Only a couple of decades ago, tofu was an exotic ingredient rarely served in the United States. These days, it’s a staple of vegetarian diets and versatile addition to any number of local and international dishes. Read on to learn more about this superfood, praised for both its health benefits and utility.
What Is Tofu?
A curd made from mashed soybeans, tofu has been used in Eastern cuisine for millennia. Similar to cheese, it is created by pressing curdled soy milk into soft or firm blocks that can be cubed, sliced, and even blended. Though mild by itself, it is the perfect vehicle for all sorts of sweet and savory flavors.
The Health Benefits
One of the most obvious health benefits of tofu is its high amount of protein. Because its main ingredients is soybeans, it offers you all the benefits of these hearty legumes. In fact, the plant-based protein and iron found in tofu is a perfect vegetarian alternative to unhealthy red meat! In addition to this, it also contains all the essential amino acids your body needs, as well as numerous vitamins and minerals (including copper, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin B1). Finally, it has the ability to lower bad cholesterol while boasting a healthy dose of isoflavones, which help to build strong bones. With so many health benefits, it’s easy to see why tofu has been a staple of Eastern cuisine for over 2,000 years!
Different Types of Tofu
While tofu comes in many different forms, its two most basic categories are momen (regular) and kinugoshi (silken). The ability to find tofu in different varieties of texture makes it a truly adaptable ingredient.
The most common type of tofu found in stores is momen or regular. This firm tofu is easily cubed or sliced for use in stir-fries, curries, and more. Its dense texture makes it perfect for frying, as the cubes won’t fall apart in the skillet. Aspiring chefs can find momen in a variety of densities, from regular and firm to extra-firm and even super-firm. Momen is also slightly higher in protein than its sister tofu, kinugoshi tofu, as it has lower water content.
On the other end of the spectrum, kinugoshi, or silken tofu, is soft and light. This is because it has higher water content than momen, making it blend or break apart easily. Because of its unique, smooth texture, it can be used similarly to a ricotta or cream cheese in cooking and baking. It can even be pureed in a blender for a protein-rich addition to your morning smoothie!
How to Prepare
The preparation is different depending on the dish, but one thing is for certain — it’s sure to be a tasty addition to your next meal. Tofu can be pressed for a meatier texture, coated in cornstarch and fried to give it a tasty skin, or even marinated for juicy, savory dishes. The possibilities are endless when it comes to preparation, and luckily, Umami Insider has a wide range of recipes to choose from.
Refreshing Summer Tofu Salad
Try your hand at this refreshing summer salad, chock full of tasty green vegetables like cucumber, scallion, and arugula and topped with a tasty wafu non-oil plum dressing. This recipe is perfect for those new to tofu, as it simply asks you to drain it and chop it into bite-sized bits.
Japanese-Style Mapo Tofu
This spicy and garlicky dish is an authentic addition to any Japanese meal. While a bit more heavy in preparation, the silken tofu is simply cubed and stir-fried in a delicious, savory sauce of chili, garlic, soy sauce, and sake. When thickened and served over rice, it is a great option for a spicy dinner.
Tofu Mini Donut Balls
Yes, you read that right. Mini donut balls made from tofu may sound tricky, but it is, in fact, a very simple recipe. Combine tofu with pancake mix and form into balls, then fry until brown. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar for a tasty and protein-rich treat!
Mashed Tofu and Asparagus Salad
Simple and delicious, this salad has a tasty sesame dressing. Made of boiled vegetables and firm tofu mashed to a crumbled texture, this salad is a quick and easy lunch you could take to work or on a picnic with ease.
You can find many more easy and delicious recipes on Umami Insider, from tofu sandwiches to chicken nuggets! With so many wonderful options, it’s no surprise this ingredient has become so popular in recent years.