Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey…If curds were good enough for us to immortalize a child eating them, they surely must be good eats. Tofu is soybean curd that is rich in protein and versatile, but what else can we discover about this bean curd that might entice us to eat it?
Tofu comes in two basic varieties: regular and silken. Either of these varieties come in three different textures; soft, firm or extra firm. The varieties and textures are created by the way the tofu is packaged. Regular tofu is packed in water and sold in the refrigerated dairy section of your local supermarket. Silken tofu is vacuum-packed and sold in a small white block that is shelf-stable, with it’s package most often found in the Asian section of the supermarket.
Tofu is made from curdled soymilk that has been pressed in cakes. Soybeans are soaked, pureed, cooked and filtered though a cloth to separate the liquid from the solids. A curdling agent is added to the soybean liquid to thicken it, resulting in curds which are pressed into cakes.
Regular tofu which is refrigerated is perishable and is packaged in water. The soybean product will keep about one week if it’s kept cool and has the water changed daily. An unopened package of shelf-stable silken tofu will last about one year.
Flavor and Uses
Tofu is bland on it’s own, but it is a natural chameleon type food which takes on the flavor of what it’s cooked with and is especially good for use in dishes calling for strong herbs and spices, like garlic, curry or ginger.
Naturally low in calories and high in protein, tofu is often used as a meat substitute. Drain regular tofu well before using and chose the firm or extra firm variety for frying or grilling. Silken tofu has a custard-like texture which lends itself well for use in puddings, smoothies or puréed dishes.
How to Drain Tofu
It’s a good idea to squeeze as much water as possible from the tofu before frying, grilling or roasting, and it’s very easy to do. Cut tofu into desired size(s), then place two layers of paper towels on a baking sheet and spread tofu on top of paper toweling. Place two more layers of paper toweling on top of tofu, then add a second baking sheet on top. Top the second baking sheet off with a heavy skillet and wait 20 minutes. The kitchen-made vise grip will squeeze the water out of the tofu and the paper toweling will absorb it.