The Basics

Ingredient of the Week: Firm Tofu

What is it?

The word "tofu" is derived from the Japanese word, which itself is derived from the Chinese word that means "curdled" or "fermented beans." Also called bean curd, tofu is made by cooking and mashing mature soybeans, and then processing them in a method similar to making cheese. That is, the soybeans are made into soy milk which is then coagulated and pressed. Firm tofu is the most commonly found type of tofu in comparison to its extra-firm and soft counterparts.

How do I use it?

Firm tofu absorbs marinades well and can be cubed, seasoned, and pan-fried with vegetables. When cooked this way, it becomes crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, making for opposing textures in one delectable bite. For the vegans, firm tofu can be a ground beef substitute: freeze first, then crumble, then shape into a rectangular block. Now you've got faux meatloaf.

When frying, make sure to dry the tofu as much as possible. This will prevent your tofu from turning into one big pile of mush. Do so by wrapping tofu cubes inside paper towels and carefully pressing down between two cutting boards to squeeze out the excess moisture.

Where can I find it?

I found an inexpensive, organic version at the Costco on Bunker Hill. A caveat is they come in packs of three. Throw a tofu party. Tofu for everyone!

Recipe: "Agedashi" Tofu

Of Japanese origin, agedashi tofu involves battering and frying tofu cubes and drizzling it with broth made from dashi (Japanese soup stock), mirin (a type of rice wine), and soy sauce. It is then topped with spring onions, shredded daikon (white radish), and/or bonito (a medium-sized mackerel) flakes. This recipe courtesy of All Recipes is not authentic agedashi tofu, but turned out to be an easy and relatively tasty alternative. Don't forget to dry the tofu -- the recipe leaves out that important step. I cooked using firm instead of extra-firm tofu, and it turned out fine. Serve over rice or as a side to other dishes. I ate mine plain as a mid-day snack.

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Christine Ha
Contact: Christine Ha