Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Wonder that is Tofu

With that title, several things are probably going through your mind right now. No, I have not turned this into a  vegan tree-hugging blog.

From the time I’ve spent writing here, I’ve come to realize several things. One big thing that I’ve realized is that there is not only one type of reader here. In fact, since a majority of readers are Africans, I will narrow it down; there is not only one type of African. I believe there are many people that would like to try new things, but don’t know how to cook them, and feel stupid asking. Well, if you ever thought of making tofu, or if you’ve eaten it out a lot but just don’t know how to cook it, rest easy because I’m here to help.

What is tofu?
Stop scratching your head. In some parts of the world, tofu is pretty unpopular. For those who may not know what tofu is, it is basically a coagulated form of mashed soybeans. You know what soybeans are? Then you pretty much know what tofu is. So why is it so popular? It has become synonymous with vegetarianism because of its ability to absorb any flavor it comes around. Unlike meat that takes a while to absorb the flavors of sauce around it, tofu absorbs these flavors very easily. So you can cook it in almost anything and it would taste just like it.

There are several textures of tofu, but for cooking, we commonly use firm tofu.

What are the benefits of tofu?
Besides its absorbent quality, tofu is also known for its very healthy nutritional content. Let’s stack tofu up against beef and chicken, shall we?

Tofu contains much less calories than animal-based products. The only drawback is that although it is high in protein, you’d need at least twice the size to get the amount of protein meat gives you. But again, if you are already surpassing your daily protein requirements, this should not be a problem. Additionally, a lot of the calories in tofu come from fat, but note that it is the good fat, like the kind found in nuts and fish.

Cooking with tofu
So remember how I said tofu was super-absorbent? This is the point where that actually impacts us in a negative way. To ensure that firm tofu does not dry out, it is usually sold as a large block soaked in water. But then, this means that we have to drain the water out before we cook it or it would be all mushy. This draining process does take some time.

With chicken and beef, you can just cut them up and throw them in a pan. With tofu, you have to do the following:
  • Put a couple of layers of napkins on a dish
  • Remove the tofu from the water, and put it on top the napkins
  • Put a chopping board on top the tofu
  • Put something heavy like a can of tomato sauce on the chopping board to help press out the moisture from the tofu
  • Leave this way for at least 15 minutes.
After this, your tofu should be well drained and ready to chop up and cook. To give it a hard meat-like texture, you could bake, grill or fry the tofu for a little bit before you put it in food. Tofu is most commonly used in saut├ęs, noodles, or sauces, but you can basically use it in anything as a meat substitute.

Do you want to try tofu, but are not sure what to make? Here are a few healthy tofu recipes to help get you started: Tofu Recipes. There is so much on that list from Indian to Chinese to Italian. Maybe one day, we’ll have some Nigerian dishes up there too…

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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