Tofu, or not tofu // homemade tofu

The finished product - our home made tofuBoth my kids are card-carrying members of the tofu lovers club. Me? Not so much. Being a fan of more robust flavours, tofu is something that’s never really floated my culinary boat. It’s always been one of those ingredients I’ve rated meh and one that I didn’t really think too much about, or of. Until Taiwan.

At first that was pretty much only because I couldn’t escape the stuff. The ubiquitous lumps of soy curd are an important part of every meal and it lurks about at breakfast, lunch and dinner. On occasion, the cheeky stuff even pops up at dessert! In Taiwan they eat it, they drink it, they practically bathe in it!

And that’s OK. When I travel, I eat local, I eat without fear and I eat with a spirit of gratitude, as do my kids, especially when we are hosted. On my recent gastronomical tour of Taiwan, I was offered many unusual dishes to taste. Given that I was not prepared to offend my hosts by rejecting their generosity, which almost always come from a place of pride and sincerity, I ate ‘em all! And in some cases that meant leaving my Western food prejudices and squeamishness at the door.

In fact, it was off to a running start in weird and wonderful with offerings of boiled pig’s intestines, fish collagen, random slimy sea mollusc and wild boar skin.

PIg's intestines ready for the pot,Taiwan

And let us not forget ye olde thousand year eggs.

Preserved duck egg

This particular “delicacy” of preserved duck eggs was originally created by some dude who thought soaking his eggs in horse urine for a month was a great idea and some other dudes who thought that that sounded good enough to eat. And, thankfully, that some much smarter dude later decided should be instead brined in an ever-so-slightly less disgusting solution of salt, calcium hydroxide, and sodium carbonate to turn the egg white into the required gelatinous brown matter and the yolk a creamy green paste with a slight ammonia smell. As you do.

And then there was the tofu! So very, very much tofu!

But thank goodness I did jump in face first at each meal without really thinking about what was on my plate. Because not only did I find every dish palatable, and more often than not delicious, I discovered that tofu in the hands of the right cook is freakin’ awesome!

We dove into bowls of Ma Po Tofu (spicy bean curd with minced pork) for dinner, breakfasted on marinated bean curd jelly with chilli, blissed out on a lunch dish of soy bean curd hand rolls stuffed full of anonymous tasty delights, tossed back tofu chunks simply fried and stacked high with fresh ginger, inhaled an amazing hand made peanut tofu with corn juice, devoured an amazing silken almond tofu dessert and checked-out the popular market snack of stinky tofu (don’t even ask).

Tofu tastes

And that’s just the edited highlights. Suffice to say, as each meal passed, I learned to love the ‘fu.

So much so, that I also learned how to make it at a local factory in lovely Luodong, Yilan (an area also awash with hot spring hotels where the fish eat you – but that’s a whole other tale).

tofu curds

making the tofu

To my great surprise, making tofu is relatively simple At least when you already have the fresh soy milk needed to make it on hand. On returning home I discovered that the stuff we get at the supermarket is not suitable for tofu making as it is chock full of additives, and that I would need to acquire a large quantity of fresh soy milk for the project.

Bugger.

Not being one to give up when thrown a small culinary challenge like not actually having the main required ingredient, and in the spirit of bringing Taiwan home for my kids, Raffles and I spent our weekend milking soy beans (man, it’s hard to find their tiny little teats) ready to make our own fresh tasty warm tofu.

Let it be said that making soy milk with nothing but some soy beans, a pot and blender is doable. But taking the skins of literally hundreds of those tiny little buggers is a time consuming chore, and I suggest you find yourself a super keen five-year old to do the dirty work. Insert evil laugh here.

soaked soy beans

Then you simply blend to a slurry like porridge, boil with water on the stove top and strain. Et voila, you have soy milk!

Fresh home-made soy milkTo make to the tofu you’ll also need a tofu press as modeled by the lovely PJ clad Raffles below. You can use a colander if you don’t mind it having a less symmetrical shape).

Wooden tofu press

The other must is nigari (food grade magnesium chloride). I bought nigari online from Chef’s Armory for under $10 but you can substitute Epson Salts, which will give a different but still delicious tasting end result.

THE RECIPE

Raffles unveils the tofu

Homemade Tofu

Ingredients:

300gm soy beans
9 grams of powdered nigari (or Epsom salts)
Water

Method for soy milk:

  1. Soak soy beans in cold water overnight, longer in winter (up to 24 hours) until beans have doubled in size.
  2. Drain and remove skins by rolling beans gently between your hands.
  3. Place beans in a food processor or blender in batches with a little water until the beans are ground to a slurry like porridge.
  4. Boil 2 litres of water in a large pot.
  5. Pour bean mix into a large pot with 2 litres of hot water.
  6. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer in a good roll for around 15 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent any sticking.
  7. When the mixture starts to foam (and it will) just flick a little cold water over the top to reduce foam levels and lower heat a fraction.
  8. Strain the mixture into a bowl using a colander lined with fine cloth. Gather the sides of the cloth together and twist it tight (carefully as it will be hot) and use a spatula or potato masher to squeeze as much of the milk out as possible.
  9. Allow to cool and remove the skin that forms across the top before using for tofu.

Note: If you want to use the milk for drinking you can add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar at the end for added flavour but for tofu we’re leaving it unadulterated.

Method for tofu:

  1. Dissolve nigari flakes in 150mls of cold water.
  2. Heat soy milk slowly in a large pot and stir to avoid milk catching.
  3. Once the temperature of the milk reaches 65-70 degrees Celsius, remove from heat.
  4. Add half of the nigari liquid and stir gently with a skimming spoon.
  5. Allow the liquid to still before adding the remaining nigari liquid.
  6. Continue to stir until the soy milk begins to coagulate, then rest mixture for about five minutes.
  7. Line a wooden tofu press (or a colander) with a clean wet cotton cloth and set over a larger bowl.
  8. Use the skimmer to gently transfer the coagulated soy milk (curds) into the press.
  9. Fold the cloth over the top of curds and use the tofu press lid (or a smaller bowl if you are using a colander) to press the liquid out.
  10. Let stand for about 10 minutes with a weight on top (cans are just fine)
  11. Serve and eat still warm with a little hoisin or sweet soy sauce or use in your favourite tofu dish.

20 Comments on Tofu, or not tofu // homemade tofu

  1. Kim
    June 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Fascinating post – and I’ve gotta say, Raffles is a UNIQUELY patient 5-year old to milk those little babies! My girls both love tofu too – they call it ‘pillows’ and love it in poached salmon miso soup with udon noodles. Would love to hear some of the ways you use yours – my kids would eat it standing on their heads!

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      June 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm (4 years ago)

      Haha! Patient is not really a word I’d use to describe him. But it’s amazing what I can get him to do by calling it “a very important job” and if he gets to scoff it later. This stuff was so nice that we ate it still warm with just a bit of hoisin sauce. I’d have to say the kids favourite is Agadashi Tofo or fried and tossed in salt & pepper. I’m going to try and make them Ma Fo Tofu next week. I think that one will be a winner too 🙂

      Reply
  2. nadiastennett
    June 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm (4 years ago)

    Yum, yum, YUM! A job well done! As a seasoned soy lover myself I didn’t take much selling on this one but I’m sure you’ll nab a few newfound ”fu’ fans with this one! I LOVE that you mention all the preservatives and crap loaded into supposed ‘health’ foods. Good work making your own from scratch! Besides being way healthier, choosing to enjoy food the old-fashioned way over convenience is a hell of a lot more fun, as you so aptly showed us! Go team BEW!

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      June 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm (4 years ago)

      THanks Nadia. It was fun to make and so easy we’ll be doing it fairly regularly from now on. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Cooker and a Looker
    June 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm (4 years ago)

    I should try the kids on tofu. Bearhands claims not to like it, but I suspect he’s never had GOOD tofu. Might give it a shot. Fried and tossed in salt and pepper you say?

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      June 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm (4 years ago)

      Just like salt and pepper squid! Season some flour with salt, pepper and a little five spice. Cut tofu into squares and roll in the mix. Deep fry until golden and crispy. Toss in a little more salt & pepper (a touch of garlic salt works too) and serve with some chilli/lime dressing. 🙂

      Reply
  4. holly
    June 13, 2013 at 4:27 am (4 years ago)

    Oh boy you are way more adventurous than me with food! Good Job! Thank you for spreading JOY and sharing

    Holly at Not Done Growing

    Reply
  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    June 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm (4 years ago)

    Hehe you know that Oprah apparently isn’t a tofu fan! 😛 I’ve seen her say that a few times on the show. I love tofu though but it depends on the flavours-sometimes it’s a bit bland!

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      June 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm (4 years ago)

      I think that’s been the prob for me! Too many people making bland tofu dishes. BUt now I have seen the light!

      Reply
  6. Trinity
    June 14, 2013 at 12:35 am (4 years ago)

    Last week, I actually enjoyed tofu as part of a vegetable stir fry. It was really delicious. Interesting post!

    Reply
  7. Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right
    June 14, 2013 at 11:51 am (4 years ago)

    Wow. Hats off to you for going to that trouble. I once saw a woman make it on Kylie Kwong’s cooking show and vowed never to attempt it. But I do love to eat it! So it looks like I will need to rely on those super-patient tofu makers of the world.

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      June 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm (4 years ago)

      It’s really not that hard. The soy milk was a bit of a pain but the Tofu itself took 20 minutes from start to finish! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Leanne Winter
    June 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm (4 years ago)

    Can admit something really embarrassing? I’ve never had tofu. There I said it. You’ve made it look good though, so I promise I will try it. Really and truly.

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      June 15, 2013 at 4:03 pm (4 years ago)

      Aww thanks, Leanne. It’s taken me a while to embrace it but done right it’s really good. And really good for you 🙂

      Reply
  9. lovebakesgoodcakes
    June 18, 2013 at 3:35 am (4 years ago)

    I’ve only had tofu a few times …… I don’t think my kids ever have had it? Should try this! Thanks so much for sharing at All my Bloggy Friends – I can’t wait to see what you share this week!

    Reply
  10. dragon city guide lytic
    May 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm (3 years ago)

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly loved surfing around your blog
    posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your feed and I’m hoping you write once more soon!

    Reply
  11. Manju | Cooking Curries
    February 8, 2016 at 2:17 pm (1 year ago)

    Came here to stumble and absolutely love this blog. We have a 3 year old boy and travel quite extensively with him and trying to bring him up as a global foodie 🙂 I have bookmarked this to read more later. Also, got to know of Holidays with Kids through you. We are traveling to Sydney i a couple of months and that is going to come in quite handy! thank you!!

    Reply
    • BOYEATSWORLD
      February 8, 2016 at 8:04 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks so much Manju. I’m so glad you like our blog! Holidays with Kids is an awesome resource for travelling families.

      Reply

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