Tofu seems to be a pretty partisan food – you either love it or hate it. There is very little going on in the middle ground. The argument for those who love it goes like this: it’s a wonderful “vessel food”. You can make it taste like whatever food you want, simply by adding the right sauce, vegetables or meats to it. It will typically pick up the flavors of these ingredients and you quickly forget that on its own, it has very little flavor. This of course, segues into the argument for tofu haters: it’s flavorless, has a spongy texture, and is basically a pretty bland product.
Even though there is a tendency to believe that tofu was basically ushered in with the natural foods movement back in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s; this food was actually discovered over 2,000 years ago in China, and has become a staple food of Asian cuisine. As non-Asian cultures become more familiar with the product, tofu has gained wider acceptance in other areas of the world.
The essence of tofu is pretty simple. It’s made from soybeans, water and some type of coagulant. Milk from the soybeans is made by soaking, grinding, boiling, and straining dried soybeans. Salt or enzyme coagulants are added to provide the desired amount of firmness to the product. Soft or silken tofu will have the highest moisture content. Firm tofu is drained and pressed, but will still have a fairly high moisture content. Dried tofu has the least amount of moisture, and will have the firmest consistency.
The nutritional components of tofu are remarkable. High in protein and calcium, tofu contains very little fat and no cholesterol. For those on a lactose-free or vegetarian diet, tofu provides a great source of nutrients.
Many tofu manufacturers also have flavored/marinated tofu’s available. Different herbs and spices are added to the tofu, which allows the consumer to have a wonderful full-flavored product to enjoy alone or as an accompaniment with other foods.
There are many studies that suggest that tofu and other soy-based foods may help women with the effects of menopause. To give you an idea of how effective a long-term diet that is very inclusive of tofu can be, in the Chinese culture, where tofu is a very large part of their diet, there is not even a word for menopause. It is that scarce in China, and much of this is attributed to a diet strong in tofu. Cardiovascular health may also be improved greatly with the consumption of tofu. High in Omega-3 fatty acids, tofu can improve the ratio of HDL’s to LDL cholesterol.
So, perhaps it’s time for the partisan bickering to end – let’s just all get along and enjoy tofu. Why not? It really can have a wonderful flavor, and the health benefits are spectacular. And by the way, at Albert’s, we have a wonderful variety of tofus available. Enjoy.