Cooking With Tofu

By: Ron Lagerquist

Tofu has been used for over 2,000 years in the Asian world and recently has exploded as a health food craze in North America. Tofu can replace meat in any application. It is easy to digest, making it excellent for babies or the elderly. Cooked soybeans have a digestibility rate of 68%, whereas tofu is 95% digestible. It has all the nutritional qualities of raw soybeans. You can purchase tofu in soft, regular, or firm cakes. Firm is best and the most versatile. It has a higher nutritional value because of a lower water content. Fresh tofu will have a slightly sweet smell and taste. Older tofu will begin to have a vinegary smell and flavor. It can be purchased in bulk in oriental food markets where it is often made fresh the night before. The most common tofu is in plastic tubs, packed in water. Look for the date stamped on the package to ensure freshness. Some health food stores are now carrying vacuum sealed tofu which has a much longer shelf life. There are some varieties of flavored and spiced tofu that are wonderful in salads and soups.

Once tofu is opened, it should be stored in water and the water should be changed every day. Eat within a week. You can freeze tofu to retain freshness and nutritive value. Freezing tofu can be beneficial if desiring a firmer cake. As it thaws, much of its water content separates.

You can achieve varying degrees of firmness by pressing the excess water from tofu. Simply cut tofu into quarters and place on a flat surface, slanting it slightly for the excess water to run off. Place a plate with 2-5 lb. of weight on tofu slices for 20 minutes to 1 hour. A well-pressed slice of tofu will be firm, allowing you the same versatility as a sirloin steak.

For dips, spreads, sauce puddings and pies, you can blend tofu into a white creamy texture. Slight blending will result in a cottage cheese-like texture. Tofu adapts to just about any flavor, making it an easy food to prepare. It can be boiled and served just as it is. Marinating tofu is an excellent way of adding flavor and color. It takes on the flavors quickly and is best marinated in small cubes.

Related Article: The Versatile Soybean

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