• Sumo

For those who are not already acquainted with tofu, it can be kind of a mystery. What are you supposed to do with a porous, white block sitting in a pool of water? Why would you choose to eat this stuff, with all the other food stuffs available? These are valid concerns, as it’s literally a foreign food to the West, both physically and culturally.

In short, tofu is a vegetarian’s meat. Full of all sorts of densely concentrated nutrients, it provides a fantastic protein substitute for meat. Its culinary flexibility allows it to be added into all sorts of dishes, making it easy to incorporate into the vegetarian diet. This is important, as one of the most lacking nutrients in the vegetarian or vegan diet is protein.

The following is meant to be an introduction to tofu and its various manifestations. You’ll find nutritional information, historical background, as well as preparation tips and techniques. Using this article, you’ll be able to integrate tofu into your diet seamlessly with delectable consequences.

Tofu History

The etymology of tofu stems from the Chinese character tou (bean) and fu(curdled). “Tofu” is actually a Japanese pronunciation. Chinese pronunciation sounds more like “doufu”.

One of the many beauties of the culinary arts lies in understanding where food comes from and how culture has molded a particular food to best serve their needs. Tofu is steeped in deep history, beginning with China in 164 BC.

The discovery of tofu may have been accidental. One theory is that a batch of ground soybeans may have been unintentionally mixed with sea water resulting in the formation of tofu curds. The salt, magnesium, and calcium present in sea water would have created the curds necessary for production. The exact point of tofu’s invention, though, is unknown, and will probably never be proved.

Over the years, tofu migrated to Korea and then Japan around 700 AD, and throughout the rest of southeast Asia over the years. It is thought that tofu’s rise in popularity parallels that of Buddhism, as tofu would have been an ideal substitute for their largely vegetarian diet (sound familiar?). Tofu eventually spread the world over as globalization started to take hold in the early 1800’s. It is now commonly found in most parts of the world.

Tofu Nutritional Facts (Table)

Listed in the table below is the typical nutritional content of a serving of firm tofu:

Amount Per Serving

Calories 60Calories from Fat 25% Daily Values
Total Fat2.5g4%
Saturated Fat0g0%
Cholesterol0mg0%
Sodium40mg2%
Total Carb.2g<1%
Protein6g
Vitamin A0%
Vitamin C0%
Calcium2%
Iron4%

Bear in mind that most servings of tofu are far greater than 60 calories. If it’s used as an entrée at dinner, it will compose more like 100-150 calories, even more.

A single 4oz. serving will provide 33% of your iron for the day. Copper, 11%. Protein, 18%. The high fat content is, in fact, mostly composed of omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat). That same 4oz. serving will provide nearly 15% of these fatty acids recommended in a daily diet. It also has high levels of selenium, a known anti-cancer agent.

Tofu Cooking Tips

There are three types of tofu you will find in the store:

Soft: Characterized by its soft and smooth texture, this is typically used in sauces and desserts. I find it more difficult to incorporate this easily into meals. Soft tofu is generally lower in fat than the other types.

Firm: This holds its shape will when sautéed, fried, or baked, but remains fairly soft on the inside.

Extra-Firm: This can be used in the same ways as firm, but will hold its shape better and remain tougher on the inside even when cooked.

Tofu is very easy to cook. Simply throw it into your stir-fry or soup. Marinate it in some BBQ sauce and slap it on the grill. Douse is with soy sauce and toss it in the oven. One of the beauties of this magical food is its flexibility and ease of cooking. Embrace tofu, incorporate it into your diet, and watch your health, vitality, and energy grow.