Q&A With Levana: Understanding Tofu

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Levana Kirschenbaum
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What is the difference between firm and silken tofu?

What is the best way to utilize each one?

I admit all the different tofu “choices” can be confusing. It would be nice marketing if the manufacturers included what each texture is best suited for, right on the labels. After all, this is why they made so many of them, is it not? Add to it that tofu is never the love-at-first-sight kind of food, and needs real getting used to, and you get some seriously reticent diners. But trying to scout through the tofu maze, and without getting into the gory details on how to make tofu (this is not the question we are addressing here), I’m simplifying this mystery, hoping you will be more amenable to including it in your daily meals, which would be a win-win decision — tofu being both ideally nutritious and well priced. Once you learn, tofu will be your best friend, vegetarian or not. Tofu is a versatile ingredient made of coagulating soybeans. The basic difference among the varieties is the firmness, which is a result of the various water content each holds.

GRILLED TOFU WITH SPICE RUB

Grilled Tofu With Spice Rub

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THERE ARE TWO BASIC KINDS OF TOFU:

1. REGULAR TOFU. Found in the refrigerated section. Comes in varying moisture contents resulting in several textures; the less water contained in the tofu loaf, the firmer the loaf: 

  • “Soft” or “Silken” make great scrambles, mock egg salad, burgers, and smoothies.
  • “Firm” and “Extra Firm” are fantastic cubed in miso soup (throw the cubes right in), stir-fries, and tofu steaks, seared or baked. Be sure to press the tofu steaks or cubes hard with a plate topped with a heavy skillet or pot, in order to extract maximum moisture and get it ready for searing or baking, as is, rolled in a spice rub or marinated in a teriyaki or other good mixture. 

2. SHELF-STABLE TOFU. Not as well-known as traditional tofu. Comes unrefrigerated in little cartons. I buy it online by the case under the MoriNu brand. Here the texture is perfectly smooth and perfectly firm, which makes it ideally suited for smoothies, dips, and baked desserts. When baked, shelf-stable silken tofu doesn’t release any moisture, meaning it doesn’t derail your recipe and your dessert doesn’t come out soggy or curdled, but rather, beautifully thick, smooth, and moist. This means a lot of savings in eggs, cream, and other rich ingredients, and vegan bakers are not the only ones to greatly welcome it. Shelf-stable tofu comes in several grades (soft, firm, extra-firm, etc.), but are all referred to as silken. In regards to shelf-stable tofu, the lines can be blurred and the textures interchanged without any adverse results. I will make just one exception, for when the dish is baked: here we want extra-firm silken tofu, across the board.  

MORE: Health Benefits of Beans, Plus 5 Bean Recipes

Recipe originally published in JOY of KOSHER with Jamie Geller Magazine Purim 2015 SUBSCRIBE NOW

2015 Magazine Purim

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