Tofu is one of those foods that you either love or hate. Chances are that if you are eating Asian food of any kind, you are getting some tofu in your diet. Tofu is considered the cheese of Asia since it looks a little like it in block form. Made from the curds of soymilk, tofu is highly nutritious and a staple of most Asian diets. There are studies that suggest it helps lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, and even balance estrogen. Bring it on, I say! Although it is not a miracle food, it is a nice substitute for some other proteins. Eaten in small quantities, and not as a “burger replacement” as seen in this country, Asian countries use tofu like meat, in small servings. I appreciate the way tofu takes on the flavors of the ingredients that you add to it. It is like a sponge, soaking up garlic, ginger, soy sauce, scallions, peanut oil or even chocolate! Its texture ranges from silky (silken) and smooth like a panna cotta, to medium, to thick, dense and extra firm.
I make a simple tofu dish at home with just a teryaki marinade, then fry it in a pan with a little peanut oil, making the outside edges crispy. Tofu is great by itself or with stir-fry veggies. With only 3-5 grams of fat, and 17-45 percent protein, no saturated fats and no cholesterol, it does have some benefits over animal proteins.
Another form of tofu is Yuba. Its thin paper-like sheets are the part of soy that comes from the top layer of the warm fresh soymilk. You can eat it like sashimi, or shred it into a kind of pasta. I learned all this on the Hodo Soy Beanery Website: hodosoy.com, where you can find all sorts of tidbits of information and see the process first hand.
The first of its kind here in the Bay Area, Hodo Soy Beanery (Hodo Soy means “good bean,” in Chinese) is a tofu factory in Oakland started in 2004 by Minh Tsai. When Minh went looking for good, artisanal tofu in the Bay Area, he came up short and decided to make the kind of tofu that reminded him of his home country, Vietnam. He uses only non-GMO beans, making his tofu factory one-of-a-kind. Take the Hodo Soy Tofu Lover’s questionnaire and find out what kind of Tofu lover you are. Whether you are a vegan or a carnivore, you will learn something new about tofu and maybe about yourself. Or if you are even more curious, take a tour. Tours are $10 and are offered once a month, available on their website or through www.CUESA.org.
Try this recipe for a delicious treat. Your kids will love it and you will be amazed how good tofu will taste when a little chocolate is thrown into the mix!
1 Hodo Silken tofu
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
optional cinnamon or grated chocolate
On low heat, stir all ingredients into a stainless steel bowl resting in a saut pan with a little water. Stir carefully so as not to spill water into the melted chocolate. Do not let it come to a boil. You just want the ingredients incorporated and the chocolate completely melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl or whip with an immersion blender until evenly mixed or completely smooth. Continue stirring along the surface to incorporate air for approximately 10 minutes. Pour into single serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and sprinkle cinnamon or grated chocolate over the top.
Recipe from Hodo Soy Beanery 2010
Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com.