When you hear tofu, it can only be two things: you love it or you hate it. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may consider tofu as heaven-sent. That’s because it’s a great meat alternative – it has low calorie content and high in protein, calcium and magnesium. Some people also consume tofu as primary source of protein instead of animal meat due to religious beliefs.
If you are among the latter, perhaps one major reason you hate tofu is because it’s not as tasty as real meat. You may also find the texture rather weird for some reason. Regardless of your preference, one thing is for sure – tofu will be here to stay whether you like it or not.
The introduction of tofu to the world
In fact, tofu has been around for ages – as early as 2,000 years ago in China to be exact. Eventually, tofu has reached foreign shores including nearby Japan and Korea. Centuries later, it reached Western soil.
Apparently, it was Benjamin Franklin who first mentioned tofu in his letter to his friend John Bartram along with soybean samples and a copy of tofu-making process back in 1770.
In the 1950’s, packaged tofu reached American market shelves. However, it was received negatively by consumers – mostly due to its bland taste. As a result, tofu was once dubbed as one of America’s “most hated food”.
Thankfully, that negative notion towards tofu had subsided over the years, thanks to the introduction of tofu recipes and the rise of animal rights advocacies. It has also graced family dining tables and even became part of many food establishments’ menus. Consumers also have different tofu options to choose from.
Tofu Types 101
Speaking of different tofu options, you may not know it yet but there are actually different types of tofu. While these are all made from soybeans, they only difference is how they are prepared. For starters, tofu is made from matured soybeans, which are then boiled, curdled, and pressed like cheese. The end result is the tofu we are familiar with.
So, let’s go on to the tofu types. There are actually different types of tofu, but the most popular of them all are the regular tofu and the silken tofu. However, there are others which perhaps you may have not even heard of… until now.
1. Regular tofu
Regular tofu has a spongy texture and has different varieties depending on the amount of water pressed or drained out of it. You will have soft tofu if it has the least water amount pressed out. On the other hand, you will get super-firm tofu if it has a denser texture and pressed almost entirely.
Among different types of regular tofu are the following:
• Soft tofu – the so-called “Chinese” counterpart of silken tofu. It has a less smooth texture as silken tofu, but can be cooked like such.
• Medium tofu – ideal for tofu miso soups and a Japanese chilled appetizer called hiyayakko. It has a denser texture but still generally delicate to handle like silken tofu.
• Firm tofu – can absorb flavors and seasonings you put on it. Because it’s firmer than other tofu types, you can sear, pan-fry, or stir-fry it. It can also be crumbled like scrambled eggs.
• Extra-firm tofu – great for frying, grilling, and baking. It can also be cut into squares or slices without crumbling easily (unless the recipe dictates you to). On the downside, it may not absorb flavor well unlike the firm variety.
• Super-firm tofu – obviously the firmest tofu variety of them all, it is very dense and won’t crumble easily. You can also use this for stir-fry, but it may tend to dry out if you fry, bake or grill it. Nonetheless, it’s a great ingredient if you want a healthy meal.
2. Silken tofu
This Japanese-style tofu, also called “extra-soft tofu”, has high water content. It also has somewhat a mix of jelly and pudding in terms of texture. It is ideal for use in smoothies, puddings, dressings, sauces, dips, and desserts. Some even use it as an egg alternative when baking.
It has a mild taste, and texture varies depending on soy protein content. Silken tofu is often categorized as soft, firm, or extra-firm. Silken tofu is often packaged in a plastic container or in a tube in the case of extra-soft tofu. Given that silken tofu is very soft and fragile, cutting it into pieces can be a little challenging.
Nonetheless, silken tofu is great for light soups like chicken noodle soup, tofu vegetable soup, or egg drop soup. On the contrary, you can’t pan-fry silken tofu due to its fragile nature. Silken tofu can also be used in desserts such as “douhua” or Chinese tofu pudding.
Other tofu types you may never heard of
Ever heard of tofu cakes? How about tofu noodles or egg tofu? These are only some of the many tofu types you should check out on your next food trip.
1. Tofu cakes
This type of tofu is basically extra-firm tofu marinated in soy sauce and other spices. It is ready to eat and you can enjoy it as is – just add sesame oil and soy sauce. You can also stir-fry it for added flavor and perhaps toss some diced garlic and vegetables.
2. Egg Tofu
Egg tofu is similar to silken tofu, only that it has a more stable appearance than the latter. It is often packaged in a tube, given its fragile nature. Likewise, egg tofu is available in unflavored or with savory flavoring.
This type of tofu can be used in soups given its soft, custard-like texture. On the downside, egg tofu may not be suitable for vegans due to its low protein content.
3. Tofu noodles
Tofu noodles can either be made from unflavored or marinated tofu. The former has thinner, softer, and smoother texture, while the latter has thicker consistency.
To get a better picture, unflavored tofu noodles look similar to spaghetti noodles, while the marinated variety resembles fettuccine. Tofu noodles can be enjoyed as a salad and as a replacement for regular noodles.
So, there you go – your guide to different types of tofu. Happy eating!