Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food of Chinese origin. It is made from soy milk, water and a curdling agent. The production of tofu from soy milk is similar to that of producing cheese from milk. It is made by coagulating soy milk, then pressing the resulting curds into blocks.
Tofu contains little fat, and is high in protein, calcium and iron. Tofu itself has very little flavor or smell, but it has the ability to absorb new flavors through spices and marinades. Due to this quality and nutritional value, tofu, a staple of Asian cuisines since ancient times, has recently become a popular material used in Western vegetarian dishes.
There is a wide variety of tofu, which can be split into two main categories: fresh tofu — produced directly from soy milk, and processed tofu — processed in some way from fresh tofu.
White color and with a very tender texture, it contains the highest moisture content of all fresh tofus. This is the typical tofu of South China. It is usually used to make soup.
The typical tofu of North China, firm tofu has a yellowish color, and regains its shape when pressed. Because of its firm texture, it is suitable for stir-frying, and can be picked up easily with chopsticks.
This extra firm tofu contains the least amount of moisture of all fresh tofu. It is usually pressed very flat and sliced into long strings, which look like loose cooked noodles, and can be served cold or stir-fried.
Also called fermented tofu, it consists of dried tofu cubes that have been fully air-dried, then soaked in Chinese wine, salt water, vinegar, minced chilies, etc. for slow fermentation.
This smelly tofu is a kind of snack with a strong odor described as rotten or fecal. Blocks of soft tofu are fermented in a unique brine, and then fried till the rind becomes crisp, and are usually served with sweet sauce, soy sauce or spicy sauce.
Mapo Tofu (Mapo Bean Curd)
Mapo Bean Curd is bean curd in a chili and bean sauce, which is usually a thin, oily, and bright red suspension. It is often topped with minced meat, usually pork or beef. Seasonings include water chestnuts, onions, other vegetables, or wood ear fungus.
There is a short selection of the many tofu dishes listed below. Tofu is often a secondary ingredient in meat and vegetable dishes.