Shade Market Cooking: Fresh Tofu


For years I completely ignored tofu.  It just never excited me.  In my eyes, it was white-ish, bland soy mush.  How ignorant of me!  But, in all fairness, we are not taught to appreciate tofu in the States.  As we mention in our post on soy milk, the mass produced "tofu" that's common in the United States is not real tofu.  It's just soy protein concentrate pressed into a cake.  Real tofu is a whole soy product, including most of the fiber and healthy fats in the soy bean.  Real tofu isn't bland.  It has a slightly sour flavor from the vinegar used to curdle the soy milk.  Real tofu has a vegetal taste from the skin of the legume.  It has a toothsome quality akin to queso fresco or haloumi.  Tofu's porous nature allows it to soak up sauces and flavorful oils. I will continue to ignore the mass produced soy-food that is found in supermarkets, instead opting for fresh tofu at asian markets.  Or, better yet, home-made tofu.  This recipe comes from PunPun Center for Self Reliance and is very tasty.  They serve it fried in soups, chopped fine and used in a vegetarian Laap, or sautéed with leafy greens and soy sauce, all to great effect.  Tofu is not exclusively for vegetarians.  In the Chinese dish, Ma-po Dofu, chopped tofu is stir-fried with ground pork and tons of Szechuan Peppercorns.  With this versatile and very healthful ingredient, there are many possibilities.  This recipe makes a sizable chunk of tofu, enough to use in a few different dishes.

Tofu mixture, just poured into the colander lined with cheesecloth

3L sauce pot

Wide colander 


A hard surface to press the tofu that will fit inside the colander (cutting board, bottom of a pot)

2L soy milk (either homemade or organic, many industrial soy milks are stripped of the nutrients necessary to make tofu)

2/3 cup white vinegar

2 Tbsp salt

1. Line the colander with a double layer of cheese cloth.   It should cover the whole colander with a little hanging over.  Set it in the sink.

2. Over medium heat, bring the soy milk to a low boil, stirring very often so it doesn't burn on the bottom.

The Tester, curds are separating from liquid.

3. Put a few teaspoons of the hot soy milk into a small bowl, and add a few drops of vinegar to it.  If large chunks (known as curds) form then the milk is hot enough. If not, heat a bit longer and test again.

4. When the milk is hot enough, add all of the vinegar and salt to the pot.

5. Immediately strain through the cheesecloth-lined colander (if the milk sits too long with the vinegar, it will become too sour).

6. As the liquid flows through, you will see the curds gathering in the cheese cloth.  When enough liquid has drained that you can handle the cheesecloth, gather the edges up into a pouch.  Carefully twist the pouch to wring out some of the liquid without dropping the curds (or burning yourself)

7.  Press the pouch into the bottom of the colander so that the curds lay in a flat, cake like shape.  Use the hard surface to press the remaining liquid out of the tofu.

8.  As it cools it will firm up, but it is ready to eat as soon as it's pressed.  Warm, fresh tofu, is delicious dipped in soy sauce and eaten as a snack.

Fresh Tofu