Tofu: A Staple of Japanese Cuisine
Tofu is a soybean-based product that’s been around for centuries and is widely used in many dishes. The Japanese have perfected the art of making tofu, and it’s now a staple of their cuisine. Tofu is used in many different dishes in Japan, from soups and salads to stir-fry dishes and stews. It’s also a great substitute for meat in vegetarian dishes. It can even be used as a substitute for eggs in baking.
History of Tofu
Japanese Tofu, sometimes referred to as soybean curd, is a traditional ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is made from soybeans that are boiled, mashed and then mixed with a coagulant to create a soft, creamy texture. In China's Han dynasty roughly 2000 years ago, tofu production was recorded for the first time. Tofu was introduced to Japan during the Nara period (710-794), and was initially used as a medicinal food. During the Heian period (794-1185), tofu was mainly consumed by the upper classes as a delicacy and was not widely used by the common people.
During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), Zen Buddhism rose. People who adhered to Zen Buddhism did not eat meat or fish, but instead ate dishes made entirely of plant-based foods, which was known as shojin ryori. Therefore, tofu became a very important ingredient in shojin ryori and was mainly consumed by monks and samurai. It was during the Edo period (1603-1868) that tofu began to become popular among the people. Tofu began to be produced in large quantities and became more widely available. The first tofu shops began to appear in Edo (present-day Tokyo), and tofu soon became a popular ingredient in many dishes.
Types of Tofu
Tofu is made from soybeans that are soaked and ground into a paste, then mixed with water and coagulants before being pressed into cubes. The texture and flavor of the tofu depend on the type of coagulant used, as well as the amount of water added. The tofu can be firm, soft, or extra-firm, depending on the type and amount of coagulant.
There are three common types of fresh tofu: Momen Tofu, Kinugoshi Tofu, and Oboro Tofu. Momen tofu (firm tofu) is made from coagulated soy milk. It has a firm texture and a mild flavor, making it a great addition to soups, stir-fry dishes, and other dishes. Momen tofu is often served cold or heated, and it is a great source of protein. Kinugoshi tofu (soft tofu) is made by grinding the soybeans and pressing them into a block. It has a silky texture and a mild flavor, making it great for dishes such as miso soup and nabe. Kinugoshi tofu is often served cold, and it is a great source of calcium. Oboro tofu (unpressed tofu) is very soft and has a texture like pudding. Enjoying it fresh (hot or cold) is the best way.
Byproducts of Tofu
In the days when refrigeration was difficult, processed tofu products were created to preserve the flavor of tofu and extend its shelf life. Examples include Yakidofu, Atsu-age and Abura-age. Yakidofu (grilled tofu) is made by draining the hard tofu and grilling it over charcoal or in an oven. It is not easily broken, so it is often used for shumai and stewed dishes. Atsu-age (deep-fried tofu) is made by deep-frying the soybeans and pressing them into a block. It has a crunchy texture and a savory flavor, making it a great addition to tempura dishes. Atsu-age is often served hot, and it is a great source of iron. Abura-age (thin-fried tofu) is made by deep-frying the soybeans and pressing them into a block. It has a crunchy texture and a savory flavor, making it great for dishes such as inari sushi and udon. Abura-age is often served hot, and it is a great source of protein.
In addition, byproducts are also produced in the process of making tofu, such as yuba and okara. Yuba is made by boiling the soy milk and skimming off the skin that forms on the surface. It has a delicate texture and a nutty flavor, making it great for salads and other dishes. Yuba is often served cold, and it is a great source of fiber. Okara is the residue left over when making soy milk. Bean curd residue contains a significant amount of protein and fat, as well as dietary fiber and some nutrients.