Day 29: Frozen Tofu

September 29, 2008

I’ve tried a good number of meat analogues during this month, from textured vegetable protein to tofu. So far, tofu has proven versatile and easy to use. It absorbs flavours easily, has a decent texture most of the time, and can be used with a wide variety of other ingredients, in all different kinds of food.

Silken TofuAs I’ve mentioned before, tofu comes in many different basic forms, like the silken tofu on the left, which is a soft and jelly-like mass, and then runs to firmer types, according to how much water has been pressed out of it.

It has a long and illustrious history throughout the Far East; in Korea, tofu is held in such high esteem that certain restaurants only sell Sundubu jjigae, a hot and spicy stew made with soft tofu. In China, tofu was once a favourite offering to the spirits of departed ancestors, because it was the only food soft enough for them to eat, supposedly.

As a foodstuff, tofu is also very good for you – it is high in protein, low in fat and studies in Japanese men have shown a positive correlation between tofu consumption and decreased likelihood of cerebral atrophy. In other words, it’s good for your brain.

One of the many ways in which tofu has been prepared for hundreds of years is by freezing it. Varying according to the variety chosen because of the differing amounts of water present, frozen tofu forms large ice crystals which, when defrosted, leave large cavities in the flesh of the tofu. It results in a better flavour, with a more meaty texture. I’d read about this earlier in the month, and I was determined to try it. So I got a block of firm tofu, and left it in the freezer overnight. It duly turned into a soy lolly, and I defrosted it and pressed the water out; this is a necessity with most tofu varieties, especially the firmer ones.

I then cut it into strips and marinated it in soy sauce, and fried it. And it brilliant! The texture was actually really meaty, with a chewiness that ordinarily-prepared tofu lacks. It was the meat substitute that I’d been looking for: totally vegan, and totally tasty. I only wish I’d found it sooner.

One more day to go, and I find myself looking forward to it. I’d like to cook something very special for tomorrow night, but I can’t think just what yet. I’d like it to be a suitable marker for my time doing this, something which will send me out with a bang. I’ll think it over and hopefully something interesting will come to mind.

In the meantime, before I post for the last time as a vegan, I hope that anyone who’s been keeping up with my time here has enjoyed reading.


Day 15: Bourbon Tofu

September 15, 2008

This is just going to be a quick one, as it’s late. I left it kind of late in the day to do this one, because I was, well, doing other stuff.

Lunch was fairly dull, I’m afraid: bits of cheddar-style Sheese in wraps with salad. Not about to light the vegan world on fire with that, really.

Dinner was more interesting. One of my favourite things to eat in the whole world is bourbon chicken. It’s tasty and moreish, and I can eat platefuls of it all day long, especially when there’s broccoli in it as well. I was really craving some tonight, but obviously I couldn’t have any.

But then I thought to myself, why not try it with tofu? One of the virtues of tofu is that it takes on flavours very easily when cooked. A classic form of it is to simply marinade firm tofu in soy sauce and fry it. It comes out very nicely, especially if you let it get really crispy. The saltiness of the sauce comes over really well.

I decided to go looking for various recipes for bourbon chicken in the hopes of finding something I could apply to a block of tofu. Some of them were really complicated, I must say, which I didn’t want to do. Yes, I realise that vegan cooking requires a little more thought and planning, and I enjoy cooking; but I don’t want to be chained to the stove, either.

Eventually, I amalgamated some of the simpler ones, and came up with a nice version of it which I think almost anyone could eat and enjoy.

Taifun TofuFirst, the tofu. This is all based on a 200g block of firm white tofu, in this case, the Taifun. Taifun is a German company which specialises in tofu. It makes all kinds of flavoured varieties, as well as the plain, and I would particularly recommend the basil flavoured variety. It’s firm and chewy and delicious.

I cut the block into bit-sized pieces and left it to drain. The marinade was equal quantities by volume of soy, whisky and brown sugar, about 60ml each. That’s a 1/4 cup to you Merkans. I then added about half a teaspoon each of garlic powder, ginger and vinegar, and left the tofu marinating in it for a couple of hours.

Chinese LeafI then chopped up some asparagus that was about ready to be eaten or thrown away, along with some Chinese leaf and stir fried it, setting it to one side. No special reason, those were just what I had in the way of green veggies.

The tofu was then fried until crisp and set aside. I then added the remainder of the marinade sauce to the pan and reduced it until it was thick and sticky, and then chucked in the veggies and tofu and stirred it all in. I ate it with boiled rice, and it was delicious. I will definitely be cooking this again soon!

I have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow, so I have no idea what I’ll be eating. It’s for a filling, so something soft, most likely. I’ll keep you posted.

Crossposted on The Odd Blog