You may love tofu but are wondering what is tofu? Tofu, which originated in China thousands of years ago and is an essential part of many cuisines in East and Southeast Asia, from Japan to Korea to Taiwan to Vietnam, is coagulated soy milk. What it’s set with – be it a salt, acid, or enzyme coagulant (or a mixture) – depends on where and how the tofu is made. Silky tofu is added straight to the container it is packaged in, while block tofu (from firm to super firm) is pressed to extract moisture – the longer it is pressed, the firmer it is.
But this fleeting explanation doesn’t do it justice. Like many of the big, complex things in this big world – literature, symphonies, religion, that dream you had a few nights ago – tofu is difficult to sum up. Tofu contains a variety and defies simplification. It comes in myriad shapes and textures – from silky-smooth tofu that is as soft as pudding to yuba leaves that are so pliable that they can be used as dumpling wrappers – and it can be prepared in myriad ways (grated, frozen, fried, braised, baked) the idea).
Instead of trying to shove tofu into a block box, we asked cookbook authors and food writers who love bean curd (another name for our beloved one) to share their best tips about buying, eating, and enjoying.