Not All Tofu Are The Same
Tofu is a staple in many homes and at many restaurants. It’s made from mashed soybeans that are pressed into a block, giving it its distinctive cubed shape. Tofu-making includes coagulation that drains the soybean curds of excess liquid. It’s 100% plant-based and comes in varying degrees of firmness and texture.
But there isn’t just one type of tofu. Depending on how much liquid is extracted from the soybeans during coagulation, there are different types. The firmer the tofu, the less water it has; soft and silken tofu are bloated with liquid, giving it its soft, jiggly texture. Tofu can be fried, baked or smoked to make them extra delicious. Here’s a guide to follow.
Firm tofu holds its shape well, contains little water and still can absorb lots of flavors. So it’s ideal for pan frying, baking, and making tofu steaks. Vegetarians will love firm tofu.
Medium and soft tofu don’t retain their shape as firm tofu and not as dry, but they can still hold delicious sauces. They are used in miso soup, tingly mapo tofus, and gently fried agedashi tofu. They don’t do well baking in the oven.
Silken tofu is rich and creamy, perfect ingredient in vegan mayonnaise and dairy-free cheesecakes. It can be blended for dips and sauces, whisked with sugar to make fluffy “whipped cream” or mousse, or eaten delicately, drizzled with a ginger syrup for dessert. Traditionally, it is served cold with grated ginger, bonito flakes, and soy sauce.
Tofu skins are the skins that form on the surface when soy milk is boiled. They are delicately extracted and can be used fresh, dried, and even fermented. They taste like regular tofu, just thinner. When layered and seasoned, they can imitate the flavors and textures of chicken and duck which can be alternatives to meat. They are used to wrap rice and dim sum and create tiny, delightful tofu packages.
Fried tofu are squares of tofu fried and pre-packaged. It has a spongy, airy texture perfect for absorbing sauces; not as crispy, compact or crumbly as firm tofu. Just throw them into pad thais or stir-fries.
Seasoned tofu comes pre-seasoned and prepackaged, typically savory, steeped in soy sauce, garlicky marinades, and sesame flavorings. The Korean chili tofu is this type that’s made fresh, speckled with green onions, and sold at most Korean grocery stores.
Tofu spread are eaten with crackers, spread on sandwiches, and used as dips. They are available in a variety of flavors: garlic and herbs, garden vegetables, sun dried tomatoes, and even smoked salmon. Tofu spread is an alternative to cream cheese and other dairy goods.
Braised tofu is a ready-to-eat, well-seasoned tofu, typically uses firm tofu and poaches the soybeans in a soy sauce-heavy marinade before vacuum sealing it in its braising juice. Use as a tofu steak or served over rice for a quick vegan meal.
Baked tofu is prepared slightly differently than braised tofu. Instead of poaching the tofu in its flavoring, baked tofu is baked, and then left to soak up its marinades in its packaging. It’s also made from firmer tofu retain its texture in the baking process. It’s also ready-to-eat straight from the package.
Tofu pockets are a variation of fried tofu that can be sliced and filled, like a pocket. Traditionally, they are filled with rice and sprinkled with furikake. They are an alternative to flour-based wraps and bread and can be stuffed with favorite ingredients. Like a burrito – beans, rice, and cheese. Like a BLT – smoked tofu, tofu mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes.
Now you know a lot more about tofu. Tofu is not just your delicious, healthy food choice but a meat alternative that’s available in a variety of tastes and flavors. Truly versatile.
Enjoying Different Tofu Flavors in the University District at UW
At your UW Korean restaurant, Korean Tofu House, you’ll find that we treat tofu in a variety of ways – all nutritious, delicious and flavorful.