In this article, we shall be talking about this not so commonly used yet wonderful and nifty tofu.
If we are being honest, tofu really neither looks nor tastes good when it is removed from its packaging.
A common answer to the question on the taste of tofu is that it is quite literally tasteless or bland.
But, the best thing about tofu tasting bland is that you can easily infuse it with any range of flavors of your liking and choosing.
What does tofu taste like? Let us just say that tofu is essentially tasteless. It can, however, be customized to taste according to your choice and preference.
Think of it this way, whatever taste you are craving, you can easily make tofu taste like it. Anything from chicken to fish and even chocolate, you can have it. You are allowed to go crazy and incorporate anything your heart desires.
The reason being that tofu does not have its own flavor and will easily absorb that which you choose to let it.
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What is tofu?
Tofu is a food product that first originated in China. It is a dish that has traditionally been used as a staple element in cuisines in East and Southeast Asia countries.
Tofu can be defined as a plant-based protein that is made from soybeans.
To be more specific, tofu is made from curdling soy milk and then pressing the curds into soft white blocks. This process of making tofu includes beginning with soaking the soybeans in water.
The soybeans are usually allowed to remain soaked in water until they have absorbed enough water in which case, they appear to be twice the size as when they were first put into the water.
These enlarged soybeans are then crushed into a pulp of milk and bean. Some heat is then applied to the mixture of milk pulp and bean pulp in order to reduce the moisture in it through the process of evaporation.
This process usually ends in the formation of a paste from the pulpy mixture.
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This paste that is acquired is then spun in a machine with the sole intent to separate the milk pulp and milk from the bean pulp.
What follows this spinning is the thickening of the milk that has been separated. The milk is separated into a curd that is then pressed into blocks or whichever other shape is desired.
As opposed to years ago, tofu has gained more and more popularity and is now used by people all over the world. Tofu can be used in salads, sandwiches, barbeques, stir-fries, sauces, breakfast scrambles, or even tasty desserts such as chocolate tarts.
This ability to be used in such a variety of dishes is one of tofu’s greatest strengths and reasons for its likeability.
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Can you flavor tofu?
Without a doubt, you can definitely flavor tofu. As we covered above, tofu is naturally tasteless, and consuming it in that state may not be ideal for a number of people. In fact, consuming it bland could even lead to hating the tofu in its entirety.
Going back to our elementary science, our tongues can taste five basic tastes.
These are sweet like sugar, salty like well, salt, bitter which can either be hydroxides or bases, sour like acids like lemon, and umami which can be referred to as glutamates.
Are there different types of tofu?
Tofu is usually categorized according to its density which is gotten from its moisture content seeing as it is made from curdling soy milk. The three main categories of tofu are:
- Soft tofu or silken tofu
This is the tofu that has been pressed the least and has less protein content in it. This tofu is also known in some corners as Japanese-style tofu. As the name suggests, it is silky and it has a very creamy texture to it. silken tofu is so soft that you can literally use a spoon to scoop it out.
However, it can also be cut into small cubes if you like it that way. The most traditional way to use silken tofu is to serve it in a broth-based dish like soup.
It can also be blended into sweet and savory applications in order to give more volume, protein, and fluffiness to a dish such as a chocolate tart.
- Firm tofu
This is the softest of firmer tofu. Compared to the other forms of tofu, firm tofu is the most widely available form of tofu. It is a lot easier to slice as compared to silken tofu. It does not crumble when you pick it up and can hold up well when it is tossed into a marinade.
Firm tofu has the creamy texture of silken tofu but does not completely dissolve when you crumble it. When it comes to its use, firm tofu is easily the most versatile form of tofu.
From putting it in a stew to pan-frying it to deep-frying and stir-frying and using it as a spread, there can be no dull moments with firm tofu.
- Extra-firm tofu
This is tofu that has been pressed the most and has the most protein content in it. To say the least, this type of tofu is extra firm just as the name suggests.
The uses of extra firm tofu are almost similar to those of firm tofu but it is worth noting that this extra firm tofu may not absorb flavor as well as firm tofu. It is, however, easier to use.
What are the benefits of eating tofu?
Tofu is one of those foods that has a host of benefits to its name. not only is tofu incredibly low in calories, but it is also one hundred percent cholesterol-free (can you imagine that?).
Tofu is also often packed with a large dose of complete protein (that means it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need). In addition to all these benefits, tofu is high in calcium which means that it bears almost two times the amount of calcium contained in a cow’s milk.
The consumption of tofu has also been linked with a reduction in the risk of diabetes and certain cancers such as breast cancer.
It can also help with a person’s weight loss journey. Other key benefits that accrue from the consumption of tofu are better bone health, especially for people in early menopause.
It also helps in promoting better brain function, alleviating some menopause symptoms, and promoting skin elasticity by reducing wrinkles. Now, who would not want all these benefits for themselves?
Does tofu go bad and how can you store it?
As is typical with almost every other food item in your kitchen or pantry, tofu can and does go bad if not correctly stored.
If you have just been from the store and have purchased a block of tofu, keeping it closed and in its original packaging is a-alright.
This unopened packet of tofu can simply just be put into the refrigerator. However, once this package has been opened, the most ideal way to store the tofu to avoid it going bad would be to transfer any leftover tofu from the open packaging into a clean plastic container.
What you will want to do is to remember to submerge the tofu in clean water while it is in the container. After that, you just simply properly cover the plastic container and placed it in the refrigerator.
Note to always ensure that the water submerging the tofu is changed out each day.
Can you freeze tofu?
You most certainly can freeze tofu to keep it fresher for a longer period of time. Tofu freezes but in the end, it will experience a change in texture from firm to spongy as well as a change in color to a much darker color.
The process of freezing tofu is quite simple; it is usually essential to ensure that you start off with drying the tofu. This can be done by draining it by using a tofu press if you have access to one. If you do not you can make use of kitchen towels. Simply place one at the top of the tofu and another at the bottom of the tofu.
From there, you can use either a chopping board or a heavy book to press on the top of the tofu in order to drain it (change out the towels when they get wet).
Once you have completed draining the tofu, you can freeze it in a resealable plastic bag or container that is freezer friendly. Make sure to not leave any spaces of air in the bag before putting it in the refrigerator.
When it comes time to use the frozen tofu, you will first want it to defrost. This can be done by placing the tofu into the microwave for a short period of time to allow it to thaw.
How long does tofu last?
A fresh unopened packet of tofu should be able to last in the refrigerator for between three and five days. Once opened the shelf life reduces drastically and the tofu should be consumed within three days.
On the other hand, a fresh unopened packet of tofu can last properly stored in the refrigerator for between three and five months.
If the packet of tofu has been opened, the shelf life of the tofu reduces to between two and four months if stored in the freezer.
If the tofu has already been cooked or used in a dish then it can last just about as long as the fastest expiring ingredient in the said dish.
How to tell if tofu is bad
Although neither perfect nor flawless, your senses are the best way to discern whether or not your tofu has gone bad. One of the really common tale-tell signs of off tofu is a change in color from the normal white to darker more caramel color.
The next sure sign is in the smell of the tofu, fresh tofu does not essentially have a smell so if you take a whiff of your tofu and that smells sends you back or is just off then the tofu has gone bad. The tofu will also give off a strong, sour smell.
When it comes to texture, bad tofu will more often than not have a slimy feel to it. If you touch your tofu and it feels slimy and slippery then it is time to toss it out.
You should also be keen to notice whether there are any signs of mold growing on the tofu, if there are, just throw the whole thing out, there is no point in eating it or attempting to use it in a recipe.
Can you eat bad tofu?
Any food item that has been manufactured has an expiration date. These are usually printed on the packaging as part of the labeling.
If you have properly stored your tofu, you can use it well past its expiration date. However, if the tofu is already showing signs of spoilage, then it would probably be best to not consume the tofu altogether.
When you consume tofu that has gone bad, you expose yourself to experiencing certain symptoms related to food poisoning. These symptoms tend to vary from individual to individual. The most common symptoms arising from the use or consumption of bad tofu are;
- A feeling of being bloated and having a stomach full of gas.
- Diarrhea which if left untreated and is severe can easily lead to dehydration of an individual and possibly cause death if not addressed.
- Stomach cramps or aches due to contractions of the stomach muscles.
Tofu can also have very severe symptoms depending on how bad the tofu is. These can be symptoms such as nausea and vomiting which can also lead to dehydration as well as fever and chills.
It would be wise to note that if you experience any of these symptoms in a severe manner and self-treatment is not helping and they have been around for more than a few days, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Alternatively, just do not eat or use bad tofu. This can save you a lot of pain and trouble in treating the symptoms that would otherwise occur.