By Leigh O’Connor.
‘Yeah, I make vegetarian jokes…but not about tofu – they’re tasteless!’
As one of the globe’s most versatile foods, tofu is rich in protein and a provider of a plethora of other health benefits.
It is an ideal way to avoid eating meat while still getting enough protein in your diet and can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways. On Wednesday, September 1 we turn the spotlight on this soy-based food with National Tofu Day - part of the reason behind the celebration is to encourage people to cook with delicious meat-free alternatives.
On the surface, tofu may look like a bland, boring, vegan cooking ingredient, but its history is surprisingly interesting. Here are five fun facts and a Japanese-inspired recipe for you to try at home:
•While tofu is entirely vegan, with no meat or dairy products involved at any stage, the process of making it is very similar to cheese making. Dried soybeans are soaked in water, crushed and boiled; the mixture is then separated into pulp and soy milk, sodium is added to separate the curds and whey and then the curds are pressed into solid white blocks to become what we know as tofu.
•Tofu originated in China, but has a Japanese name. It was first made during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), while the word itself is derived from the Mandarin ‘doufu’, which means ‘curdled bean’.
•Benjamin Franklin first brought tofu to the US…the earliest written record of its existence by any American comes from Franklin in 1770 in a letter to John Bartram, with a description of a ‘cheese’ made from soy curds and seawater.
•Tofu is virtually flavourless – one of the most frequent arguments you’ll come across by those who don’t like tofu is that it’s bland! This is absolutely true - without seasoning, tofu tastes like…well, nothing.
•There are many different types of tofu – most commonly silken, soft, medium, firm, extra-firm and super-firm. This tells you how much water has been pressed out of the soy curds during processing; firmer tofu contains more fat and protein than the softer version.
Want to experiment and try tofu for yourself? This recipe for tofu Japanese skewers uses tamari, sake and mirin as a marinade to add flavour to cubes of super-firm tofu, skewered with spring onions, grilled and basted to form a glaze.
Serve with a fresh green salad for a quick and easy lunch for the family. For more vegan recipes, click here.