Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What IS Tofu?

Music: Death Cab for Cutie, Something About Airplanes

I have a very good friend who accepts my being vegan (just as I accept his eating meat) even though he doesn't quite understand it. By not understanding I don't mean he doesn't understand why I choose to eat this way but, rather, he is curious and intrigued at my lifestyle choice and what I do eat; perhaps even a little bewildered at times. He doesn't cook at all so that's part of it, but he also doesn't know a lot about what it means to eat vegan. But he's my friend and I'm always happy to explain things to him.

For example, he likes tofu when he eats it, but he doesn't know exactly what tofu is. He made me laugh when he wondered why it comes shaped in blocks "like a deck of cards." So I did a little research but I did not find an answer. My own guess would be that it's the easiest shape to form it into to sell as far as weight and volume are concerned. Also, you can cut it easily into nice slices, cubes, or strips depending on your recipe.

Tofu is made from soybeans (which, when cooked, look sort of like lima beans) which have been coagulated with water to form a solid. And, like meat, it takes on the flavors of whatever spices, herbs, or sauces you use to prepare it. If you ate beef or chicken or pork with absolutely no flavoring, it would taste like nothing--just like tofu.

There are mainly two different types of tofu depending on how you want to prepare it: Chinese-style (which can be found in extra-firm, firm, medium, and soft varieties in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores) and Japanese-style, also sometimes called silken (and which also comes in firm to soft textures), which can be found in aseptic packages on the shelf which you refrigerate after opening. I use the Chinese-style extra-firm and firm most often because they are easy to prepare for sandwiches and other dishes and they hold together well. But I also use silken tofu when I make salad dressings, sauces, or desserts for its super-smooth texture. I'm looking forward to preparing it hiyayakko style this summer, which looks quite gourmet and elegant, not to mention refreshing on a very hot day!

Tofu is quick to prepare and does not have the "ick" factor of meat preparation (blood and bones, for example), where there seem to be a million "rules" on how to prepare it properly so you don't die or suffer food poisoning. So the next time you want meat, try tofu instead. It's got protein, fiber, no cholesterol, and is low in fat. And remember, meat is none of these things!

Check out this site here for more information as well as cooking and preparation tips.

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