Tofu is an Asian food staple that is made by coagulating soy milk. When the curds have become to form, it undergoes pressing to form the tofu blocks. In this article, we will discuss the origins of tofu and how it is made. We will also be discussing the types of tofu and a basic understanding of the nutrients found in tofu.
The Origins of Tofu
Tofu has been believed to be discovered 2,000 years ago. The creation of tofu has been believed to be attributed to Prince Liu Ann of the Han Dynasty. According to legend, Liu Ann’s mother is sick and craved for soybeans.
Since his mother was old and sickly, he decided to create soy milk by grinding up soybeans. While this is the most popular theory on the origin of tofu, there is no historical evidence to support this claim. The popularity of tofu grew during the Chinese Song Dynasty as an offering for the dead relatives.
As the popularity of tofu grew in China, tofu has also been introduced by Chinese immigrants to neighboring Southeast Asian countries. This is how tofu became a staple in several Southeast Asian cuisines.
How Tofu is Made
Without going into details, tofu is made in two steps. The first step is making the soy milk and the second step involves coagulating the soy milk. Here is an overview of both steps:
Step 1: Making the Soy Milk
Tofu is basically coagulated soy milk. Soy milk is soybeans that have been ground in water. In order to make soy milk, the soybeans must be soaked overnight in water. You can now drain out the water used for soaking the soybeans.
Once the water has been drained out, it is time to take out a blender and blend the soaked soybeans with water. In terms of portioning, each cup of soybeans should be blended with 3 cups of water. When the beans have been fully blended, it is time to cook the resulting mixture under medium heat. The process of cooking the milk mixture is quite tedious and requires strength, patience, and knowledge.
It is important to make sure that the mixture does not boil or burn. Moreover, it is also essential to discard any foam formed during the process. Once this step is done, you can now strain the mixture twice. The first strainer is the fine mesh strainer and the other strainer is the cheesecloth strainer.
When the soy milk mixture has cooled, you can now press on it to ensure that what you have is pure liquid. This mixture needs to be cooked a second time with the same thorough process done during the first cooking process.
Step 2: Coagulating the Soy Milk
When making tofu, it is important to discard the skin or solids formed while cooking the soy milk mixture. Once the liquid mixture has cooled down, it is important to add the coagulant gradually. You can choose between using gypsum or nigari as a coagulant. It is essential to let the coagulant rest for 3 minutes in between each process.
For the last part of the process, you should be able to separate the whey from the curds. This can be done by straining the mixture. When this is over, you can now mold your tofu and let it rest. In order to mold the tofu well, you should cover it with cheesecloth and put weights on top of the mold to ensure that the tofu is properly pressed down. There are many kinds of tofu press online. Choosing the right tofu press is an important step.
What are Coagulants?
A coagulant is a component in tofu that helps turn the soy milk into solid. While there are several possible ingredients that can help coagulate soy milk, the most common coagulants are Nigari and Gypsum.
Both types of coagulants result in the tofu that we know. However, they yield a different finish. The choice of the coagulant to use depends on how the maker wants their tofu. Gypsum can leave the tofu with a slightly bitter taste and the tofu is slightly firmer after coagulation. On one hand, Nigari makes the tofu sweeter and softer.
Types of Tofu
Different recipes call for different types of tofu. These types are differentiated based on their firmness. There are five common types of tofu that can usually be found in supermarkets. We list down our favorite types and tofu and the ideal way to prepare and consume them.
a. Silken Tofu – The soft silken tofu is great for desserts and recipes that require a lot of sauces. It can also be used as a dairy-free substitute to yogurt. It can also be added to smoothies for an added source of protein.
b. Soft Tofu – Due to the high water content of this tofu, it is not ideal for pressing or frying. However, it can be consumed raw and it can be added to soups or stews.
c. Medium Firm Tofu – This type of tofu is great for battered tofu. It is best to deep fry this tofu to ensure that it would not crack.
d. Firm Tofu – This is the most common type of tofu and it is also the most versatile, which is why it is best for all types of dishes.
e. Extra Firm Tofu – The extra firm tofu is best for frying and making the tofu crispier.