Tofu or Beancurd, History, Uses and Recipes
Definition and History
There are different ways to name one same product well known in the west as Tofu ( this is actually the japanese name). The english term is Beancurd and has been used since 1840. But was is Tofu or Beancurd? Well, very simple: Tofu is a food made of fermented soy milk. The process is similar to making cheese: soy milk (made from soybeans) is filtered, bolied and curled, then pressed to form tofu.
This is one of China major contributions to the World. The soybean is a plant that has been cultivated in China for thousands of years and a lot of soybean products are important elements on chinese diet. There are different theories about how Tofu was originated: The first theory says that tofu was invented in northern China by a prince member of the Han Dynasty around the year 164 BC. The second one says it was accidentally discovered when boiled ground soybeans was mixed with impure salt; this produced a Tofu-like gel. The last theory says that the ancient chinese learned the curd process fron mongolians or east indians.
Tofu and the production technique was then introduced into Korea and then to Japan during the Nara period around the 8 century. It was also spread to other parts of East Asia, this coincided with the spread of Buddishm and it is an important element in the vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddishm.
Nutrition and Health
Tofu is highly nutritious and low in fat and sugar, it is much healthier than meat, fish and less expensive too!!! As a vegetable protein, It contains eight essencial aminoacids, vitamins A and B. Is free from cholesterol and is recomended for people with heart disease or high blood pressure. Tofu is also very easy to digest, so is ideal for infants, sick and elderly people .
Here I got the nutrition facts for raw tofu (100gr; 3.5 oz):
Energy 318 kj (76 kcal)
Carbohidrates 1.9 gr
Fat 4.8 gr
Protein 8.1 gr
Types of Tofu
These are basic types of tofu (not all of them are available here in the West):
Soft or Silken Tofu: It has a delicate texture, is creamy and white. It is mainly steamed or added to soups. Is also used to make desserts or even ice cream.
Firm Tofu: Is the most common type of tofu and very popular for everyday use. Is also white and soft but more robust than silken tofu.
Deep Fried Tofu: Fresh firm tofu cut into cubes then deep fried until light brown. It puffs during cooking and has a crispy golden skin, but underneath stays white and soft. It is used as fresh tofu in soups, casseroles and stir fries.
Pressed Tofu: Is fresh tofu that has been compressed until almost all the liquids are gone. Then is usually marinated in soy sauce an some spices giving it a brown color in the outside but still white in the inside. It is usually cut into slices and stir fried.
Because tofu is so soft, is important to cook it with strong flavors such as garlic, ginger, chiles, soy sauce. All the types of tofu listed above absorb the flavors of the other ingredientsthey are cooked with .
A few recipes
Yudofu, Japanese Tofu Hot Pot
- 2 blocks cotton tofu
- 6 inches konbu (kelp)
For dipping sauce:
- 2 cups dashi soup (a soup made with bonito flakes)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp mirin
- katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
- chopped scallions or green onion
- grated ginger
Clean the konbu with wet towel. Put the konbu and 5 cups of water in a donabe (earthenware pot) and leave it for a few hours. Cut tofu into small blocks. Put the donabe over low heat at the table. Add tofu in the pot and cook until hot. Combine the dashi soup, soy sauce, and mirin in a sauce pan and heat to make a dipping sauce. Pour the dipping sauce into individual serving bowls. Add some topping in the bowl and dip hot tofu in the sauce.
*Makes 4 servings
Spicy Tofu Stir Fry This spicy stir-fry is made with pressed tofu, chili sauce, and nuts. If pressed tofu isn't available, feel free to substitute extra firm tofu.
- 1/2 package (300 grams) Superior Pressed Tofu*
- 3 cups vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, etc.)
- 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts or cashew nuts
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon hot and spicy chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of cold water
Cube tofu and vegetables into 1/4" cubes. Heat oil in wok. Stir fry vegetables for 2 minutes or until half cooked. Add tofu, and stir fry for another 1 minute until heated through. Add sauce and cook until sauce has thickens. Add more water if necessary. Toss in peanuts and serve. Makes 4 servings.