By Andrew Kim
Northwest Asian Weekly
Tofu has long been a staple in Asian cuisine and a favorite among vegetarians. Although I grew up eating tofu, I never thought much about where it came from or how it was made.
How does a soybean turn into tofu? As part of my desire to eat healthier and also to get to know more about the food I was consuming, I set out to discover a little bit more about tofu and actually learn how it to make it.
The exact origin of tofu is not known but researchers believe that it was discovered in China around 2,000 years ago. There are several interesting theories of origin but insufficient evidence to conclusively confirm exactly how tofu was discovered. It was later introduced to neighboring Asian countries and has become a staple in some countries including Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. As Western countries have become more interested eating healthy, tofu has become increasingly popular and can be found in dishes such as lasagna and as a vegetarian substitute for meat.
Tofu is made from soybeans and can come in a variety of textures, from smooth and soft, to crispy and crunchy. Since it absorbs the flavors of ingredients that it is cooked with, tofu is a versatile and adaptable food. It can even be served as dessert, (usually the “silken” variety is used for these dishes). Tofu gets its reputation as a health-conscious choice since it is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium.
After reading up on tofu, I set out to figure out what all the buzz was about. I thought the best place to start would be to actually make my own tofu. Tofu is inexpensive to buy at the store but even cheaper to make at home. It is time and labor intensive but definitely worth it at the end.
It is easy to make and the only two ingredients you need are soybeans and a coagulant. It will help to have a cheesecloth and a box to shape your tofu. If you are interested in making your own tofu, I would advise purchasing a tofu-making kit which will contain the coagulant, cheese cloth, and box. The other materials you will need (pots, blender, and strainer) are common kitchen items. There are numerous instructional websites and cookbooks that will teach you to make tofu.
However, what it comes down to is:
— Soak the soybeans.
— Blend the soybeans with water and then boil.
— Strain the milk.
— Add the coagulant.
— Pour into the cheesecloth.
— Wait for 20-50 minutes and then your tofu is done!
This is an abbreviated version of the process, but my advice to you is to set aside a few hours and have fun! I went into it thinking that there was no way I would be able to successfully turn soybeans into a block of tofu but to my surprise, it turned out really well. It was not as smooth as what you get at the store, but once I cooked it and incorporated it into a recipe, no one could tell the difference!
In addition, a byproduct of making tofu is that strained soymilk – which is delicious in its own right! (end)
Andrew Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.