Tofu is a nicer name than beancurd! It sounds cute and like a food that could toughen one up! Tofu itself is very soft but being a derivative of the good protein source – soybean – it is rich in protein too.
When you use it in certain recipes to replace say maybe paneer or even when it holds its own fort in a recipe, the surprised ‘this can’t be tofu!’ will be oft heard!
The soybean is virtually a complete food, which is why it is sometimes known as the ‘meat of the soil’.
Soybeans can be processed in a variety of ways. Common forms include soy meal, soy flour, soy milk, tofu, textured vegetable protein (which is made into a wide variety of vegetarian foods, some of them intended to imitate meat), tempeh, soy lecithin and soybean oil.
Soybeans are also the primary ingredient involved in the production of soy sauce.
Tofu, one of the more interesting products of soymilk, is sometimes called cheese of Asia. Because the soybean fibre has been removed during the manufacturing process, tofu is extremely easy to digest. Apart from the high protein content, tofu also contains calcium, iron and vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
Here I will not be numbering the good qualities of tofu. Here I will try and make it easy for you to use this wonder food.
What I get to hear is that it is tasteless and rubber-like and not palatable. Think of it like a sponge that will take on the flavour you soak it in! Think of it as a blank canvas that will take colours of your choice!
Not just soups
You can buy firm tofu or silken tofu. I urge you to buy it fresh and well. Any stale tofu would be smelly and have texture like hard rubber. I replace it easily in paneer bhurji making it masaledar tofu bhurji. If you don’t tell no one knows! Also put tiny cubes of it in soups.. skip the cheese and the croutons. I have also replaced it in paneer tamatar ka khut. It is just as good if not better.
Tofu does not like oil. Especially lots of oil in a deep kadai. Just as well because fried tofu changes in texture that is very much like stale paneer that has been fried to a crisp. No, not recommended. Next time when you feel like a fusion chilli paneer try a chilli tofu with a lavish teaspoon of garlic paste. It is really yummy.
Now that tofu has made some headway into your collection of recipes, understand that soy is an excellent source of high quality protein. It is low in saturated fats and is cholesterol free. Soy contains high concentrations of several compounds which have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic activity.
Tofu is rich in isoflavones. Isoflavones reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a disease associated with reduced bone density and increased bone fractures. They also lower rates of breast cancer and prostate cancer and reduce menopausal symptoms including mood swings and hot flushes.
Make it right
Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk. Soybeans are soaked, crushed and heated to produce soy milk to which a coagulating agent such as calcium sulphate or calcium chloride is added.
The resulting soy curd is then pressed to give tofu. Tofu (can call it soy cheese) is sold as blocks packaged in water.
Silken tofu can make excellent cream cakes. Mix tofu with a salad dressing to give creaminess without cholesterol. But how about a lovely breakfast of scrambled tofu and mushrooms on toast on this weekend?
(The writer is a master chef, author and television host. E-mail at email@example.com )