Homemade Tofu Like They Used To Do It

April 6, 2009

I have aspirations.  Yeah. I have aspirations that one day there will be world peace.  I have aspirations that we will all hold hands and sing songs and hug little creatures. I have aspirations that one day crime will be solved by fit men with DNA samples and mass spectrometers.  

But for now I have aspirations to make tofu. Not just any tofu but all the tofu you can imagine.  Red lentil tofu, butter bean tofu, almond tofu, quinoa tofu, pinto bean tofu (wha wha Arcenia!).  I want to coagulate semi protein rich solutions, draw out their solids and press them into blocks of fun. To do that I will break myself in, throw an arm back, and reach for my Asian roots.  I will make the ubiquitous soybean tofu.  

In Defense of Tofu

Yes.  Tofu is bland.  The western world associates it with boring things, flavorless cubes with no eyeballs or tongues, with danskos, and dried sage, and yoga, and democrats.  I am most of these things (just not a sage burner).

Tofu is also fluffy.  It can be a palate cleanser.  It is porous and can assume any flavor you wish.  It is a chameleon and can take on the salt and the sweet.  You can put it in mousses, in fillings, in stir frys.  You can bake it and put it in sandwiches.  You can fry it and stick it in hot pot.  You can even drench it in soy sauce if your trashy stomach so pleases.  

Whatever the case, it is addictive.  I cannot NOT eat the tofu that sits in front of me.  People who don't like it probably eat it raw or ill-prepared.  Perhaps the cook is a lousy cook.  Just don't blame the tofu.     

Earlier I demonstrated how to make soymilk from dried soybeans, and now I will finish up on how to coagulate your newly made soymilk into tofu.  Once again, Just Hungry has a much better instruction on how to make tofu, but I offer my insight in less words. 

HOMEMADE TOFU (Makes 1 3x4x2 block) Total time 2-3 hours; Active time 1 hour

SUMMARY: This is a relatively quick process in which you heat the soymilk add a coagulant let it rest, strain, and wring out the rinse your tofu for 15 minutes after you have made it.  Otherwise, you will regret it. 

WARE: You need quite large pot (more than 3 quarts), cheesecloth, a thermometer, and a tofu press.  I didn't have a tofu press, so I used my cheese strainer, which is essentially a flat bottomed strainer with holes on the sides.  Basically, just look for something that contains shape, but has holes through which the water can drain. You will also need something heavy to press the tofu. Like a kettle. 

- 2 t nigari
- 1/2 c luke warm water
**Nigari is a what the Japanese call magnesium chloride (MgCl2) It is a salt that is naturally derived from seaweed.  It has the lovely structural tendency to solidify as a lattice and looks like diamonds, kind of.  

You can think of Nigari as a little water hoover.  It sucks out all of the water in soymilk so all you have left is the solids. I will warn you that it doesn't leave you with nothing.  A small gift of chloride, a foul tasting ion, is left on its behalf.  Not toworry, it will be washed out later.

OK, lets start:

1. Bring soymilk to 165F in a large pot.  Use the thermometer, propped on the side.

2. Mix the warm water and nigari until dissolved.

3. When the soymilk hits 165, pour the nigari solution in slowly and mix with a spoon.  Look for signs of curdling.  Once tha happens STOP.  If it is curdling it is curdling and there is no need to pour more wonder coagulant in. Cover with a lid, turn off the heat and walk away for 15 minutes. 

4.  After 15 minutes are up, go check on your curds!  they should look feather and completely distinct from the now clear "whey".

If this is not what it looks like, pour a bit more nigari solution in and cover again.  Let sit for 10 more minutes.   As your mixture coagulates, set up your tofu press/strainer, topped with a couple layers of cheesecloth.  

5. Carefully pour your mixture into the strainer and allow the liquid to run off.  Shake the strainer a bit as more water will drain out.  Fold the cheesecloth over the top of the curds, top with a plate that fits inside the strainer and some added weight (like a kettle full of water).  This will press more water out of the block. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. The longer it sits, the firmer. My tofu was less than firm, so I would recommend at least an hours for a firmer product.

6.  Fill another bowl full of cold water and set in your sink.  Carefully unfold your cheesecloth and flip the tofu into the cold water.  This is to get rid of the foul tasting chloride ions.  Carefully run a steady stream of water into the bowl and onto your tofu for 15 minutes.  Just hungry recommends that you keep the water running for all 15 minutes, but I find that a good long soak will annihilate the bitter taste just as well. 

7. Drain and store in a tupperware.  I couldn't wait to eat it so I poached it up nice and good and topped it with a Korean style sauce.  

ENJOY!  (I am not sure if this tofu is firm enough for a rigorous stir fry but a delicate poaching worked wonders....)


Dewi said...

Awww delicious, I love tofu so much. So, it doesn't seem as difficult to make as I thought. Thanks for sharing Katie.

Anonymous said...

I used to hate tofu. now I quite like them, though I still don't LOVE them. but I really enjoyed learning the process of making your own tofu! wow! my mother makes her own soymilk from soybeans. looks kinda similar!

Sikantis said...

The information about tofu is really great, thanks.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Okay you've convinced me that I need to go out and buy some soy beans and make my own soymilk/tofu. Do you know how how they get silken tofu vs firm? Does it have to do with how much water you squeeze out?

megan (brooklyn farmhouse) said...

You are awesome. Can you use nigari to coagulate regular (cow's) milk, too?

Anonymous said...

where are the recipes of tofu with all the things we can imagine, like chickpeas, red lentils, quinoa beans etc? do we do it the same way?

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