Has anyone ever said I wish this tasted more like tofu?
Tofu is basically a waterlogged sponge of nothingness that has always had an uphill battle to win favor with flavor-driven American palates. We appreciate texture, but in a secondary role, balancing and completing a dish. When we are wowed by a texture, it tends to be crispy-crunchy or fat-based and creamy — the textures associated with European-style luxury foods.
Tofu originated in China where texture plays a more significant role, even trumping flavor in certain delicacies.
Some of the most prized ingredients in Chinese cooking are texturally challenging to Western palates. There’s the mucousy, jelly-like texture of dried sharks’ fin and bird’s nest soup, and the gelatinous crunch of ingredients like sea cucumber, beef tendon, and jellyfish. These foods are all basically flavor-neutral, but the unfamiliar (and thus objectionable) consistency can be a turn-off.
Don’t make the mistake of lumping tofu in with that group.
Share your true feelings with some tofu-loving friends and they’ll tsk tsk poor you who has never prepared it properly. They’ll insist that you just haven’t had the one magical dish that will open your eyes and taste buds to tofu’s glories. In fact there’s some truth to that. Tofu is a shape-shifting chameleon that can be silken and custardy in one form and firmly meaty in another. If you don’t care for one consistency there’s plenty more to try. It can be spooned like pudding, cooked in crumbles like ground beef, or fried up creamy and crunchy like eggplant. It can be dried into leathery skins or puffed up crisply like a tater tot.
There are good reasons to learn to love tofu.
Tofu is gluten-free, sugar-free, and low in fat and calories. It’s a complete source of protein and essential amino acids and is loaded with iron, calcium, and B-vitamins. It’s cheap, long-lasting, and can make your Meatless Mondays a heartier affair. Which brings us back to poor you who has never had it properly prepared. Know that you’re not alone. There are resources dedicated to bringing palatability to the tofu-averse:
Serious Eats has A Guide to Tofu Types and What to Do With Them.
May’s Machete offers the pragmatically titled How To Make Tofu (So It Doesn’t Suck).
The food scientists at Food Hacks teach you How to Prep Tofu Properly: A Beginner’s Guide for Tofu Haters.
Changing the Texture of Tofu from Vegan Cooking with Love will teach you just that.