Monday, October 4, 2010

In Defense of Tofu!

                Today I feel it is necessary to talk about tofu. Yes, tofu, the butt of many FoxTrot jokes and the subject of Doug Funny's favorite song by The Beets. The first time I tried tofu was at Ghengis Grill and I added it to my mix of veggies and turkey out of pure curiosity. The texture was a little alien, but the taste was by no means objectionable. My knowledge of the magical curd was limited to the fact that it was somehow made from soybeans.

Tofu can usually be found in its own special section at the grocery store; along with plain, vanilla, and chocolate soymilk (mmm chocolate), veggie burger patties, dairy free cheese and other oddities. I buy Nasoya brand. It’s the only brand I have ever tried so I can’t vouch for it being better or worse than any others. Firm and Extra Firm and Silken are the varieties I’ve tried.  They come in fun square packages filled with water. I wouldn’t suggest trying to peel back the plastic unless you would like to start a wet t-shirt contest. I cut two slits and then hold the package over the sink to drain the liquid out and then peel back the plastic.
Nasoya Tofu Varieties, I use the silken tofu in smoothies.
Once you’ve opened the tofu (I’ll wait) you will find a spongy block of bean curd with lots of potential! You can bake it, deep fry it, sauté it, stir-fry it, add it to soups, stews, smoothies, dips…you get the picture. Just don’t eat it raw from the package. My first meal using tofu was a simple stir-fry recipe my friend sent me via text message. A stir-fry is what I’ve decided to make for dinner tonight because I’ve got some left over broccoli in my fridge, and honestly…it’s the only way I can stand to eat it. Blech.  Yes, the woman studying nutrition hates broccoli! We’re human too you know?
Rarely have I heard a good excuse for not liking tofu. Most people will respond with “yuck” accompanied by a grotesque facial expression. Most people haven’t even tried it! I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I can make tofu taste exactly like steak, pork, or chicken (although I’ve come pretty close to that last one). I find that I either end up masking the flavor with marinades or I can taste the soy goodness of the tofu along with whatever I’m serving it with.
One of the most impressive recipes I’ve made, using extra firm tofu, came so close to chicken nuggets I’ll be damned if I wasn’t in a school cafeteria! (The lunch ladies used to yell at us for calling them McNuggets™) This is a recipe I’ll share at the end of this post; and for those of you with children see if you can fool them! My brother once served his famous green curry to my family using tofu and my dad had no clue! We told him it was chicken. I don’t condone putting “secret” ingredients into people’s food and then waiting until they eat it to laugh heartily and tell them what idiots they are however; and I think you may lose friends this way.
I’ve included a couple of photos for your viewing pleasure. The best thing about tofu, besides it being an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians and a flavor soaking sponge, is that it’s SO CHEAP! I can always find it for around 2 dollars for 14 oz. I can divide this up into three portions to use in three different meals. Meals for one, mind you. An important preparation method I’ve learned is that freezing the tofu, thawing, and pressing before use gives it a meatier texture. When I saw this step in recipes I would think, “Nah, can’t be bothered with that nonsense.” If you think about it, it is really no more time consuming than defrosting meat for dinner…it takes less time in fact! It will also soak up more flavor this way because once it is defrosted the moisture is easier to press out.

Tofu Tacos! I used a packet of taco seasoning to flavor crumbled firm tofu with diced onions and green bell pepper. No pictures of the actual tacos because I ate them. ;-)

White bean, vegetable and tofu Cassoulet. I baked this in the oven right in the frying pan!

Pesto pasta with tofu standing in for the chicken. LOVE PESTO!

An additional note on soy:
I know that some people are afraid to eat soy due to phytoestrogens. One reason why we may be seeing a rise in estrogen in both men and women may have to do with the rise in obesity: an increase in adipose tissue (fat cells) means an increase in estrogen production. You can see some other possible factors listed in this article from MSN Health and Fitness. I did some of my own research into the effects of phytoestrogens on men and women and found that eating soy products did not have a detrimental effect on sex hormone levels, and may in fact have a positive effect on cardiovascular health! Don’t take my word for it of course, the links to the journal articles are posted on the right side of the screen. Please remember that taking any nutrient in supplement form does not compare to eating the actual foods that contain it and many other properties that work in concert. Studies have shown that genetically modified, GM soy, has lead to reproductive health abnormalities in rats. It is best to eat only organic soy products and these are regulated and labeled in accordance with the FDA.


  1. I forgot to post the recipe for the tofu "chicken" nuggets! I will start a recipe list on the right side of the page.

  2. Actually, I started another blog exclusively for recipes. :-) Check it out.

  3. I'm scared of soy b/c most of the soy beans are GMO :(

  4. Erin, thank you for your comment! If you look at the package for Nasoya and for the Silk soymilk that I use it says on the label that the soybeans are nonGMO. If you are omniverous, don't worry about it, you don't need to eat soy anyway! :-)