It’s not a secret that vegetables are good for you. I’m sure at one point everyone has had the thought, “I need to eat more vegetables;” a dietary adjustment that is difficult for many of us who aren’t sure how to incorporate more plants into our diet, or perhaps just dread the taste.
If you’ve decided to reduce your intake of red meats, you’ll need an additional source of plant-based protein… and that’s where tofu comes in. Tofu is versatile and can easily be a substitute for most meaty dishes. Tofu can be a little intimidating at first, so follow this tofu guide to learn the basics.
For non-vegetarians, or those just starting out, tofu is a bit of a mystery. Most people are vaguely familiar with it and might even know that it is a soy product (though more and more often tofu-alternatives made with ingredients like almonds and chickpeas are popping up in stores). If you’re anything like me, though, the most curious (and, honestly, terrifying) thing about tofu is the texture.
Tofu is made a lot like cheese. It is curdled from soymilk in much the same process that cheese is curdled from milk. So, tofu shares a similar texture to many forms of cheese—a good thought to keep in mind when you open your first package of tofu and find yourself face to face with a spongy, white, gelatinous square.
If you go to the store to buy tofu, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choices. Turns out, just like there are dozens upon dozens of choices of cheese, there are many different types of tofu, too. If you want to have a good experience with your tofu (especially if you’re new to the stuff) then you need to make sure you buy the right type for your meal. Here’s are the various types of tofu you need to know:
Silken Tofu, just as it sounds, has a silk-like texture that is smoother and softer than other forms of tofu. This is because when the tofu is made it is not pressed like other types of tofu, providing it with the most moisture content. Because of this, silken tofu is best when used blended into creamy dishes, such as what a dressing or smoothie might call for.
Tofu can seem a bit exotic, and if you’re anything like me, it’s raw appearance may seem less than appetizing. If you’re new to the stuff, trying it in a dish before you buy it and make it yourself is a good option to decide whether it’s a food for you. A good Asian cuisine restaurant will likely have some great tofu dishes that are newbie friendly. Though not the healthiest of options, I personally love the way Pei Wei cooks their tofu.
If you’ve decided tofu is for you and you’re ready to try your hand at making it yourself, find a recipe and make sure to follow it thoroughly. When you are learning a new food and its quirks, it’s always best to leave the experimentation behind until you are completely comfortable with it. Once you’ve mastered cooking with tofu, it makes a great alternative to even your favorite meat dishes, and you might just find that you actually prefer it in some cases. There is a certain rendition of Veggie Korma that I can’t get enough of that uses chunks of tofu in place of higher-calorie chunks of cheese, and I love it so much I could honestly eat it every day for the rest of my life. Win-win, if you ask me.
Happy (tofu) cooking!