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Tofu – Love it or Hate it?

Tofu is not the world’s favourite, but of course, it is popular in Japan where it originated back in the 8th Century and was created by a chef who forgot what he was doing and managed to curdle some soy milk when mixing it with seaweed!

However, it didn’t really hit Western shores until around the end of the 19th century and was not mass produced until much later in the USA.

Not everyone enjoys tofu, and in fact it is difficult to convince any non-believers that it can be good to eat and is so versatile as a meat substitute. Vegetarians and vegans have taken it to their hearts and there now is even a National Tofu Day on September 1st, every year. There is not much pomp and circumstance surrounding it, like other national days when festivals and fetes really promote their days. Restaurants will even create a special event on those days with some ‘specials’ added to the menu.

The Taste of Tofu

So, what does tofu taste like? Well, not a lot really, it’s pretty bland until you do something with it. But this is why it can be so popular – it will absorb any flavours you mix it with and become something so different. It’s made from dried soybeans, mixed with water and crushed up after boiling. It is then formed into how we normally see it in blocks and left packaged in water. If you want to keep tofu for up to a week, you must change the water, otherwise, quite simply, it will go off – then it smells and tastes incredibly sour, when it should actually taste nutty and slightly sweet.

What to Do with Tofu

So, what can you do with Tofu? – There are so many recipes and ways to use it. Before anything else, you need to prepare the tofu. Selecting the right tofu is vitally important – it should be chosen because of its texture – either silken, or medium firm to extra firm. Soft silken tofu is excellent for making desserts such as mousses or anything needing a blender, whereas the firmer tofu is perfect for cooking main dishes or using it to top other dishes, by cooking it until crisp. You should squeeze it first to remove excess water, (between paper towels or clean tea towels). Please don’t buy an expensive ‘tofu squeezer’, it will sit in your cupboard gaining dust, like most other non-essential gadgets!

Use Your Tofu Now

The key is in the preparation now. Tofu must be marinated or well-seasoned, otherwise, you could be eating anything as it is so bland. Marinate it in a spicy blend (sriracha, soy or tamari, that kind of thing) and then fry it until it’s crispy round the edges, but still chewy in the middle. You can bake it as well, just ensure the edges go golden brown and crispy. You can cook it as a block, or cubed. Once cooked, try eating it as a topping, or in a dish such as a stir fry, noodles, soups or stews. Anything smoked also goes well with tofu. Anything that you would use meat in, can be substituted for tofu. It fares well with oriental style dishes – sweet and sour tofu, teriyaki tofu, coconut curries etc.  You can even have it scrambled on toast for breakfast!

Give tofu a chance, it’s worth it, particularly on National Tofu Day – it deserves a break!

Author picture
Bev Perkins

An experienced chef, recipe developer, food writer and qualified nutritionist, Bev’s career has encompassed over 40 years. Educated in London and Paris, and with an unquenchable thirst for travelling, Bev’s passion for cooking evolved with a deep desire to learn about every cuisine in the globe, so whilst resident in Paris she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu (formerly L’Ecole Culinaire de Paris) and spent two years learning her art. She furthered her experience working in restaurants in all corners of the world from bistros to Michelin-Starred establishments and finally with her own catering company providing food to both corporate and individual clients. An experienced writer and editor, Bev is never happier than with a pen in one hand and cookery book in the other!

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