Cooking by kittee:

A word on tofu.

I heart tofu. But it has to be good. Like most of you tofu-phobics, I hate gross globs of unseasoned tofu. I am very particular about what kind I eat (and how it is prepared). These are my specifications before I buy. Accept no substitutions!

  1. The best kind of tofu around is that found in your friendly neighborhood Asian market. It comes in the fridge in either big plastic buckets, medium clear plastic containers (like those you get at the salad bar), or Styrofoam take-out containers. Sometimes you have to ask for it. Where I live, the tofu is made fresh daily and delivered several times per week. Each container will contain between 4-10 medium blocks of tofu floating in water. This tofu is delicately textured and has no flavor whatsoever. It is extremely fresh and delicious, and I even enjoy it uncooked with a little soy sauce on top. To keep it this way, change the water once or twice a week. Mine always stays fresh until I've used up the last piece, even a couple of weeks.
    COST: just tonight I purchased an enormous bucket with 10 pieces for a mere $2.49. Bargain City!
  2. I also like bulk tofu from the health food store. This tofu is usually found floating in a gigantic bucket of water in the fridge. Buy as many blocks as you like, take them home and immerse them in water in a covered bowl or pot. Though fresher than the kind at the supermarket, this often has that sour tofu smell. I would never eat this tofu without flavoring it heavily. Change the water regularly and this might stay fresh for a couple of weeks. This tofu tends to be much firmer than the variety from the Asian store.
    COST: Approximately $2.00 a pound.

    If the first two varieties of tofu are unavailable to you, you still have choices. Though, I wouldn't want to be you. In many cases, I'd rather do without tofu foodstuffs then deal with the following. Use discretion!

  3. Tofu from the dairy case. This kind of tofu comes in small plastic white containers with clear cellophane tops. It often has rancid yellow water around it. I have bought this stuff many times when it was old and sour, with a horrible smell too. I use this tofu only in dire emergencies and only when I am making something that has a million ingredients in it and will be baked. If you insist on purchasing it, check the expiration date and try to get the freshest available. Some very small shops will keep old stock on their shelves passed date. When you bring it home, open it right away, immerse it in water in a covered dish and refrigerate. Change the water several times per week to keep it as fresh as possible.
    COST: approximately $1.69-1.99 for 16oz.
  4. Those weird little boxes of shelved silken tofu (Mori-Nu®). This tofu is aseptically packaged and will last in your cupboard for emergencies. However, it has a gray appearance, an off-flavor and a wacky, gelatinous texture. Yuck. It does blend nicely though. Use it only in a pureed form as in salad dressings, puddings and the like with a lot of ingredients added for flavor.
    COST: approximate $.99-$1.29 for around 10oz.

Whatever kind of tofu you buy take care to examine it before use. Tofu tends to slime as it goes bad. Sometimes you can just cut those bad parts off. Use common sense, if the slime goes too deep just throw it out. After the slime sets in, tofu will grow pink mold. Never try to salvage pink-molded food. Pink mold can be dangerous and make you sick.

Ah... the age-old question: Now that I've bought it, what do I do with it?

For other ideas check out the book TOFU Cookery by Louise Hagler. This is a great place for beginners to start because it demonstrates how to use tofu in dips, soups, salads, salad dressings, breads, desserts and more.

There are also a few tofu recipes posted here on MisterRidiculous and a million more online. Check out the recipe URLs on my vegan links page for more places to look on the web.

Cooking by kittee: