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Your Guide to Tofu: Tips, Tricks, and Delicious Recipes

All you ever wanted to know about tofu, but were afraid to ask!

A dish of crispy fresh tofu and vegetables

We're thrilled to share that Eatlocal now offers fresh tofu, perfect for those embracing Meat Free Mondays or looking to expand their culinary experiences.

We've teamed up with The Tofuman of Christchurch, a family-owned business who have over forty years of expertise in tofu craftsmanship.

Originating from China, tofu is a staple ingredient in numerous Asian dishes and is a popular choice in vegetarian and vegan diets across the globe.

The Tofuman uses Canadian-origin soya beans, which are renowned for their superior protein content.

How Tofu Is Made

Tofu is made through a fascinating process that transforms the soya beans into this versatile food. It starts with soaking dried soya beans in water for several hours to rehydrate them. Once soaked, these beans are blended with water to create a creamy mixture called a slurry, which is then cooked.

After cooking, the soy milk is separated from the solids, known as okara, through straining. The next critical step involves coagulating the soy milk using a coagulant such as magnesium chloride (nigari) or calcium sulfate, which curdles the milk, forming curds similar to the cheese-making process from cow's milk.

These curds are then placed into moulds and pressed to expel excess water, a step which is crucial in determining the tofu's final texture. Less pressing results in a softer tofu, while more pressing yields a firmer texture. Finally, the tofu is cooled and stored in water until it's ready for packaging and sale.

This entire process, from soya bean to tofu, showcases the transformation of a simple bean into a food that can be seamlessly incorporated into both savoury and sweet dishes, offering a range of textures from silken to extra-firm.

We provide two varieties: the first is firm tofu, available either plain or with 5-Spices, vacuum-sealed without water, eliminating the need for pressing or draining, ideal for when you're in a rush or forgot to prep your tofu in advance.

The second variety is "standard" tofu, which comes packed in water and requires draining and pressing before cooking.

How to Use Tofu

If cooking with tofu is new to you, here's a quick guide on how to prepare it for your dishes:

Draining: For tofu stored in water, carefully remove it from its packaging and pour off the water. Should you not use all the tofu at once, it can be stored in the fridge in its container, and simply change the water daily. It will last between 5-7 days this way.

Pressing (for standard tofu): Wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and place a heavy object on top, such as a water-filled pan, for about 15-30 minutes. This step is essential for recipes requiring crispy tofu or tofu that needs to soak up marinades. You might need to replace the towel if it becomes too saturated during this process.

Cutting: Tofu can be grated, sliced, or cut into cubes or slabs, depending on your recipe's requirements.

Marinating: To infuse tofu with flavours, marinate it after pressing in your choice of sauces, spices, and herbs. Tofu's porous nature allows it to absorb these flavours effectively, though it's best to marinate for at least 15 minutes, longer if possible.

Cooking: There are various methods to cook tofu, including pan-frying, air-frying, stir-frying, baking, grilling, and deep-frying.

Seasoning: Apart from marinating, you can season tofu with dry spices or sauces while cooking to further enhance its taste.

Top Tofu Tips

  • Try different types of tofu to discover each variety's unique characteristics and uses.

  • For a crispy outer texture, cook tofu on high heat, particularly when pan-frying or stir-frying.

  • Patience is key: Allow tofu to cook undisturbed in the pan before flipping to ensure it forms a crispy crust and doesn't stick.

  • Freezing tofu is possible, but note that it will change the texture after it's thawed.


A dish of fresh Pad Thai
Chelsea Winter's Pad Thai

I frequently make Chelsea Winter's plant-based Pad Thai using plain firm tofu which requires no draining or pressing.

Grating it is effortless, and it achieves a perfect crisp in the wok! See Chelsea's fabulous recipe here.

An image of raw and freshly cooked firm tofu.
Raw and cooked grated firm tofu

Here's my tofu, it is freshly grated in the image on the right, and the left image is after about 10 minutes on high heat in the wok, browned and crisped to perfection!

Bangkok Gooey Peanut Satay Tofu in a black dish

This recipe for Bangkok Gooey Peanut Satay Tofu, is a standout from Book 7 in The Revive Cafe cookbook series and is among my top tofu dishes ever. It's quick to prepare and incredibly flavoursome. I always double the sauce portion because it's just that delicious! I use the standard tofu here and crisp it up in the pan.

If you find yourself in Auckland, I highly recommend a visit to Revive Cafe - they also sell their cookbooks online!

Tofu is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into countless dishes, making it a fantastic ingredient for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. With a little practice, you can easily master the art of preparing and cooking tofu in delicious and creative ways. We hope you enjoy exploring the delicious possibilities tofu brings to your meals.


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