Tofu Week: Mystery Mush No More!
What is tofu?
Most people know that tofu is a soy-based something, and until recently, I fell into this category. Not really sure what this mystery block of white mush actually was.
But it’s actually really neat! The making of tofu parallels the making of cheese. With cheese, you take milk and add rennet or an acid, causing the casein proteins in the milk to aggregate into clumps. With tofu, you take soymilk and add calcium sulfate, causing similar aggregation. Then you just take these coagulated clumps and press them together into the classic tofu cube! The amount of water pressed from the cube determines the firmness of the tofu, which we’ll get to when we talk about variations. And unlike cheese, tofu has a very neutral flavor and takes on the flavor of the ingredients around it.
Where to buy tofu
Tofu never seems to have a consistent spot in grocery stores. You can find it in either the produce, refrigerator, or vegetarian section of most groceries. Pro Tip: You can often get fresh tofu a lot cheaper at Asian groceries.
Variations of tofu
There are two main varieties of tofu: silken and regular. Silken tofu has, you guessed it, a much silkier texture and originated in Japan. Original tofu is more common and was first made in China. Each of these varieties can vary in firmness.
- Soft: very versatile, is often substituted for dairy and eggs in desserts.
- Firm: firm enough to pan fry, but can also be crumbled (like to put in scrambled eggs).
- Extra Firm: the most dense variety, well suited for cutting into cubes and baking or frying, but the high density means less flavors are absorbed.
There is also a variety called “sprouted” tofu. While most tofu is made with the whole soybean, sprouted tofu is made with a sprouting bean. It has more protein, but can be pretty hard to find. Below you can see the different kinds of tofu. Extra firm (top), silken (middle), and the range of varieties from firmest to silken going left to right (bottom).
How to Store Tofu
Tofu can either be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer.
- To store in the fridge, keep fresh tofu in the water it comes in. Every few days, replace the water with fresh water.
- To store fresh tofu in the freezer, place entire (unopened) container in freezer. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the fridge for a few hours, then drain the water and squeeze additional water from the tofu. Freezing adds texture and creates a more durable, less crumbly tofu, though I’d only suggest freezing the firm tofu.
Tofu Nutrition Information
per 100g tofu (about ¼ of brick, a little less than ½ cup)
- Calories: 145
- Carbohydrates: 4g
- Fiber: 2g, 9% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 16g
- Fat: 9g, most is polyunsaturated fat (the good kind)
- 68% DV Calcium: The most abundant mineral in the body.1% of the calcium in your body plays a vital role in vascular contraction/dilation and nerve transmission and signalling. The other 99% supports teeth and bone structure and function.
- 59% DV of Manganese: A trace element that plays a role in healthy brain and nervous system function.
- 19% DV Phosphorus: A mineral that works with calcium to form calcium phosphate, the foundation of bones and teeth. Also plays a role in energy metabolism as part of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
- 15% DV Iron: A major component of hemoglobin, the proteins that make up red blood cells and carry oxygen around the body. This is a non-heme source, meaning it does not come from an animal. It is not absorbed as well as heme iron.
- 14% DV Magnesium: A mineral that plays a large role in bone formation and maintenance in addition to being a part of over 300 reactions within the body.
- 11% DV Thiamin: A water-soluble vitamin that turns your food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose). People at risk for deficiency include those with Crohn’s Disease, alcoholics, and those undergoing kidney dialysis.
- 10% DV Zinc: A mineral important in strengthening your immune system, healing wounds, and maintaining your sense of taste and smell.