What is Tofu?
Tofu has been a dietary staple throughout Asia for over two thousand years. The use of tofu can replace most meats and is a good option for those looking to add protein to their diets.
Tofu is essentially a bland substance that takes on the seasonings and natural flavors of other ingredients replacing the need to over season as the case may be when cooking with fish, pork or chicken for the main dish. For more information on vegetarian foods like tofu, check out Vegetarian Dishes for Family BBQ's and the Top 5 Healthy Meat Substitutes for Vegetarians.
How is Tofu Made?
Tofu is made as a by-product of curdling soy milk from soy beans. Soy beans are soaked and then ground down with water, the resulting liquid after straining is what makes soy milk. The soy milk is then heated up and coagulated with salts like calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride.
Once the majority of the milk is coagulated, the curdled mixture is then poured into a cheese cloth lined mold and allowed to sit until fully formed into a cheese like block. The cheesecloth allows for the whey to drain more away from the block that the soy curd is turning into. When the tofu has solidified, it is packaged with water for soaking or placed in aseptic containers for sale.
Depending on the length of time that the soy curd sits and the rinse water that is added, there can be a difference in the result of the formed tofu. Manipulating the texture thickness of the surd will allow for one of the following three types of tofu:
- Firm tofu is dense and mainly used in cubed form as a meat replacement for main dishes and soups.
- Soft tofu has a lighter consistency and is used mainly in recipes where blending is called for, such as dips and bakery items.
- Silken tofu and has a more liquid like texture that is mainly used as a diary replacement, though in Japan Silken tofu is served as is with an accompaniment of soy sauce.
Benefits of Tofu
One of the main benefits to using tofu is that it is easy for the human body to digest. Since the soybean fibers are removed during the process of creating tofu, the body's digestive system does not have to work as hard to break down the food such as it does with animal meats and dairy products.
Other benefits to adding tofu into a diet are in the nutrients that it can provide. Tofu is high in quality proteins, calcium, B vitamins and isoflavones which can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and help to regulate the fluctuating hormonal changes in menopausal women. It is important to always check with your doctor before making a dietary change such as substituting meat for a soy based food like tofu. Soy based health benefits may not be the same for everyone.
*image of cubed tofu is from royalty free stock