Tofu is one particular Asian food item that has been on the debating arena of food enthusiasts and nutritionists for quite some time now. There is a specific group of people in the world who believe that Tofu has innumerable health benefits while others hold a long list of opinions and facts against it. So which is it? And what does this Asian food taste like? Let’s find out!
What is Tofu?
It is basically an Asian food made up of coagulated soy milk, pressed to form solid white blocks which differs in softness and texture. This is done with the help of nigari (the coagulating agent) which is made from the substance left after extracting salt from seawater.
Available in various shapes, tofu usually comes packed and soaked in water. The fresher the water, the fresher the tofu will be. It can be refrigerated but the downside is that tofu only lasts for a maximum of 3-5 days after it has been opened. So make sure to use it as fast as possible otherwise it has high chances of going bad.
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
As mentioned earlier, tofu as a food item has been on debate for years. If you ask, most will outright say that tofu is bland and tasteless. While this is partially true, food experts claim that tofu is in fact slightly sweet and has an infinitesimal amount of nutty flavor to it. However, these natural flavors (especially the nutty one) are almost negligible but if tasted carefully, you’ll be able to perceive the flavors even more.
Now, you may wonder if this food item is so insipid, then why on earth is it eaten at all?
Well, the answer is simple – tofu is absorbent. This essentially means that tofu is able to soak up any given flavor. When cooked with an array of flavors, it is likely to soak up the flavors of other ingredients and thus it can be cooked with almost everything! The moisture in tofu evaporates, leaving pores behind which allows the absorption of other flavors.
However, for your convenience, we have tried to narrow down the actual taste of tofu and how it might taste with other flavors, dividing it accordingly to sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness.
Just the way we mentioned before, tofu is slightly sweet. If this sweetness was measured then it would definitely get a 6 out of 10 on the scale. In general, if you decide to use tofu for desserts it will definitely prove to be a good choice if you are looking for a slightly sweet dessert dish.
Salt is found in tofu in a very small amount and is also one of the flavors that tofu easily absorbs. Soaking tofu in salt water will give it a mild salty flavor which will make it ideal for frying or searing as a snack. The salt scale will give it a 6 out of 10 in saltiness.
Tofu is not meant to be sour at all. Hence on a scale of 1 to 10, it will certainly get a 0. If your tofu tastes sour (unless you’ve paired it with something sour) it has definitely gone bad or stale. If you want to know whether your tofu is edible, instead of tasting it, just take a sniff of the water it was stored in. Even if it is slightly malodorous, it is best to get rid of it.
Just like tofu is not meant to be sour, it also isn’t supposed to be bitter. This too on a scale will get a 0. Freezing it might result in sharper flavors but it isn’t bitter at all. However, pairing it with something bitter like coffee will balance out the strong flavors and will slightly sweeten it.
Nutrient Content Of Tofu
Though tofu is universally thought to be bland and flavorless, it is quite capable of providing some essential nutrients. It is most often called a protein substitute for vegetarians. In addition to this, it has carbs, fat, zinc, calcium, iron etc. but a very low content of calories.
Since it’s packed with nutrients, tofu has proven to be quite beneficial indeed. Tofu can be made from either organic soybeans or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) soybean. The effect of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on human health is still quite unclear. However, tofu has been deemed safe for eating but if you’d like to be on the safer side, buy the ones made from organic soybeans.
Types Of Tofu And Their Use
Now that you have quite a good idea about tofu’s taste, it’s time to jump into the types of tofu available and where they might be used. These types mostly differ in consistency or texture but are the same in case of taste and flavor. The texture is determined depending on the amount of water the tofu contains.
A higher water content will result in firmer tofu but a lower water content will result in a silkier one. The former, since it has less water will be more stable during the cooking process while the latter is likely to breakdown.
Here, we have created an ultimate list of the types of tofu and where to use them:
- Silken tofu
This type is the traditional Japanese tofu and is made of un-curdled soy milk. It’s extremely silky, smooth and creamy. However, it’s likely to break, even when it’s handled very carefully since it has the highest amount of water. Silken tofu pairs well with sauces and can be a good substitute for thick cream and fresh cream cheese. Anything that has silken tofu in it will undoubtedly be creamy and silky.
- Regular tofu
This variety, used mostly for Asian dishes, is not as soft as silken tofu and cannot withstand much manipulation either. However, as it is more stable, it can take in more flavors when sliced and marinated especially of sauces or broths. Many vegetarians also scramble it, replicating scrambled eggs. It is recommended to avoid pan or deep frying regular tofu.
- Firm tofu
Firm tofu is significantly compact and is able to withstand much manipulation. It can be chopped or diced and can be fried in all ways possible. Since they come soaked in water, make sure to blot out excess moisture. This will make sure the tofu is able to absorb as much flavor as possible.
- Extra firm tofu
It is almost similar to firm tofu but has lower water content. While firm tofu can absorb flavors really well, we cannot say the same for extra firm tofu. It soaks less marinate but in its defense, this type is far more stable than the former.
- Super-firm tofu
As the name suggests, this tofu is very firm. Its water content is so negligible that it can be compared to meat. A generous dose of spices and flavors for the tofu will give you the same experience of having delicious and flavorful meat. One downside may be that this variety is rarely found in supermarkets.
The list, however, doesn’t end here. Many more types are available such as smoked or fermented. Nonetheless, those named above are more commonly available and easier to get your hands on. On the whole, we think tofu is quite a remarkable food item which can be turned from a seasoned dish to a sweet dessert. So we hope this guide helps you to decide on which side of the debate about tofu you want to be on!