Give Tofu a Chance

Varona Maysonet-Ayala, Managing Editor

I like tofu. There! There, I said it. I know your immediate thoughts most likely include, “Tofu? Disgusting! The texture! The taste!” and so many other unfair judgments. Now, hear me out—It’s good.

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made from soybeans. It’s created the same way cheese is, by coagulating milk (in this case soy milk), and pressing it into a convenient block shape. Tofu, because of its texture, holds a lot of water. I mean, a lot. Almost all recipes that involve tofu call for pressing water out of it, by placing something heavy (soup cans, books, more tofu) on a plate atop the tofu.

This completely changes its texture. From spongy and soft, it becomes firm and dense, ready to fry or saute or just eat. Part of why I enjoy tofu is due to its variety—you can have it silken, which works really well in vegan dishes, firm, on noodles or rice, and even fried on whatever you want. If you were wondering, my favorite way to have tofu is either as vegetarian mapo tofu (Chinese, spicy!!, and soft) or fried (involves cornstarch and a terrifying encounter with scalding oil).

Now, to your concerns.

Texture: as I explained above, tofu’s texture can change dramatically. Meaning that if you don’t like its texture, try it a different way! There are so many ways tofu is prepared, it’s nearly impossible to not find at least one of its forms that’ll make your tastebuds and stomach happy.

The taste… this one really gets me. Obviously, tofu itself isn’t bursting with flavor. But this, and the fact that it has the ability to absorb liquid, creates endless possibilities! You can infuse it, marinate it, or season it with a wide variety of flavors, hence why tofu is included in such a wide variety of cuisines (especially in East and Southeast Asia).

I know these reasons still may not sell it for you. That’s okay! All I ask is that the next time you see tofu listed on a menu, or mentioned in a passing comment, you don’t sneer. This is said often, but you really can’t knock it ‘till you try it, and try it in various dishes. Also, word of advice, maybe try it in an experienced context—meaning in an authentic Chinese restaurant (the ones in China are quite good) or any other place that knows their way around tofu. Many bad impressions of it stem from it being prepared poorly. Or try making it yourself! Get your soup cans ready.