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Tofu From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Tofu From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

From Age Tofu to Zhá dòufu, interesting tofu facts, figures, recipes and varieties you maybe still don't know about this vegan food.

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Age tofu. Also known as agedashi, is a tofu-based recipe from Japan. Dusted with cornstarch or potato starch, it is fried, served with a spicy sauce and garnished with spring onions and grated daikon radish or dried bonito flakes.

Benjamin Franklin. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was the first American to mention tofu in a letter dated 11 January 1770.

Coagulation. Tofu, also known as bean curd, is produced by coagulating soy milk. The curds are then pressed into blocks.

Douhua. This is a particularly delicate Japanese-style tofu, with a very high liquid content, mainly used for desserts.

Extra firm. Of all types of fresh tofu, this is the variety containing the lowest quantity of liquids and has the consistency of well cooked meat. Its Chinese name is Dòu gān.

Firm. Firm tofu, or Chinese-style tofu, is the most widely used type of fresh tofu and may be more or less firm. It is often eaten cut into small cubes.

Gypsum. Calcium sulphate is the most traditional and popular coagulant used in the production of tofu.

Han Dynasty. The origins of tofu are shrouded in mystery. However, it was during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) that it became popular, while the Song Dynasty (960-1127 A.D.) witnessed its widespread use throughout the population.

Inarizushi. This is a sort of tofu turnover filled with sushi rice, before being fried. Its name derives from the Shinto divinity Inari, the god of fertility, agriculture and rice, industry and prosperity, who is believed to be particularly fond of tofu.

Japanese-style. Also known as silken or soft tofu, this is one of the main types of tofu on the market. Compared to firm tofu, its consistency is less compact and it ‘breaks up’ more easily. It is often sold unrefrigerated in cartons. Ideal for dressings and sauces, it may also substitute dairy products and eggs.

Kōya. Mount Kōya is situated south of Osaka; it is considered to be one of the most sacred places in Japan, the centre of Buddhism and famous for its traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. Hence its name 'kōya dofu', a nutritious freeze-dried tofu.

Layers. It would seem that, when frozen, a soft block of tofu turns into one thousand layers, owing to the enormous quantity of ice crystals forming within. ‘Thousand layer’ tofu is mainly a speciality of Taiwan.

Mapo. One of the most popular traditional Chinese dishes made from tofu. It comes from the province of Sichuan; its name means “grandmother/old woman with a pock-marked face” and it is extremely hot and spicy.

Neutral. Owing to its generally neutral taste, tofu is a culinary chameleon, which lends itself to an infinite number of interpretations combined with the flavour of other ingredients, while offering a valuable source of protein.

Okara. Soy fibre or dregs that remain once the soy milk has been extracted from the beans. Mainly utilized as animal feed, it sometimes appears in Japanese cuisine.

Pickled. This type of tofu is air-dried under hay and allowed to ferment from aerial bacteria. It is subsequently immersed in brine mixed with other ingredients such as vinegar, Chinese liqueur etc.

Qufu. The birthplace of Confucius where the most popular food speciality is smoked tofu.

Rufu. This is the Mongolian term indicating fermented milk, which literally means “coagulated milk”. Similar in sound and meaning – 'doufu' is the Chinese term for “coagulated beans” – which would support the theory that we owe the existence of tofu to the Mongols, from whom the Chinese learned the techniques for making it, formerly unknown in China where dairy products were abhorred by the Confucian culture.

Stinky. A fermented tofu that gives off a strong smell. Similarly to certain cheese varieties with a pungent smell, stinky tofu may be enjoyed with sweet wines, such as Sauternes.

Turmeric. The yellow-coloured spice used when scrambling tofu, a sort of vegan version of scrambled eggs, often enhanced by adding other flavours, such as cumin or cayenne pepper.

Usine de la Caséo-Sojaine. The first factory in the world to produce “soy dairy products”, and the first in France to make tofu. It was founded in 1908 by the then-young Li Yuying, a Chinese anarchist and vegetarian with a French degree in agriculture and biology.

Vegetarian Food. It was thanks to Buddhism and its vegetarian diet that tofu spread from China to the rest of the world: by the mid XII century, it had already reached Japan, Korea and South East Asia.

Wine. Not much is known about the art of pairing tofu with wine, probably because of its versatility. When soft and silky, it pairs well with light white wines, such as some American chardonnays, while the firmer versions cooked with spicy ingredients call for more robust whites or reds, so long as they are fresh, fruit-rich and drinkable, as in the case of Beaujolet.

Xingren dòufu. This is “almond tofu”. The term 'tofu' has now been extended in meaning to indicate any curd with a texture similar to that obtained from soy beans, but made from other ingredients, such as almonds or sesame.

Yuba. This is “tofu skin”, or yuba, the protein-rich membrane of soy milk that coagulates on the surface and is then dried to become yellowish sheets.

Zhá dòufu. In Chinese, this term literally means 'fried tofu': one of the most popular ways of eating tofu, diced and fried until it becomes crisp and golden on the outer surface.

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