Sunday 18 February 2018

Adventures in food: Tofu

Aoife Barry

Here's a four-letter word that may scare you: tofu. This product, made from processed soy bean curd, is eaten by billions of people around the world, but here in Ireland it's still seen as a strange food product by some people. I admit that I was one of those people too, but, after sampling it in Thai dishes in particular, my taste for it changed.

Tofu is used in many vegetarian dishes when something 'meaty' is desired, and it is a source of protein and iron. You can buy plain, smoked or flavoured tofu in health food, Asian and speciality shops, as well as some supermarkets. If you buy organic tofu, you can be assured it is genetically modified organism (GMO) free.

This week, I will tell you about my adventure in cooking with firm tofu; next week, I will move to silken tofu. As we ease into the summer, tofu can be used in a variety of ways: with a hearty salad; in a light, brothy soup; in a sandwich; with hot or cold noodles.

When you buy tofu, the first thing you must do before you cook it is press it. Drain the tofu in its carton, then remove and cut the tofu into the desired shape. Lay a clean tea towel on a chopping board, followed by a layer or two of kitchen towel. Then place your tofu on this.

Place another layer of kitchen towel, followed by another clean towel, on top of this. Then place two heavy books (or tins) on top. The aim is to press as much moisture out of the tofu as possible.

Leave the tofu to be pressed for around 20 minutes. Once done, it will be more absorbent. You can marinate, dry-fry or stir-fry tofu in a sauce. This week, I tried a recipe for baked tofu that marinates while it is cooking.

This recipe is adapted from one in the book Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes For Entertaining And Everyday, by Lauren Ulm of the Vegan Yum Yum blog (

If you don't want to use a lot of coconut milk, exchange up to a third of a cup for an equal amount of vegetable stock.

How did I find this recipe? Well, I have reduced the soy sauce from four teaspoons to two, as I found the taste was overpowering -- although it did give the tofu a 'meaty' look. The coconut milk and lime gave it a rich taste, but next time I'd replace some of the milk with vegetable stock.

If you don't like coconut or lime, why not make your own marinade? Try a sweet chilli marinade, for example, and follow the baking instructions below. Bona appetit!

Irish Independent

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