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A beginner's guide to cooking tofu

Tofu dish

Tofu is a very popular food item for vegans - and rightly so. It’s packed with amino acids and minerals including iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin B1. Its base ingredient – soy beans – is very high in protein and overall nutritional value. Don’t believe all the negative claims about soy especially if the statements lack any peer-reviewed research basis, as this ingredient actually has a lot of health benefits. We've clarified like we’ve clarified in a previous post, "So(y) Misunderstood".

Though tofu’s positive effects are relatively straightforward, the same can’t be said when it’s time to work with it in the kitchen. Ironically, there are some complexities involved when preparing and cooking this simple food, all of which should be remembered in order for you to enjoy each tofu dish that you want to make.

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Types of tofu

First off, you need to be familiar with the many types of tofu. Urban Vegan lists each kind, namely: silken, soft, medium-firm, firm and extra-firm. You need to choose the right type depending on the recipe to be prepared. More on this later.

It’s worth noting as well that many recipes require draining excess water from the tofu to allow it to absorb more flavour, except if it’ll be consumed raw on a salad or as part of a soup/sauce. To do this, wrap a fresh tofu block in paper towels and place a pan on top for 15-30 minutes. Afterwards, you can marinate the blocks and let them soak up the juices. If you bought pre-marinated tofu though, you can skip the pressing process altogether.

Different cooking methods

This is where selecting the right kind of tofu matters. Organic Authority showed the different ways of cooking tofu. Steaming is one of the most basic, and you can do this by placing tofu blocks over a steamer for around 7 minutes. Both soft and firm types may be used.

Next is stir-fry. Firm types of tofu is your best choice here. Stir-fried tofu and vegetables is actually a very popular dish as it’s tasty and easy to prepare.

You may also deep fry tofu blocks which can then be eaten as is or as an ingredient in other dishes. Firm types also work well with this method.

Crispy fried tofu

Another option is baking and you can either use soft or firm tofu. This is a good alternative to frying as it requires less oil. Tofu is usually baked for 30 minutes over a temperature range of 375-400 degrees F.

Grilled tofu

Grilled tofu is often seen in recipes like kebabs and tofu steaks. Place the tofu blocks on the grill for about 5 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

These are the common cooking methods for tofu and the majority of recipes utilize these techniques. Other less common methods include braising on a pan and blending as an addition for smoothies.

Why include tofu in your diet?

Aside from the nutrients that tofu provides, it’s a great addition to your daily meals if you plan on building muscle. Tofu is rich in protein which is a vital nutrient for muscle-building. Athletes, including body builders, all know the importance of protein and many of them regularly consume tofu to meet their protein requirements.

One very famous tofu lover was Bruce Lee, who is widely considered the greatest martial artist in history. A Foodie World wrote that tofu was a favourite of the Jeet Kune Do master. Even games like the virtual slot title ‘Bruce Lee’ featured his distinct physicality through using his signature poses as reel symbols. Bruce Lee was – and still is – a respected fitness practitioner and martial artist who was fully aware of the benefits of including tofu in his personal diet. Bruce Lee was a respected body builder and martial artist who was fully aware of the benefits of including tofu in one's diet.

Now that you know more about tofu, its varieties, and its preparation and cooking methods, the next step is to explore all sorts of recipes that use this ingredient. To help you get started, Good Housekeeping lists a myriad of sumptuous vegetarian tofu recipes.

Guest blog post provided by Alice Smith.


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