseeds, and yes – soybeans, which tofu is made from. Phytoestrogens actually have an anti-estrogen effect in our body, and will help you NOT get cancer. Read more about this here.

Tofu

What different kinds of tofu are there and how do you know which one to choose?

I understand that this can be somewhat confusing. There are several kinds of tofu out there. Silken tofu, firm silken tofu, soft silken tofu, soft tofu, firm tofu, extra firm tofu etc. But it’s actually very easy:

  • Silken tofu have the consistensy of caramel pudding and is mostly used in desserts, puddings, sauces, dressings etc. Silken tofu has different types of firmness (soft, firm, extra firm) but as a rule I only buy silken tofu for dishes that will be blended (like sauces, mousse, dressings and such) since all silken tofu is like pudding, even the extra firm ones. I never use silken tofu in dinner recipes where you have to cut it in slices or cubes, it will probably just be a mash.
  • Firm tofu (not silken) is the tofu you want to buy if you are slicing or cubing it for pan frying or oven baking. It keeps it’s shape very nicely especially if you remember to press the water out of it before using it. You can use a special tofu press, but I don’t bother with that. I just drain it and squeeze it carefully in a kitchen towel or paper towel so it’s a bit more dry. Cut it up and fry it in oil or oven bake it, but remember to marinade it first.

The stores have many different brands of tofu. I only know about the ones here in Norway and I have written about them in the Norwegian version of this article, but I’m sure that many of our readers outside our country have way more options than we have here. Just buy several kinds and try them out. I have found my favorite, and you will too!

Tofu

But, doesn’t soy destroy the rain forest?

This is also a common myth, and it’s sad that so many people still think that this is true because vegans or often bombarded with this question, and meat eaters (and vegans) avoid soy because of this myth. It’s actually a bit funny when meat eaters avoid soy or try to “take down” vegans because of the rain forest myth, since the meat industry really is what’s destroying the rain forest. About 75 % of all the world’s soy production goes to livestock feed, and it’s also a common ingredient in salmon feed. The soy produced for human consumption are mostly from Europe, but if you are in doubt, contact the company who make the products. Or check their website, often it will say where the soy is from. It’s almost never from rainforest areas, unlike the soy produced for livestock and farmed fish.

So if you want to avoid destruction of the rain forest – stop eating meat and fish!

Tofu

So, how do I prepare the tofu to make it taste great?

Easy! The most common mistake is to use it without marinades or spices. I was once at a gathering where we were served unseasoned silken tofu, made by people who clearly didn’t know anything about tofu. When people are being served tofu like that, they will of course think that tofu is gross and they will never want try it again. But please don’t ditch the stuff because someone don’t know how to cook it. With our help you WILL know how to cook amazing tofu and show friends and family that tofu is sooo good!

Take a look at some of our tofu recipes:

We love Korean food, and this dish is one of the best tofu dishes we have ever tried, so it’s made in our kitchen 1-2 times a week. Our teenagers love to bring it to school and our 4 year old snack on leftovers every time we make it.

Hope this article about tofu has given you the courage to try it out, and to clear up some myths out there. Now, go and buy yourself some tofu and give it a go.

Feel free to comment below if you have a favorite tofu dish you want us to try out. We are always eager to try new dishes. 🙂

What tofu is, and what tofu is not
What tofu is, and what tofu is not

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.