Tofu is soybean curd which is made by curdling fresh soy milk, pressing the curds into a block and cooling it. It has a subtle flavor and its texture allows it to absorb flavors well. Tofu is a wonderful meat substitute and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It’s high in protein, low in calories and supplies a good amount of calcium and iron.
While there are several legends as to how tofu was invented, the first recorded recipe for tofu was documented in China during the Han Dynasty over 2,000 years ago. From China the use of tofu spread to Japan and Southeast Asia, probably as the result of the spread of Buddhism and the need for meat substitutions in the Buddhist diet.
Benjamin Franklin was the first American to mention tofu in 1770 after he came across it and became fascinated by it during a trip to London. Franklin sent a letter to a friend that included soybeans and documentation on how the “cheese” was made from the soybeans.
The earliest tofu maker in the U.S. was established in 1878 in San Francisco. In the early 1900s, tofu began manufacturing commercially and it slowly emerged as a vegetarian staple. In the late 1950s, tofu was being packaged as individual “cakes” and started selling at supermarkets. Since 1966, packaged tofu has been sold in plastic tubs and has continued to gain popularity as a meat substitute.
Tofu is so versatile that it can be used in recipes to replace meat as well as in desserts, sauces, dressings and drinks. Silken tofu is an excellent way to get protein into smoothies. Eggs can be replaced with tofu in breakfast recipes. Firm tofu is great for marinating and frying. There are tons of books with tofu recipes as well as endless online resources for finding your favorite tofu recipe. Experiment and enjoy!
Stir fry is a great way to add tofu to your diet and utilize the vegetables in your fridge. The combination of ingredients to use for stir fry is virtually endless, so use your imagination!
1 package of extra firm tofu
½ cup Italian salad dressing
2 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons liquid from a jar of pickled ginger
Chopped cabbage, carrots, celery, onion and fresh garlic
Whole sugar snap peas
Udon rice noodles
Cut the block of stir fry into ½” squares. In a glass bowl, marinate the tofu in Italian dressing and hot sauce for about 10 minutes; stir frequently. After the tofu has marinated, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or skillet and add the tofu along with the marinade mix. Heat on high heat until the tofu is browned, stirring often so the tofu doesn’t stick to the pan. Return the tofu to the marinade bowl. In the skillet, add the chopped vegetables. Deglaze the skillet with a few splashes of soy sauce as the vegetables cook. When the vegetables are tender, add the sugar snap peas and continue to cook until the peas are cooked through but still firm. Add the rice noodles and juice from the pickled ginger. Heat through and serve with soy sauce and/or yum-yum sauce.
1 cup real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Aji-Mirin (sweet cooking rice seasoning)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon of juice from a jar of pickled ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ketchup
½ teaspoon paprika
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.
Have fun in the kitchen!