Many of my friends look at me pityingly when I confess to liking tofu. Who could blame them? In the three-plus decades since the natural foods movement helped make tofu a household word here in the United States, many awful things have been done with it. (Tofu meatloaf, anyone?) Then there’s the fact that commercial brands of tofu have a chalky taste and, in firmer styles, a spongy texture.
My turnaround came when I moved to Asia after college and learned that tofu wasn’t just some amorphous block of soy curd appropriated by ’70s vegans as a meat and cheese substitute. Treated properly, tofu is a stunner. And its possibilities are endless. In Japan, tofu is made at dawn, like bread, for early morning distribution. There I sampled chilled silky-smooth blocks adorned with nothing more than a sprinkle of grated ginger. In China I ate tofu tea-smoked and pressed to a dense, meaty texture. In Indonesia, I tasted tofu steamed in banana leaf, redolent of coconut cream and spices. I also learned that, like bread, tofu is best on the day it’s made. Once I got back to the States, there was only one way to ensure the freshest tofu with the same clean, delicate taste I’d grown addicted to: Make it myself.
Happily, tofu is no harder to make than yogurt. Whether your end product is silky, firm, or extra-firm, the process is the same: Curdle hot soy milk with a mineral salt called nigari, then press out the whey to create the desired texture. It’s best to make your own soy milk from dried beans or the tofu might not coagulate properly, unless you can get your hands on genuinely fresh soy milk from an Asian market. This recipe won’t work with supermarket soy milks such as Silk and WestSoy.
Get this recipe and 100+ more in the DIY Cookbook.
Links for tofu-making supplies: