Between its inexpensive price tag, vegan-friendly ingredients, and simple cooking instructions, tofu is a staple in Asian cuisine that can’t be beat. It comes in many varieties and can be prepared in many ways, but it can be difficult to find the right tofu for you. If you’re looking to add more tofu to your diet, keep reading on to learn more about the different types of tofu!
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a plant-based protein that’s made from soybeans, water, and a curdling agent. With its subtle flavor and spongy texture, tofu makes for a super versatile ingredient in the kitchen, due to the fact that it can absorb sauces and marinades easily and be used in savory or sweet dishes.
Tofu was discovered in China over 2000 years ago during the Han dynasty, but it also has traditional roots in many other Asian cultures and cuisines, such as Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and more.
Because tofu is so popular across East and Southeast Asia, there are many different variations of the cube bean curd, and with different variations comes different levels of firmness.
Types Of Tofu And Cooking Tips
Tofu is most often separated into five categories based on its firmness: silken, regular, firm, extra firm, and super firm. Silken tofu, or Japanese tofu, gets its soft, creamy texture from its high water content, and can be used as cream cheese or found in cheesecakes, smoothies, dips, ravioli fillings, and more.
Regular tofu is a bit more dense than silken tofu, but still has a softness to it and can easily absorb flavors in broths and sauces. It can be used in soups and stews or enjoyed as a spread, but it can’t be pan-fried, as it will crumble.
The most common variation of tofu is firm tofu, due to the fact that it’s the most versatile. Because firm tofu is fairly compact, it can be pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried, used in stews, used as a filling, or used as a spread.
Although extra firm tofu has less water than firm, the two types of tofu can be used in most of the same dishes. However, extra firm tofu is actually easier to pan fry, deep fry, and stir fry, and therefore it is considered by some to be the best kind of tofu for cooking.
Super firm tofu is the most dense variation of tofu and therefore makes for the best meat alternative, however you can dry it out if you bake or grill your tofu on high heat. Out of all the different types of tofu products, super firm tofu contains the most amount of protein, so in that sense, it qualifies as the healthiest kind of tofu.
How To Prepare Tofu
The softer the tofu, the more water it contains. Before preparing your bean curd, you’ll have to press out the excess water in the tofu first. If you’re wondering how to press tofu, there’s no one right way. You can use anything from a tofu press, heavy books, or your hands to wring out the unwanted water.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start cooking your tofu with one of the following methods:
If you want to bake your tofu, place it in a shallow dish and cover the cubes completely with the marinade or sauce of your choice. After the tofu has marinated for at least 30 minutes, transfer your squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes.
To sauté your tofu, add a small amount of oil to a skillet on medium-high heat before adding your tofu. Once the tofu is golden brown, add your sauce to the mixture. You’ll know your tofu is ready once the sauce has begun to caramelize.
You can also fry your tofu and make what is known as crispy tofu. To do so, just add enough oil to a skillet to coat the bottom over medium-high heat. Add your tofu on top, and let them cook until they’re crispy all over.
Cooking With Tofu – What To Make
With so many texture and cooking options, the ways to enjoy tofu are endless. For example, if you’re baking your tofu, you can add it on top of a rice or noodle dish for extra protein.
Furthermore, sautéed tofu makes for a great addition to noodle bowls, lettuce wraps, soups, or salads, and with a nice dipping sauce on the side, crispy tofu will be the perfect appetizer for your next dinner party spread.