Whether you eat tofu on the regular or not, chances are that you've never considered actually making the bean curd from scratch. I mean, who the hell makes tofu from scratch, right? And why would you want to make tofu from scratch anyways if you could just buy a block of it at any supermarket?
Well, because fresh homemade tofu is amazing! Amazing, I say! Fresh tofu made from your own hands is unlike any bland block of bean curd you'll find at your local grocery store. Freshly made tofu is incredibly creamy, subtly sweet, and infinitely versatile.
It's amazing the things you can crank out in your kitchen when armed with just the right bit of information.
Asian Tofu is not only a wonderful guide to making your own tofu at home, but it also includes a great collection of recipes utilizing all things bean curd. And while there are plenty of vegetarian-friendly recipes, there is also an abundance of dishes that feature both tofu and meat.
And yes, you can use store-bought tofu for use in most of the book's recipes, but what fun is that when you can make your own?
Asian Tofu begins with a great, and very thorough, Homemade Tofu Tutorial in which you first learn to make homemade soymilk, and from that soymilk, you can then make your own tofu--be it silken tofu, or firm block tofu.
A bit of patience and effort is required to make tofu at home, but I wouldn't say it's difficult. Andrea's directions are so clear and easy to follow, it's almost as if she's right there in the kitchen holding your hand every step of the way. All you really need to do is soak some dried soybeans in water, grind the softened beans in a blender, then cook and strain the blended bean mixture to make soymilk.
For my purposes, I chose to make silken tofu because the only special equipment needed to make it is a square of muslin cloth for straining the soymilk. Because muslin cloth has a tighter weave than cheesecloth, it's best for straining the blended soybean mixture without any soybean solids making it into the final soymilk. The soybean solids that are left in the cloth after straining are called Soy Milk Lees. But don't throw those lees out, as they can actually be used in other recipes down the road as you will see.
Save those Soy Milk Lees
Muslin cloth can be easily found on the cheap at most any fabric store. Whereas for block tofu, you do need to find a tofu mold to press and shape the final product--but you can also easily find tofu molds online and at Asian markets.
I should also mention that in order to tranform the homemade soymilk into tofu, you do need to use a small amount of coagulent such as Nigari (magnesium chloride), gypsum (calcium sulfate), or epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). I used gypsum that I was able to find quite easily at a local homebrew store.
One of my silken tofu versions was a variation suggested in Andrea's book where citrus zest can be mixed into the tofu just before it is cooked and coagulated. In my case, I used Filipino calamansi lime zest to make a lightly perfumed and delicious silken tofu in which you can see, smell, and taste the calamansi.
Having made silken tofu from Andrea's book three times now (three!!!), I do have the itch to find myself a tofu mold so I can start making firm tofu. And based on how incredible my silken tofu turned out each time, I'm sure the firm tofu is fantastic as well.
So what to do once you've made your own silken tofu? Well, for my own Filipino slant I enjoyed it very simply with a drizzle of soy and calamansi juice:
Tofu and Toyomansi
And I also sliced the tofu and threw it into a steaming bowl of the Filipino sour soup known as Sinigang:
Veggie and Tofu Sinigang
But trust me, Asian Tofu has more than enough of its own recipes to keep you tinkering with your tofu.
Remember those leftover soybean bits that were strained out during the tofu-making process? Those soy milk lees? Well, there are a few recipes in Asian Tofu that actually make use of this tofu byproduct. My favorite of those recipes is a Ginger Chocolate Chip cookie wherein the cookie dough is comprised of the soy milk lees and studded with candied ginger and chocolate chips.
Gingery Chocolate Chip Cookies
And another great recipe from Asian Tofu is the Silken Tofu and Edamame Soup that features cubes of silken tofu surrounded by a beautiful green soup puree of edamame beans and rice. Andrea was kind enough to share that recipe below.
As you can see, much can be done with a handful of dried soybeans--and what I did in this blog post isn't even close to scratching the surface of what's inside Asian Tofu. To learn how to make your own freshly made tofu at home, I highly recommend the book. It really is eye-opening to experience fresh tofu if all you've ever had are the bland, liquid-suspended blocks sold at supermarkets. I've learned to really enjoy tofu, and the Asian Tofu cookbook has also enabled me to know good tofu from great tofu whenever I'm eating out.
Silken Tofu and Edamame Soup
Photo Courtesy: Maren Caruso © 2012
Reprinted with permission from Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
1/4 cup packed cooked white rice (short, medium, or long grain)
1/4 teaspoon salt
11/2 cups water, filtered or spring preferred
6 ounces (1 rounded cup) frozen edamame, thawed and at room temperature
About 11/2 teaspoons white (shiro) miso
About 1 cup Dashi Stock
8 ounces silken tofu or Citrus-Scented Silken Tofu
Japanese ground chile pepper (ichimi togarashi), fresh citrus zest, or 6 edible flower petals, for garnish
1 In a small saucepan, combine the rice, salt, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, and adjust the heat to allow the mixture to gently bubble for 10 to 12 minutes. The rice will enlarge and release its starch into the water, creating a slightly thick opaque mixture similar to a thin gruel. Add the edamame, then turn off the heat. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2 Transfer the rice gruel and edamame to a blender. Add the miso and blend until smooth. Add the dashi stock and continue blending to incorporate the liquid well. Taste and add extra miso or dashi if you want a more savory flavor or thinner soup, respectively. Pour through a mesh strainer positioned over a bowl or saucepan; stir to facilitate straining. Discard the solids. Cover and refrigerate up to a day in advance. You should have about 3 cups.
3 The soup may be served cold, warm, or hot. If you are serving the soup warm or hot, bring the tofu to room temperature or warm it by letting it sit in hot water for about 10 minutes. Regardless, cut the tofu into 4 to 6 blocks (one for each serving); use a crinkle cutter if you want pretty ridged surfaces.
4 Place each block of tofu in a shallow soup bowl, then ladle the soup around it. Top the tofu with the garnish of your choice and serve.