Hairy to Silken – How to Cook Different Types of Tofu

Words: Crush

Tofu, often dubbed the ‘culinary chameleon,’ has the ability to mimic flavours and textures that would make even meat eaters think twice. Whether you’re a retired vegetarian, a veteran vegan, or a curious foodie looking to diversify your diet, maximising tofu’s potential can bring all the difference to your plate. From making the best tofu scramble to marinated tofu steaks, make the most of this versatile ingredient with these types of tofu.

Does Tofu Have Health Benefits?

Made from curdled soy milk, tofu is not only a fantastic meat alternative, but also a nutritional powerhouse. It’s rich in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Additionally, tofu is low in calories and fat while being high in iron and calcium, which are crucial for maintaining healthy bones and blood. Its phytoestrogens, particularly isoflavones, have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and improved bone health.

According to sources, “A single serving of tofu provides protein to make up over 18% of our daily requirement. Moreover, one can get 33% of iron requirements for a day just by consuming tofu once.” Not to mention, “Tofu is one of the Ingredients & Additives 54 few superfoods that can be considered a healthier alternative to fish.”

If you’re curious as to how these blocks of protein are made, it all begins with soybeans being soaked, ground and boiled to extract soy milk. The milk is then coagulated, using calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride, causing the proteins and oils to form curds. These curds are pressed into blocks, creating the tofu we know and love.

Try these Different Types of Tofu

You might be wondering exactly how food manufacturers are able to manipulate the texture of tofu. Well, the texture and firmness of tofu can be altered by varying the amount of coagulant and the pressing time, giving rise to different types of tofu…

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu, also known as Japanese-style tofu, has a creamy, custard-like texture. Unlike its firmer counterparts, silken tofu is unpressed and retains a high water content. This type of tofu is often enjoyed in soups, smoothies and desserts due to its smooth consistency.

In Japan, this type of tofu is commonly cubed and served chilled with a splash of soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, ginger and garlic – a dish known as ‘hiyayakko.’ Silken tofu’s velvety texture also makes it great for blending and incorporating into miso soup or desserts like vegan cheesecake, flan, panna cotta and certain puddings.

Soft Tofu

Soft tofu is slightly firmer than silken tofu, but still delicate and easy to break apart. It’s a staple in many Asian cuisines, particularly in Korean and Chinese dishes. In Korea, soft tofu is the star of ‘soondubu jjigae,’ a spicy stew brimming with seafood, vegetables and kimchi.

In Chinese cuisine, it’s often used in the famous ‘mapo tofu,’ a Sichuan dish that combines tofu with minced meat (for double the protein) and a fiery, flavourful sauce. To enjoy soft tofu, simmer it gently in soups or stews, allowing it to absorb the surrounding flavours without falling apart.

Firm Tofu

Firm tofu is arguably the most versatile and widely used type of tofu, with a texture that holds up well to various cooking methods. It has a denser consistency, making it ideal for stir-frying, grilling and baking. Firm tofu readily absorbs marinades, making it a perfect canvas for diverse flavours.

In Thai cuisine, firm tofu is often used in pad Thai, where it’s stir-fried with noodles, vegetables and a tangy tamarind sauce. For the best results, press firm tofu using a weighted plate and kitchen towel sheets to remove excess moisture, then marinate it and grill or pan-fry until golden and crispy on the outside. Another popular way of eating firm tofu is ‘tofu scramble,’ in which the tofu is broken into chunks, seasoned and fried in the pan to resemble scrambled eggs.

Extra-Firm Tofu

Extra-firm tofu is the sturdiest of all tofu varieties, with a dense texture that can withstand intense heat and slow-cooked or deep-fried dishes. It’s an excellent choice for dishes requiring a firmer bite, such as skewers and kebabs.

In Vietnamese cuisine, extra-firm tofu is a key ingredient in ‘bánh mì chay,’ a vegetarian sandwich loaded with pickled vegetables, herbs and spicy condiments. To maximise its flavour, press extra-firm tofu thoroughly, marinate it generously and cook it at high heat until crispy on the outside, while maintaining a chewy interior.

Tofu Skin

Tofu skin, also known as ‘yuba,’ is made from the thin film (similar to the skim of the milk) that forms on the surface of boiling soy milk. This delicate layer is lifted off and dried into sheets or sticks. Tofu skin has a chewy texture and a subtle nutty flavour, making it a unique addition to various dishes.

In Chinese cuisine, tofu skin is often braised or used as a wrap for dim sum or in sushi when prepared as ‘bean curd.’ It’s also popular in Japanese and Korean dishes. For a delightful treat, rehydrate dried tofu skin and stir-fry it with vegetables and sauces, or use it as a wrap for flavourful fillings.

Hairy or Stinky Tofu

Hairy tofu, a specialty from China’s Anhui province, is a unique fermented version of tofu. The name comes from the fine white mould that grows on the tofu’s surface during the fermentation process, giving it a fuzzy or ‘hairy’ appearance. This fermentation not only enhances the tofu’s nutritional value by adding beneficial probiotics, but also imparts a distinct umami flavour and a slightly tangy taste, which is why some call it ‘stinky tofu.’

Hairy tofu is often deep-fried to a crisp exterior while maintaining a creamy interior, and it’s typically served with a spicy or savoury dipping sauce. It’s also a staple in Chinese street food culture. For the best preparation, deep-fry hairy tofu until golden brown, then pair it with a chilli sauce to balance its rich, tangy taste.

Smoked Tofu

Smoked tofu offers a distinct and robust flavour profile, achieved by smoking the tofu over wood chips after it’s been pressed. This process infuses the tofu with a rich, smoky aroma that adds depth to any dish. Common wood chips used for smoking tofu include hickory, which provides a strong and slightly sweet flavour; applewood, which imparts a mild, fruity sweetness; and mesquite, known for its bold, earthy taste.

Smoked tofu is particularly popular in European cuisines and is often used in sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes. Its firm texture makes it suitable for grilling or pan-frying. For a delish dish, cube smoked tofu and toss it into a vegetable stir-fry, or slice it thin and add it to a hearty sandwich with fresh greens and a tangy dressing.

Want more? Explore these different types of functional mushrooms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>