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What's Cooking?: The Unassuming Tofu

When I go into a large Asian supermarket in Flushing, I am amazed to see the whole length of the refrigerated aisle filled with tofu products.   This does not even include other sections with their large sheets of tofu or dried goods.  It has such a diversified use that it is chameleon-like as it takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked in.  In itself, it is rather bland but when combined with seasonings, meats, and sauces, this unassuming food becomes an essential component.

Tofu is made from soybeans which are high in protein and low in calories.  There are more than two hundred commercial products made from soybeans.  It has been a popular food product in China and Japan for centuries.   It is considered the “cheese” of Asia, made of pressed curds from coagulated soy milk.  The Buddhist monks who do not have meat in their diet have created ingenious ways to substitute and imitate meat in taste and form by using tofu.  One of the dishes I enjoy eating is Mock Duck…so delicious and if it is made correctly, it looks like roast duck in taste and texture.  If you are vegan or vegetarian, tofu can bring such versatility to your diet.  It can be stuffed, steamed, fried, braised, simmered in soup, and stir-fried.  It comes in the form of drinks, blocks (firm, soft, silken), pouches, sheets, noodles, and dried sticks.  For us meat lovers, it is a great supplement to the dishes prepared such as Fried Tofu Puffs stuffed with pork, shrimp, and mushrooms.   So good!

Since Westerners have opened their palates to tofu, it has been applied to all sorts of recipes such as shakes, cheesecake, salad dressings, breads, and sauces.  Personally, I still prefer the traditional dishes made with tofu.  However, I am opened to discovering the different types of tofu and its many uses.  Take this trip along with me and explore some of the Asian cookbooks for tofu recipes.  It will be a satisfying adventure!

Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler

Tofu Mania by Brita Housez

Harumi’s Japanese Cooking by Harumi Kurihara

A Taste of Tofu by Yukiko Moriyama

Martin Yan’s Asian Favorites by Martin Yan

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