Tofu is a delicious, protein-rich and nutritious food made from soy beans; Tofu is also low in fats. Tofu is a popular substitute for meat and dairy products and has been commonly termed as the “poor man’s protein”. Tofu has a neutral taste and is a very versatile ingredient that can be fried, baked, smoked, whipped, creamed, braised or barbecued. Tofu can be used in savory or sweet dishes.
You may find it weird to use tofu in sweet dishes but adding tofu to desserts give the dessert a smooth and silky texture. An example is the use of tofu to make mousse. Tofu can be used to substitute eggs and dairy products in recipes.
How tofu is made
Tofu is made in a same way as cheese whereby a mineral salt or acid based coagulant is stirred into the soy liquid to separate the curd and whey. The curd is then pressed to form tofu. The longer the curd is pressed, the firmer it gets.
Types of tofu
Extra firm tofu
This tofu is pressed the longest and would not fall apart when cooked. Extra firm tofu can be marinated, grilled or crumbled up to resemble a hamburger. Extra firm tofu tastes like chicken and is often used as a meat substitute. To firm up the tofu more, it can be wrapped in paper towels and weight can be added on top of it to press it down.
This tofu is not as smooth as silken tofu or as firm as extra firm tofu. When fried, it is creamy on the inside. Firm tofu is commonly used as a topping in pizza or in tacos.
How to store tofu
In a refrigerator
To store tofu, place it in a container of cold water and refrigerate for up
to a week.
In the freezer
Tofu can also be wrapped in plastic and stored in the freezer for up to 5 months. However, this causes the tofu to change its texture and colour. The frozen tofu would be chewy and amber in colour. To consume the frozen tofu, defrost it in a bowl of boiling water for 15 minutes first before draining and washing with cold water. Thereafter, drain the tofu by dapping it with a piece of paper towel.
Tips when cooking with tofu
1. Dap the tofu before frying to absorb any extra moisture. If the tofu is dam, it would not fry nicely and turn golden brown. The flavour of the tofu would also not be as nice.
2. Due to the warm and humid weather in Singapore, it is wise to keep the tofu refrigerated to prevent it from turning sour.
3. Firm tofu taste really good when marinated. You can try marinating firm tofu with different sauces and spices for at least an hour or, better still, overnight to bring out the maximum flavour of the tofu.
Suggested marinate for firm Tofu:
Try marinating with soya sauce, crushed ginger, garlic and chilli
Alternatively, marinate the tofu in barbecue sauce and poke it through skewers for barbecue.
4. For tofu that is added to soup or gravies, try to cut the tofu into smaller cubes and add it into the broth earlier to maximize the time the tofu is given to absorb the flavour of the broth.
Benefits of tofu
1. Prevent cancer
Soy contains a chemical, isoflavones, that reduces the risk of breast cancer and other types of common cancer. This is due to its role in influencing sex hormone metabolism and biological activity through intracellular enzymes, protein synthesis, growth factor actions, malignant cell proliferations, differentiation and angiogenesis.
2. Prevent arteriosclerosis
3. Reduce hot flushes
Soy reduces the occurrence of hot flushes in menopausal women as soy products make up for the lost of estrogen.
4. Lower bad cholesterol
Tofu significantly lowers total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) for you if you eat tofu regularly instead of meat.
5. Good source of Vitamin E and calcium
Tofu can help in creating strong bones and teeth
6. Contains antioxidants
Isoflavones in tofu can directly scavenge free radicals, thereby preventing premature aging. These beneficial compounds also prevent the effects of free radicals indirectly by suppressing phagocyte radical production.
7. No cholesterol and low sodium levels
Downside of tofu
1. Absorb oil
Although frying tofu brings out a nice aroma and fragrance, tofu absorbs the oil and hence is unhealthy. Try to minimize frying tofu due to health reasons.
2. Affects estrogen production
The problem with eating a diet rich in plant estrogens(phytoestrogen) may affect the body’s ability to use and make estrogen as plant estrogen is different from human estrogen.
3. Thyroid damage
Overeating tofu causes thyroid damage in the form of hypothyroidism, which produces a sluggish thyroid.
Although eating tofu is beneficial for health, one should not over consume tofu. Everything should be eaten in moderation so as to get the best out of the food 😉