When I first visited Japan I was 14, and tofu was absolutely disgusting to me.
At the time my only experience with tofu was that it was a spongy, dry-ish thing that was used as a meat substitute in stir-fry. Tofu in the US was not meant to be enjoyed for what it really was (glorious tofu.)
I blame that tofu for the negative tofu stereotypes that exist today.
Upon coming to Japan I later found out that tofu is a veritable food of the gods and it comes in different shapes, sizes and varieties!
I am going to share some with you today:
Kinu tofu – Means “silk tofu.” Kinu is soft like silk and breaks easily. Don’t try to stir fry this tofu! It’s best eaten as is.
Momen tofu – Means “cotton tofu.” It is harder than kinu because the water has been partially strained out of it. Momen is good for cooking because even if you mix it,it keeps shape. It is a little spongy, but pleasantly so.
Yose tofu/ Oboro tofu – This tofu is sold in smaller packages and does not have water surrounding it. A coagulant has been added to it to give it shape, and to make it keep its shape. It has got more “tofu” flavor packed into it because it is packaged and served as is.
Goma dofu – One of my favorites. This is a creamy, sesame flavored tofu that if actually made with soy milk. It was developed as a dish that could be eaten by the vegetarian Buddhist monks. Packages of these usually come with a special miso sauce.
Ganmodoki – One of the least “tofu-y” tofu products…It is tofu + veggies + egg + various that has been deep-fried into this lovey-looking wrinkly ball. Despite its brain-like looks, it is very tasty.
Abura-age – In Japanese folkfore, Inari, the fox-like god that farmers pray to, loves eating abura-age. I have no idea if actual foxes enjoy eating it. But because of this weird connection, anything on a menu that says “kitsune” (fox) does not mean it contains fox meat. It is abura-age, tofu that has been sliced thin and deep-fried.
Atsu-age – Very similar to abura age except that it is and entire block of tofu that has been fried, not slices. I like to use this in stir fry.
Yuba – Yuba is the skin of the tofu. After soy milk is boiled, it starts to develop a skin on top. This is yuba. Yuba is soft, but a bit stretchy and has a nice wrinkly texture.
Okara – You know how when you make cheese there are curds and whey? Well, these are the curds of tofu. You can definitely make use of this because it is flavorless and can go into almost anything.
What is your favorite way of enjoying tofu? Do you enjoy it?
I would suggest trying the varieties that are fried if you are not a big fan and work yourself up to eating plain yose tofu. After you get hooked on yose tofu, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with anything else (maybe).