Tofu is a plant-based food rich in protein and made of condensed soymilk. It is pressed into a solid block for consumption. While tofu has a bland, neutral taste on its own, it takes on the flavors of sauces, marinades, and seasoning well. Tofu comes in all sizes and shapes with varying textures depending on how it was processed. The following are the most common types of tofu available in supermarkets:
One of the most popular types of tofu, this variant is originally from Japan. It features a soft texture and contains more water than some other tofu types. Naturally, it contains fewer nutrients due to the increased amount of water. The production process of silken tofu removes the usual soybean flavor that many people don’t like. Unlike other tofu types that are typically pressed during the production process, silken tofu is left unpressed. Hence, it retains all its moisture.
If you have ever eaten this common type of tofu, you will know that it is very creamy, jiggly, and smooth. Because of these properties, many refer it to as “the whole milk” in the realm of tofu. Silken tofu has a fatty flavor and a creamy feel. Soya milk is used to make it denser. However, it may develop a faint sour taste over time. In terms of texture, this variant can be described as pudding-like. It’s very smooth and soft to cut through.
Silken tofu is excellent as a cream or dairy alternative in desserts or sauces and is very fragile. If you aren't going to handle it much, it is an excellent addition to soups or other dishes.
Many people mistake soft tofu for silken tofu. The primary reason behind it is that some manufacturers label their silken tofu as soft tofu. However, there is a difference, and it lies in how it is made as well as its texture. Soft tofu is usually not pressed but if it is, it is done so minimally. It can be curdled in a mold before being transferred to the familiar white tub that you see at the store. Furthermore, it is also available in smooth varieties where the curds are very similar to that of silken tofu.
Soft tofu is characterized by an increased amount of liquid. Because of this, it tends to crumble. You can crush the soft tofu with a fork or smoothie to create sauces and creams of all kinds. You can sauté it in the pan with condiments, herbs, or other ingredients to obtain a consistency that is similar to that of scrambled eggs. Apart from this, you can also add it to soups.
The smooth properties of soft tofu make it a great addition to soups. You can also slice it and cover it in sauces, turn it into a sweet pudding, deep-fry, or add it to smoothies for extra creaminess and protein. Although it is still quite tender, it is easier to handle and can be pressed.
Firm tofu is, as you may expect, firm. It is all-purpose tofu. Its production process involves pressing it to reduce the moisture content. Because of this, firm tofu is typically sold as firm blocks with the patterns of the muslin used to press and drain the tofu. This type of tofu is sold as unflavored and features a rubbery feel like that of paneer. In terms of firmness, firm tofu is like raw meat. This means if you press it, it will spring back. Since it is pressed, it contains relatively less amount of water. Because of this, firm tofu doesn’t break too easily and can hold its shape well during cooking. It also absorbs flavor well, providing that you marinate or season it as you would meat. When cooked, it has a rubbery texture with a soft center. Mapo tofu uses middle film tofu.
Because of its firmness, you can deep-fry, stir-fry, or even pan-fry firm tofu. This means you can incorporate it in just about any meal or use it as a great replacement for meat. It particularly goes well with specialty meals, e.g., chili soy dipping. If you are making savory recipes and you don’t know what type of tofu to get, then firm tofu is one of the safest choices for you thanks to its versatility.
Extra firm tofu is best for stir-fries. Extra-firm tofu differs in terms of moisture content and overall density. As you may expect, it is much denser as compared to firm tofu because of the rigorous pressing that gets rid of most of its moisture. This results in bean curd typically featuring a white color and solid edges with a texture resembling cooked meat. Extra-firm tofu has a lot less water consistency inside; hence, it is much easier to deep-fry than firm tofu.
Extra-firm tofu generally crumbles quite easily especially if you thinly slice it. If you cut it into triangles and cubes, you can pan-fry, deep-fry, or stir-fry it until it turns golden brown. However, keep in mind that extra-firm tofu does not absorb marinade well as compared to firm tofu. You can serve it with sauces as well as dishes such as vegetables and rice. You can also coat it with cornstarch to retain its unique flavor.
Extra-firm tofu is suitable for virtually all kinds of cooking because it holds its shape well. It is a perfect addition to any meal thanks to its reduced carb count and increased protein amount.
For stir fry, it’s wise to drain tofu on a few layers of paper or cloth towels to remove excess moisture. It’s even better to press it: cut in half horizontally, then put each half on a cutting board that is propped at an angle so excess liquid can drain off (ideally, it will drain into the sink). Top with another, somewhat heavy object-a cutting board or a skillet, for example—and let sit for a half hour or so. Pat dry and proceed with any recipe.
Fried tofu is a dish made of viscous soymilk curb pressed to create soft blocks that are then fried in oil. It is very popular in many Asian nations such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. Many western countries have also embraced it.
Apart from fried tofu, deep-fried tofu is also a popular variety. The key difference between the two is typically the moisture content. Fried tofu contains a much higher moisture content as opposed to deep-fried tofu. Thanks to higher moisture content, you can work fried tofu variety into different shapes before frying.
Fried tofu is naturally flavorless. Many people serve it with a well-seasoned dish or simply with a sauce. Some also serve it alone as an appetizer or as part of dishes with noodles, rice, vegetables, or a combination of these ingredients. Sauces, you can serve range from thin to thick and can be spicy, tangy, sweet, or a mix of flavors.
This is a pre-seasoned variant of tofu that is marinated, baked, and usually vacuum sealed. It is typically made from extra-firm tofu and it features a chewy texture thanks to the baking process. Baked tofu is a tasty method of cooking tofu. It is crispy, delicious, and packed with a lot of high-quality protein. The recipe is healthy, flavorful, and nutritious, and you don’t need oil to make it. Baked tofu is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Many people consider it one of the best ways of cooking tofu because of these reasons.
Baked tofu on its own or with any kind of sauce you want. You can also use it to make other tofu recipes and it is a great choice if you wish to add some protein to soups, salads, and even stews. Additional you can consume it as a snack, cube it into a veggie stir-fry, slice it to use for sandwiches, cube it on top of grain bowls or salads, or toss it with cooked soba noodles, chopped scallions, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
Also commonly referred to as fermented bean curd（豆腐乳）, fermented tofu is a saline condiment from Asian cuisine. It is prepared by fermenting bean curd in salt brine. Fermented tofu is already seasoned and available for use. However, like all fermented products, fermented tofu features the most acidic flavor and most pungent odor. It is savory but also very delicate. This type of tofu has a spreadable and soft texture that resembles that of certain varieties of cheese. Very popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, fermented tofu is often fermented with sesame oil, vinegar, salt, and rice wine.
For a typical traditional Chinese breakfast, Chinese people eat fermented tofu spread on steamed buns and pair it with congee. 😊
You can enjoy fermented tofu as an ingredient in a braising sauce or dipping sauce. You can also use it in steamed and stir-fried dishes. Apart from its common use of enriching sauces or flavoring braised vegetable dishes and rice dishes, there are also versions of fermented tofu available in the market that feature some unusual condiments.
Tofu is extremely versatile. You can use it with a wide range of dishes and there are some types that you can eat as snacks. The above-listed are the most popular types of tofu. Apart from these, there are other less common types available in supermarkets as well, e.g., medium firm tofu, super-firm tofu, smoked tofu, tofu skins, and more. Generally, the difference is based on how firmly the tofu is pressed, among certain other factors.
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