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TofuThe Virtue of Tofu

In a world gone crazy for protein, tofu may be the perfect answer. Or is it?

We’ve gone protein mad. From A (as in Atkins) to Z (as in Zone) the hunt is on for protein sources that we can actually feel good about eating. Ironically, this white-hot trend is happening while the big questions looming over the food supply-especially protein-have never been more frightening, or compelling.

Remember when food used to be as simple as an apple a day? What we eat, how it’s grown and where it comes from have become moral and political battlefields.

Set aside, for now, that a growing number of people think it is immoral to eat meat at all (although, as one wag observed, “Why are animals made out of meat if we’re not supposed to eat them?”) And, statistically speaking, eating almost anything from our food supply is still much safer than, say, leaving your house.

But there we stand in the supermarket, staring blankly at the refrigerators, facing a veritable stampede of contradictions, caveats and rumor. Mad cow, over-grazing, rain-forest beef, e.coli, saturated fats, GMOs, organic food and frankenfoods, avian flu, salmonella, antibiotics, hormones, contaminated farmed fish, heavy metals, humanely raised vs. factory farms. It’s enough to make even the most enlightened eater want to run screaming for the nearest taco takeout, where someone has already done the thinking for us.

The time might just be right for a protein food that’s simple, safe and wholesomely vegetarian. Something like tofu, which you could think of as the other other white–er, stuff.
The question is, are we finally ready for tofu?

Quivering White Blocks

Any discussion of tofu must start with the tofu rap sheet, which is admittedly extensive. First of all, our prehistoric hunter brains immediately deny that anything square, white and quivering could be actual food. Maybe because of the little plastic tubs and strange graphics, tofu has gotten the odd emotional tang of a food of the future, a la soylent green: grown in tanks, bathed in an unknown liquid, glowing in weird lights. Being called a ‘cheese analog’ by nutritionists certainly doesn’t help.
A big part of tofu’s bad rap comes from faux tofu--some of the unforgivable uses to which it has been put, especially during the early days of vegetarianism, when trompe de l’oie creations masquerading as meat rampaged across the culinary landscape, and put millions off vegetarianism forever.

The problem was that in their efforts to make tofu more acceptable and more like meat, early vegetarian writers (few of whom, it must be noted, were gifted cooks) tried with missionary zeal to convert a skeptical meat-eating public by merely substituting hard tofu in meat recipes. Close on the heels of this disaster came the tie-dye days of hippie health food experiments with tofu in restaurants and communes. If you were a part of that era, you can probably still taste the results; I remember a particularly foul combination of hard tasteless tofu and undercooked whole grains with bitter garlic and soggy greens, all aswim in an indescribably awful sauce. (On second thought, that analog doesn’t sound so bad.)

Tofu definitely has a mainstream image problem, but it’s mostly our fault. And let’s face it – tofu is unlikely to ever supplant meat in most people’s diets. Nor should it try to masquerade as ‘meat’, ‘hot dogs’, ‘fish’, ‘cheese’ or, God help us, ‘cutlets.’

Tofu shouldn’t have to pretend. It can be appreciated on its own terms. It has a subtle flavor, and a texture all its own, that works extremely well in combination with other foods-including meat. The key to appreciating tofu is simply to let tofu be tofu.

When I tasted warm, fresh, un-pressed tofu curd for the first time at San Diego Soy Dairy, it was so delicious that I kept eating it, far beyond mere politeness. “In China, we eat soft tofu, and we really like the taste,” explained owner Luke Yam, beaming with pride while I shamelessly stuffed both cheeks like a chipmunk. “In Japan there are famous tofu shops where people line up to buy the fresh tofu every day, and the makers are highly respected.”

This picture of tofu as an artisan-style product is far different than the common American perception of tofu as something you might taste under duress in an Asian restaurant, or as the exclusive province of dreadlocked food cultists and teenagers going vegan to annoy their parents. But what exactly is tofu?

Little Bean, Big Picture

Tofu is made from soybeans, which are legumes, like peanuts, and not really beans at all. Soybeans were first grown in China, where they have been one of the “five sacred plants” for millennia. They were introduced into modern farming in the 19th century as a rotation crop to prevent soil exhaustion and plummeting yields. As with all legumes, soybeans’ net effect on soil seems at first to be very positive. They take nitrogen from the air and instill it back into the soil, so that widely grown ‘robber’ crops like corn, which suck nutrients out of the earth, can be grown in intensive rotation.

But why do we grow so much corn in the first place? Well, for animal feed, mostly. And two-thirds of all American soybeans grown are fed to animals, even though soybeans themselves are a good source of complete protein—twenty times more efficient, per acre, than beef. Yet we eat the inefficient beef, not the healthy, cheap and efficient soy proteins.

Soybeans are one of the most widely-crown crops in the world and a significant percentage of those soybeans are of genetically modified (GMO) and patented stock owned by multinational agribusiness giants. The GMO debate is far too large and too complicated to be addressed here. But whether you think GMOs are good or bad, suffice it to say that nearly every processed food you eat has some trace of GMO soy in it. That bell, as they say, has long since been rung.

The soybeans grown especially for tofu are much larger and higher in protein than the common varieties. They require special handling, but command a premium price for the farmer. A high percentage of these are non-GMO, organic or both (Yes, GMO soybeans may be grown organically, and non-GMO soybeans may use chemicals. It doesn’t seem fair, but there it is.) Tofu makers using non-GMO and / or organic soybeans will always tell you right on the label, since this is a selling point for their brand.

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that soy protein, of which tofu is the obvious example, is generally thought to be very good for you—though opinions do vary on exactly how good. Tofu is high in complete proteins, calcium (certain types,) B vitamins and iron. It is low in saturated fat, and has no cholesterol or sodium. Tofu also boasts an abundance of a new class of nutrients called isoflavones, and in the past decade it has been touted as a nutritional superfood that can help prevent cancer and heart attacks, ease estrogen-related health problems and menopausal symptoms and increase bone density, all the while saving an animal from slaughter. Perfect!

Well, not exactly. The modern diet, particularly in the last 30 years, is dramatically different from anything in human history. Nutritional studies are by nature long term, and research on the effects of these changes lags far behind what we’re doing to ourselves. While it is true that the incidences of some kinds of cancer and heart disease are lower in tofu-eating countries, they are on the increase in countries where people are eating soy products (among other things) for the first time, especially in Africa.

A major issue is that soybeans, even though they are naturally chockablock with complete protein, also contain naturally occurring chemicals that actually inhibit the body’s ability to uptake and use proteins, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc. Cooking and coagulating the protein to make tofu and other soy products removes some of these unhelpful compounds, but not all. The more isolated and concentrated the protein, the worse the potential for long-term deficiencies if the person has a limited diet. The most egregious examples of soy protein isolate are found in baby formula and protein powders.

As you can see, all proteins have their problems, and tofu is no different. The net effect is that tofu is a great addition to a balanced diet, and in order to make full use of the healthful properties of soy, it should be eaten with other foods which amend and balance its less positive effects: foods like leafy greens, rice, fish and meat. The traditional Asian diet is an excellent model, which brings us full circle.

Art or Analog?

In 2004, the ancient art of tofu-making is subject to the same commercial pressures as food everywhere: globalization, automation, standardization, cutthroat competition and eventual, inevitable consolidation of ownership. Even in Japan and China, where tofu was first created and where it is considered an artisan product along the same lines as handmade mozzarella, small shops that have been operated by families for generations are shutting down. In this country, small tofu makers are being bought up by big companies which have enormous automated capacity. Which brings us to the difference between kinds of tofu, and they are very different.

Even though you will see packages of tofu labeled according to firmness, there are really only two main styles of tofu: silken tofu and Chinese style (sometimes called pressed ) tofu.

Silken tofu is creamy and naturally sweet. It is a favorite breakfast food all through Asia, bought warm from the tofu maker or served at street stands. Emerald Restaurant on Convoy Street often serves a traditional warm silken tofu with light sugar syrup at their brunch. The creamy, pudding-like tofu is a revelation to those who think all tofu is rubbery and tasteless.

Silken tofu is made by stirring a coagulant into double-thick, hot soy milk. It is then left alone until it sets up, rather like yogurt, into a custardy texture that does not separate. It has a high water content, and so is not suitable for frying though it can be drained and pressed to firm it up slightly. This is the kind of tofu that comes in a shelf-stable box. The light texture is extremely versatile and can be used (okay, disguised) in sauces, soups, dressings and desserts.

Chinese (pressed) tofu is sold packed in little tubs with spring water. It is made by adding a coagulant to hot soy milk, then stirring it until the protein in the soy precipitates out into rubbery clumps, leaving behind a clear liquid which is drained off. The curds are molded, and pressed to expel water until the desired firmness is reached: it comes labeled as soft, firm, or extra-firm. (The firmness of tofu depends on the water content. Any tofu labeled soft, firm or extra-firm can be either silken or Chinese; it has merely had water removed.)

Americans tend to gravitate towards firm and extra-firm pressed tofu, which has the highest protein content and can be sliced or cubed, sautéed, deep-fried, grilled or stir-fried, or broken into ground-beef-like crumbles. However, a long-overdue rash of good, thoughtfully written books on cooking with tofu are introducing us to the use of softer tofu styles.

Tofu also differs in the coagulant used. Most tofu, both silken and pressed, is made with either calcium sulphate (food-grade gypsum) or magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts). Both are natural coagulants, and tofu made this way is very high in calcium. It is also the cheapest and easiest to make since the process of making can be fully automated, and the yield is higher than with the Japanese method, which uses a coagulant known as nigari.

Nigari, or magnesium chloride, is extracted from sea water along with other minerals. Japanese tofu-making is a touchy process that cannot be automated, since the amount needed to set the tofu varies from batch to batch, according to the beans, the season and generally how the day is going for the tofu master. It’s an art that takes years to learn, and many more to perfect.

Tofu made exclusively with nigari has a pleasantly subtle, sweet taste. Tried against the Chinese type, there is a clear difference in flavor, and tofu eaters tend to have definite preferences.

Luke Yam started working in restaurants in his home town of Hong Kong when he was 13, and came to the US to study in his late teens. After acclimating to Iowa City, and Chicago (“A shock,” he admits) he ditched pre-med studies for a successful career in restaurants where he was mostly a front-of-the-house guy, a manager and later, owner of six successful Chinese restaurants in and around Cincinnati. Yam moved to California in 1998 but couldn’t quite get the food business out of his system and in 2003, bought the venerable San Diego Soy Dairy from soy guru Gary Stein.
This is a guy who clearly knows his tofu, which he gives the Chinese name of dou-fu. “I bought Soy Dairy because of the nigari process,” said Yam. “Because it tasted the best of any tofu I tried all over California. It’s firm, and has a sweet taste. Gary made it right. He learned from a Japanese guy, and then he made it to his taste. “

Gary Stein is a legend in tofu circles. He was a pioneer, an American devoted to making artisan-style Japanese nigari tofu, which is not only notoriously tricky to master, but becoming a dying art even in Japan where automated manufacture based on calcium derivatives is cheaper and easier to make—and far more profitable.

Stein apprenticed himself for several years to a Japanese family who made tofu in a small facility, now closed, on Market Street. He opened his first tofu factory in a converted gas station in Hillcrest, and then moved the factory to El Cajon in 1983, where it remains to this day.

Stein was always a man with a mission, living and teaching what he calls ‘the Tao of tofu.’
“Gary taught many people,” Yam says. “He had an apprenticeship program here where people came to work and learn. Even a couple of Russians. He really cared about making great tofu and spreading his knowledge.”

It’s Just Like Cheese

It helps if you think of tofu as a cheese just like mozzarella or cheddar, except it skips the cow part in the middle. With its rancho heritage and cowboy culture, El Cajon is the perfect place for a dairy.
One familiar with the artisanship associated with Japanese tofu might expect such a facility to be placid, even serene. Nothing could be further from the truth. At San Diego Soy Dairy, country music plays on the radio in the office and the staff stomps around in green rubber boots, shoveling big heaps of….soybeans. Behind sound-proof doors, the noise level on the production line is deafening. Workers in ankle-length rubber aprons and hair nets dash too and fro. Water sloshes ankle-deep in places; the air is warm and steamy with a delightful cooked-bean smell in the air, like soup, from the cooking soybean mash and bubbling tanks of soy milk.

San Diego Soy Dairy starts with non-GMO and organic soybeans from the Midwest, raised specially for tofu making. The beans are soaked for a length of time which varies according to the season (from 12 hours in cold weather to 6 hours in hot months) and the bean, until the production master deems they’re ready, and they go to the production floor.

The production line is laid out in the shape of an ‘L.’ One whole wall is dominated by the grinding, cooking and separating machine. The soaked beans are shoveled into a grinding machine which operates at jet-engine decibels; the ground beans are mixed with filtered and UV-purified water, then the mash is sent to a holding tank. Soybeans must be cooked to extract the proteins, and make the protein digestible. San Diego Soy Dairy uses a system of heated tubes which cooks the mash to 240 degrees. Then the protein-laden ‘milk’ is strained from the fiber. The residue from tofu making, known as okara, is traditionally fed to pigs; in Asia most small tofu makers are also pig farmers. In El Cajon, local ranchers come and pick up the okara for their hogs.

The soy milk is at 220 degrees when it is pumped from the separator into an open tank. Purified water spray is used to knock down the thick, yellowish foam on top; no chemicals, besides nigari, are used. In an automated process other additives (notably silicone) may be used to reduce foaming, or make the tofu white. Because they’re not considered actual ingredients, these chemicals may not be listed on the label.

“You taste them,” says Yam. “You can taste the chemicals. Yuk!” Or words to that effect; it’s hard to hear over the deafening screech of the grinder.

The cooked and separated soy milk is then pumped into one of four huge steam kettles, which Yam calls ‘curding barrels.’

The two tofu makers work in teams with an assistant. To form the curd, the tofu maker adds a nigari solution directly to the kettle of hot soy milk, stirring as he goes. There is no exact amount of nigari used for a batch, which is why Japanese tofu requires skill and practice. As the tofu maker stirs, curds begin to separate out in streamers of pure white, suspended in pale yellow.

Nigari tofu cannot be fully automated. Like cheese-making, which it eerily resembles, nigari tofu needs skilled attention from start to finish; it is a completely hands-on process. The soybeans are soaked according to the ambient temperature; the nigari is never measured, but added by the tofu master as he stirs and watches the cauldron of seething white. Even the speed and style of stirring determine the firmness and texture of the finished product. San Diego Soy Dairy employs two expert tofu makers, and Yam says he can tell their product apart by the firmness of the finished product.

“It’s how hard they stir, the way they move the paddle, and how long they stir—all make a difference in the finished product,” Yam points out. It takes several years for a nigari tofu maker to be skilled enough to make a consistent product, many more to be considered a master.

The tofu master watches and stirs, occasionally adding a little more nigari solution, which he scoops out of a barrel at his side. “You don’t want to taste this straight,” he warns.” It gives you terrible heartburn.” (Nigari has actually been described as a kind of lye.)

The bubbling soy milk starts to separate into clouds of white curd and pale yellow liquid, then suddenly firms into of rubbery streamers. When he deems the tofu ready, an assistant armed with a large colander starts scooping the boiling hot tofu into a mold lined with cheesecloth. The tofu is pressed for up to 30 minutes, depending on the firmness desired, then set in a huge vat of fresh, cool water until it is packed in one or 10-pound tubs.

Soy Dairy tofu ranges from firm to very firm, and contains two to three times more protein by weight and less calcium than most supermarket tofu because it contains less water by weight.
Luke Yam beams as he watches his tofu come off the line. “Tofu is good stuff. We ate it all the time growing up. And this is very good,” he says. “It’s the best.”

Types and Uses

Rather than slamming a slab of barbecued tofu onto the table, remember that Asian cooks regard and use tofu as but one ingredient among many in their diet. Ease yourself and your family into it by substituting a little tofu for some ingredients or adding small amounts of tofu to your favorite recipes.

Tofu is extremely versatile, but it helps if you use the appropriate kind and texture for the recipe.
Silken tofu usually comes in shelf-stable boxes, unless you’re fortunate enough to be able to buy it freshly made. Because it is so light in flavor and creamy, it’s a perfect way to add the benefits of tofu to your regular recipes in soups, smoothies, sauces and dressings. It is the tofu of choice for high-protein, low-fat desserts like Crème Brulee (see recipe,) mousses and cheesecakes.

Chinese ‘soft’ tofu has a much firmer, slightly grainy texture; think of it like a firm ricotta cheese, which can be scrambled with eggs or egg replacements, fried in a batter (see recipe for Tofu with Lemongrass), pureed to make a base for dips, or used in place of ricotta cheese in lasagna or stuffed pastas.

Firm and extra-firm tofu readily pick up the flavors of a marinade or sauce. It can be sliced and added to stir fries and pastas, or crumbled and mixed with ground meat. This kind of tofu holds together as you sauté, grill, fry, deep-fry, steam or braise it, which makes it very versatile indeed, though still recognizably tofu.

Other Tofu Products

Asian markets carry a fascinating array of tofu-based products. Tofu can be purchased baked, smoked, grilled, freeze-dried, deep-fried, pressed, fermented and pickled. Because these products have myriad uses, the best way to use them is to work from good regional cookbooks, or ask for directions where you do your shopping.
Bean curd sheets or skins are made by lifting off the skin that forms on top of the soy milk and drying it. It can be bought fresh or dried (dried must be reconstituted before use,) in pasta-like squares, strips, knots and balls. The noodles and sheets can be used as you would noodles or pasta sheets, or the square sheets can be used like phyllo dough to enclose any number of fillings, or stuffed with spring rolling filling and deep-fried.


Chinese tofu can be purchased at any supermarket; San Diego Soy Dairy products are carried by Whole Foods and Henry’s markets. Look for silken tofu in boxes in the Asian products section of your supermarket. For more exotic tofu products, try 99 Ranch Market, on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard or Vien Dong on Linda Vista Road. Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa is lined with smaller Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean markets.


If you’re really serious about getting to know tofu, Amazing Soy by Dana Jacobi is indispensable and the recipes are modern, easy and delicious. Japanese, Chinese and Korean cookbooks in translation are also excellent sources for inspiration, with wonderful pictures and the use of exotic ingredients; the recipes tend to be rather cryptic, but simple enough to figure out.

Spicy Tofu With Lemongrass And Chilies

This Vietnamese preparation of tofu is not for the timid. It is equally good as an entree with rice, or at room temperature on a piece of Belgian endive as a cocktail nibble. The wonderful flavor comes from using lots of fresh lemongrass, chopped very finely. Lemongrass can be found at any Asian market. Serves 4 as an entrée or 10 as a nibble.

1 pound Chinese style tofu, soft or firm (see Note)
1/3 cup canola oil or peanut oil, plus more as needed
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons white sugar
3 stalks very fresh lemongrass,* white part finely minced to a paste with ½ teaspoon salt (about 1/3 cup)
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 to 3 tablespoons sambal oelek paste (hot red chili paste with seeds)* depending on how hot you like it.

To Serve:

White Rice
Shredded Lettuce

  1. Drain the tofu and cut into 1 1/2-inch square chunks. Pat as dry as possible with paper towels.
  2. In a heavy wok or large deep sauté pan, heat the oil until it reaches medium–hot, but do not allow to smoke.
  3. Toss the dried tofu cubes with the cornstarch to coat lightly, and shake off excess in a sieve or colander. Set carefully in the hot oil (don’t crowd—cook in batches if necessary) and cook until lightly brown and crisp on all sides. Soft tofu won’t get as crisp as firm. Remove the browned cubes from the pan, drain on paper towels and keep warm.
  4. Pour off all the oil but 3 tablespoons and set the pan over medium-high heat. Return the tofu to the pan and toss with the sugar; sauté briefly until the sugar begins to melt.
  5. Add the lemongrass and garlic, and cook, tossing, until the lemongrass is fragrant. Add the sambal paste and cook, tossing, until the red sauce starts to turn brown. One tablespoon is mildly spicy, two tablespoons is spicy and three tablespoons makes it downright hot.
  6. Line a plate or platter with shredded lettuce and spoon the cooked tofu over the lettuce. Serve with steamed white rice on the side.

Note: Soft tofu is a little trickier to handle, but gives a better finished texture. Firm tofu will stay quite hard; do not use extra-firm tofu.

Note on Technique: The best tool for this job is a wide, flat stirfry ‘shovel’ or spatula, with which you can gently scoop and toss the tofu and sauce. Do not stir, since this will break up the tofu.

* Available at Asian markets or in the Asian section of supermarkets.

Homemade Tofu ‘Chorizo’

Mexican chorizo is a soft, crumbly, highly spiced sausage that oozes huge amounts of colorful fat. Since most chorizo is made from bovine unmentionables, this recipe from San Diego Soy Dairy is an excellent substitute. The seasoning and heat level can be adjusted to your taste. Add to scrambled eggs, quasadillas or sprinkle over refried beans. Makes 3 cups.

4 large dried ancho or Guajillo chiles
1 tablespoon whole dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin or cumin seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon hot chile flakes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water (divided use)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound firm tofu, crumbled (see Note)

  1. Wearing gloves, stem and seed the dried chiles. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and quickly toast the chiles on both sides until they are soft and flexible, pressing flat with a spatula; do not burn.
  2. Tear the chiles into small pieces and place into the bowl of a work processor or spice grinder along with the rest of the dried spices. When finely ground, add the garlic, peanut butter, cider vinegar and enough water to make a paste.
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, and add the oil. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, until thickened and fragrant, about five minutes; do not scorch.
  4. Add the crumbled tofu and just enough water to loosen the mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the mixture is dry and crumbly, stirring frequently.
  5. Keeps refrigerated for several days, and also freezes well.

Note: To crumble tofu, drain well and cut into cubes. Squeeze the cubes in your hands to crumble.
Adapted from the San Diego Soy Dairy Tofu Recipe Cookbook, by Gary Stein

Crisp Tofu Squares With Dipping Sauce And Scallions

If you’re going to learn to love tofu for itself, this traditional Chinese preparation is a great place to start. Yes, it’s fried, but it absorbs very little oil. Pat the tofu dry with paper towels before frying. It will take 3 to 5 minutes to develop a golden crust. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

8 ounces baked tofu ( or 8 ounces firm tofu, patted dry, and 1/4 cup flour) cut into 1 1/2 –inch squares
2-3 tablespoons canola oil (divided use)
1 tablespoon minced green onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
Sliced green onion tops for garnish (optional)

  1. Make sure all ingredients are ready before beginning to cook.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or sauté pan. You need to use enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by 1/16th of an inch.
  3. Fry the tofu squares (if using the regular tofu, cut into ½ inch thick pieces; lightly flour and shake off all excess.) Fry until crisp and remove to a serving plate.
  4. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a clean pan. Sauté the green onion and ginger for one minute, add the soy, sherry, sugar, and sesame oil. Dissolve the cornstarch in the.chicken stock and add to the pan. Boil for a minute to thicken and pour over the tofu squares.
  5. Garnish with sliced green onions. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Tofu!Tofu!Tofu! by Mu Tsun Lee

Chinese Meat Loaf With Garlic Sauté Asian Greens

A great recipe from Dana Jacobi, for all of you who are stealthily incorporating soy into the family diet. Soy substitutes nicely for part of the ground beef in this meatloaf, reducing the fat content and enhancing the nutritional benefits. This technique can be adapted to your favorite meat loaf recipe. Most people won’t even notice the tofu. Serves 8.

1 pound lean ground beef
16 ounces firm tofu, crumbled (see below)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry or white wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To crumble the tofu, cut it unto smallish chunks and squeeze in your hand until the tofu crumbles. Place in a mixing bowl along with the ground beef and mix with a fork or with your hand until well-combined.
  3. Mix in the ginger, sugar, salt, pepper, soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch and sesame oil. When well combined, add the egg white and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pack the meatloaf into a 9 inch by 5 inch nonstick loaf pan. Smooth the top. Combine the Hoisin and orange zest and spread it over the top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear and it has an internal temperature of 180 degrees.
  5. When done, remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with Garlic Sautéed Asian Greens (below) and rice or mashed potatoes.

Adapted from Amazing Soy, By Dana Jacobi

Garlic Sautéed Asian Greens

There are innumerable types of Asian greens such as Bok Choy, Pak Choy, Chinese ( or Napa) Cabbage, Ong Choy, and so-called Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale (Gai Lan). Use anything from an Asian market that look interesting, or substitute spinach, chard or kale.

1 pound dark leafy greens (see above)
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
Kosher salt
6 large cloves of fresh garlic, peeled, and thinly sliced lengthwise
Crushed red chilies (optional)

  1. Separate leaves from stems. Cut stems into one-inch pieces, on an angle. Cut the leaves crosswise into one inch strips. Have other ingredients ready.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a wok or large heavy sauté pan.
  3. Add the salt to the oil, then the sliced garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add stems and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes, until crisp-tender. Be careful that the garlic does not burn.
  4. Add the green leaves and optional crushed chilies. Cook until leaves are just wilted and serve immediately.

Silken Lemon Crème Brulee

This stunningly virtuous recipe makes a lovely, creamy dessert that tastes somewhere between high-quality creme brulee and cheesecake. What could be better? Equally good with a crisp caramel crust as directed below, or simply covered with fresh berries.

12 ounce box silken style tofu, firm
1/2 cup soy cream cheese or regular cream cheese
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar (or granulated sugar substitute)
zest of one lemon (2 teaspoons)
juice of one lemon (3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup white sugar (for caramel)

  1. Combine the tofu, cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy and perfectly smooth, then add the lemon juice and pulse to combine, scraping the bowl down several times.
  2. Divide the mixture among six wide, shallow heatproof dishes or bowls. Smooth the tops as flat as possible and chill for at least two hours.
  3. To caramelize, use a brulee torch or preheat broiler until blazing hot. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar evenly over the surface of the custard. Set the dishes on an upside-down baking dish so the surfaces are no more than one inch away from the heat. Watch carefully as the sugar melts and then caramelizes; it goes fast once it starts. If you’re using a torch, move the torch back and forth until the sugar melts and browns. (It may not brown evenly.)
  4. Let stand a moment, then serve immediately.

Adapted from Amazing Soy, by Dana Jacobi


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