Guide to Cooking with Block Tofu
Tofu is a protein staple among Asian and vegetarian populations both domestically and abroad. It is available in block tofu, silken tofu, dry tofu, smoked tofu, and custard or fresh silken tofu, and inari. Each tofu type has sub categories. Block and silken tofus are the most commonly available ones in the US.
Block tofu is made similarly to cheese in that its proteins are curdled. Soy milk is boiled, curdled, and then pressed to various degrees of firmness. Pressing removes an increasing amount of whey. Softer block tofus contain more whey liquid than firmer varieties. Most of this type of tofu should be drained before it is used, the liquid is meant to preserve the tofu, but will dilute or water down recipes that it is used in. It can also be pressed with weight to push out more liquid, salted to draw the liquid out, blotted, or marinated. This category of tofu can be pressed to remove more liquid and then frozen in order to hold sauces and marinades more effectively.
Different firmness ratings lend this tofu to different applications. Soft tofu has too much water to be deep fried well. It lends itself to being battered and fried, or to shallow frying techniques instead. It is best drained and blotted so it isn't squished.
Medium block tofu has a rougher texture than soft tofu. It will break up with stir frying, so it is best used in dishes that don't require moving it around much, like braising or boiling. It will tolerate draining, blotting, pressing, and freezing without squishing.
Firm tofu can stand up to most abuse. It is useable in most savory dishes. It can stand all the preparation methods to dry it out, and can be battered, breaded, boiled, braised, stir fried, baked, stuffed, or glazed.
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