Tofu is originally from China, where it was first created over 2,000 years ago. This plant-based protein is an excellent source of essential amino acids. Studies have also shown that it reduces inflammation and improves elasticity in blood vessels.
As its name suggests, this fragile tofu has a silky, almost custardy texture. It ranges from super soft to firm, but all versions have two things in common – they are never pressed and have a high water content. Silken tofu is usually packaged directly into tubs, or tubes in the case of super-soft varieties. Soft tofu can replace silken in most recipes, although it’s not as smooth. Silken tofu can be eaten raw (just drain the water), blitzed into smoothies and dips, mashed to make a creamy dressing for salads, or blended into the filling of a vegan cheesecake to achieve a creamy, light texture. It can also be used as an egg replacement to make vegan mayonnaise.
Medium or medium-firm tofu
Also known as ‘regular tofu’, this variety has been pressed to an extent to remove some of its water content. Although firmer than its silken counterpart, it should still be handled gently, so avoid using it in stir-fry, or pan frying it. Medium varieties work well with sauces and soups making it perfect for dishes such as mapo tofu and simmered soups like miso.
Firm and extra-firm tofu
Both these have very little moisture content making them easy to handle. The firm variety is probably the most common. Use it to whip up vegan scrambled eggs or marinate it since it keeps its shape and can be pan or stir-fried. Extra-firm tofu fries up well and becomes really crispy, but its density might prevent it from absorbing flavours as well as the firm variety does. It is often smoked using beechwood or tea leaves and is excellent for dishes that require a smoky flavour and chewy texture.
This is the driest kind of tofu and comes in vacuum-sealed packaging. Grate it and use it in place of mince to make a meat-free filling for dumplings, or slice and bread it to make tofu katsu. In case you have leftover super-firm tofu, store it in a container of water and replace the water every two-to-three days.
Available in pre-seasoned packs, this kind of tofu does away with all the hard work. It can be pan fried, grilled, barbecued or eaten as is.
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