Most problems in preparing and cooking tofu stem from choosing the wrong variety for the dish. Unfortunately, a slimy texture or improper marinade can turn some people off tofu forever. Start off on the right foot with selecting and purchasing the proper type of tofu for your meal.
Step 1: Choosing Tofu
Do you want silken, medium, or firm?
Thanks to the rapidly expanding variety of tofu at the local supermarket, choosing the right type of tofu for a tasty tofu dish is becoming increasingly complicated. First, assess your recipe: what type of dish are you creating?
A dessert, smoothie, mousse, or pudding means you soft tofu is necessary. Sometimes soft tofu is sold under the guise of “soft silken”, “silken”, or “smooth” tofu. Firmer tofus tend to taste gritty when blended. Silken dessert tofus (flavoured and sweetened) are also available; almond flavour is highly recommended.
For main dish recipes requiring cubed, diced, or grated tofu, choose a firm or extra-firm tofu. It is less likely to crumble upon slicing and dicing and will suck up marinades like no other. Examples of dishes using firm tofu include stir-fry, Grilled Tofu, or Buffalo Tofu. Firm tofu can make a vegan stand-in for paneer in some Indian dishes.
Other in-between dishes, such as lasagna or scrambled tofu might require a medium or medium-firm tofu. Medium tofu will crumble if handled too much, and doesn’t really slice cleanly. It is useful to any recipe requiring crumbling or mashing of the tofu, or when you want it to cleverly disappear in order to sneak it in to unsuspecting diners. Try it as a substitute for ricotta cheese.
Specialty Tofus are popping up more than ever. These include smoked tofu, herb tofu, pre-marinated tofu, and the aforementioned dessert tofu.
Often these packages will include instructions or recipe suggestions; follow accordingly. Usually this means less work in the kitchen for you!
One thing to keep in mind is that firmer tofu is more concentrated soy. This means that firmer tofus have more calcium, protein, and iron per brick or volume than the softer stuff. Soft or silken tofu doesn’t really carry much nutritional value (as its water content is higher) and shouldn’t really be relied upon as a staple protein, unless you’re eating a lot!
Recommended reading: Best Indian Cookbooks
Step 2: Storing Tofu
Tofu storage need not be a tricky matter. Like soy milk, tofu will go bad fairly quickly if not properly stored. It must be kept in the fridge, preferably in an airtight container with a bit of water changed daily. Opened tofu is best consumed within a few days. After that, you may begin to notice an “off” smell that is very beany in natures, and the edges may start to yellow or brown. For what it’s worth, it seems that tofu packaged in a vacuum-sealed bags tends to last longer once opened than the kind packed in water.
With an open package of firm tofu on your hands and no current plans to use it, consider draining and freezing the tofu in an airtight container. The day you want to cook, simply defrost the tofu in the fridge overnight. Note that the texture will be spongier; an attribute actually preferred by some cooks.
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