With a little effort, even a dedicated meat-eater can turn tofu into a delicacy worthy of a family dinner, snack, or dessert.

So, why eat tofu when you could just as easily bite into a nice, juicy steak? The reasons are myriad. The most commonly known are the nutritional benefits of tofu. It is high in protein, iron, and several other minerals, while being low in cholesterol and other fats. Tofu also takes a relatively small amount of time to cook. As opposed to roasting meat for an hour or more, tofu can be quickly pan fried in a matter of minutes. With these facts in mind, it’s simple to see why many athletes make the switch from fatty red meats to tofu.

So, what is it? It may look like a slightly yellowish slab that jiggles slightly when poked. Well, that’s true, but what goes into it? Tofu consists of soy milk which is coagulated, then pressed into blocks of varying firmness. The process is somewhat analogous to making cheese out of milk. Tofu can be bought at supermarkets in four basic types, all involving the tightness of the final product. Silken tofu is the softest, often crumbling when touched. This tofu is good for stews and salads, and is mostly used when the flavor of tofu is needed, not the actual pieces. The second, medium grade, can be cut into cubes or other shapes, but will not hold up to heavy movement or stirring without breaking up. This tofu is ideal for deep-frying, as it quickly gains a crunchy exterior while retaining its moistness. The third grade can be called either “firm” or “brick” tofu. This is the tofu you see used in many restaurants whose recipes call for stir-frying or stewing without breaking up the tofu in the dish. The last quality is called “pressed” tofu. This tofu is a bit harder to find, but, depending on what sort of use a chef would like to make of the tofu, is more convenient. This tofu has had much of the excess water pressed out, making the tofu much easier to cook without any crumbling. This type of tofu can be reproduced in the home by simply wrapping a brick of firm tofu in paper towels, then putting a heavy object such as a pot on it. Leave this sitting in a deep pan for about thirty minutes, and then cook as desired.

With these basic tips in mind, choose the right type of tofu for you, then enjoy!

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