Whenever people find out I’m vegetarian, the discussion inevitably veers toward tofu. There are a surprising number of people to whom tofu is a complete mystery. To others it’s a dietary staple. But since I’m asked questions about tofu so very, very often and since it’s vacation time and nobody’s around the blogosphere much anyway, I figured it was time to produce a short, but comprehensive guide to tofu that I, or any of you, can conveniently whip out the next time the subject of tofu comes up. There will be time (space) for Qs & As at the end of this post.
Tofu Myths & Facts
- Not every vegetarian eats tofu. (This will shock and amaze people since some seem to believe that’s ALL we eat).
- Not everyone who eats tofu is vegetarian.
- Tofu is not made from rendered pork fat or the milk of some exotic Asian animal. No animals were harmed, milked or otherwise called upon to produce tofu.
- Tofu is made from soy beans. It’s basically curdled soy milk. That’s why you may sometimes see it referred to as bean curd.
- Yes, raw tofu might look unappetizing
- But so does raw meat.
- Not many people eat large slabs of raw tofu.
- Yes, raw tofu has little flavour and a yucky texture.
- But so does raw meat
- Tofu is high in protein and those all-important isoflavones, and low in fat, cholestrol and calories
What to do with Tofu
Tofu comes in 3 basic consistencies – firm, soft and silken. The silken is good for sauces, dips and desserts, the soft good for stir-frying (especially when it’s been frozen, then thawed), and the firm is good for a zillion things.
There are lots of great tofu recipes on the internet and in books devoted entirely to cooking with tofu. If anyone would like to share their favorite tofu recipe here, please feel free.
Here’s one of our favorites:
Tofu Alfredo Pesto Sauce
1 package, soft tofu
1-2 cloves garlic
Bunch of fresh basil
½ tsp. sea salt
Pine nuts and/or parmesan cheese optional
Throw everything into a blender and whiz together. Warm up briefly and pour over fettuccine pasta or whatever or whomever you want. You can decorate it with veggies and stuff, too, if you want.
Qs & As
Post your probing and compelling tofu questions to the comments page and I will answer them here.
Q: Why do non-vegetarians feel such revulsion for tofu? (Tania)
A: People are often afraid of things they don’t understand, Tania. It’s white and wobbly and it has no identifiable source. Omnivores are accustomed to knowing exactly what form their food formerly had. They are intimately acquainted with how their beef lived, what it consumed, how it was slaughtered and butchered and came to be the delectable item they have on their plates. The lifespan of tofu is a bit sketchy and therefore repulsive.
Q: What was the last tofu dish you made? (Me)
A: Funny you should ask, but we had tofu today. The daughter has been wanting “small bits of food piled on top of each other” for a while. She sees these sorts of dishes on cooking shows and magazines all the time and thinks they’re glamorous, so instead of taking her out to an expensive restaurant, I thought I’d surprise her with this wee pile of food. Honey garlic tofu on a bed of jasmine rice, topped with broccoli, baby carrots, blueberries and a tamari glaze.
Q: Is tofu really the wonder food they say it is? Over the years I’ve heard it can cure everything from menopause to cancer, which seems a little extreme. (Jazz)
A: This reminds me of the old UP NaBloPoMo days. I don’t know that tofu can “cure” things per se, but it does have many health benefits: it lowers cholesterol, contains healthy omega-3 fats and antioxidents (including selenium) which may help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. The phytoestrogens, specifically the isoflavones, genistein and diadzein in tofu act like estrogens in the body which may help with an easier menopause and may also prevent certain types of cancer. Word is that women in countries where tofu is a staple food, do not experience any of the problems commonly associated with menopause.