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A guide to tofu varieties and how to cook with them

Whether warm and soup-soaked or coated in crispy batter, tofu is an incredibly versatile ingredient. Picture: Pexels/Polina Tankilevitch

Whether warm and soup-soaked or coated in crispy batter, tofu is an incredibly versatile ingredient. Picture: Pexels/Polina Tankilevitch

Published Mar 3, 2022

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Whether warm and soup-soaked or coated in crispy batter, tofu is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It is easily one of the most delicious foods in the world. That is if you know what you are doing.

Tofu is made from soya milk – first, soya beans are soaked and crushed, then their ‘milk’ is separated into curds, pressed, and cut. Like cheese, some tofu is pasteurised and some are flavoured before being sold.

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Free from dairy, eggs, or nuts, it is suitable for most people to eat, making it a common go-to in vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as a great ingredient in its own right. Tofu is very mild but absorbs flavour well and is versatile, so it is great for dishes like strong curries and stir-fries that are already well-seasoned.

Here is what you need to know about the types of tofu.

Silken tofu

Soft tofu is also known as 'silken tofu' because of its fine, smooth texture, which comes from it being made with rich, creamy soy milk. You will find it in the cold section of supermarkets in plastic tubs/or wrapping bathed in water. It is ideal for salads, soups, pureed as an additive to dips, or deep-fried.

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Firm tofu

Firm tofu is usually refrigerated. It is more firmly pressed than silken tofu and may have a slightly grainy texture. Firm tofu is very easy to slice, grill, braai, and deep-fry, as it holds its shape extremely well. To think of the textures in fruit or vegetable terms, slicing firm tofu is like slicing a peach, whereas slicing silken-firm tofu is more like slicing a very ripe avocado.

Regular

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Regular tofu is one of the most used types of tofu and is present in many recipes. This tofu is slightly firmer than silken tofu, but is still soft to the touch. The thin, yet compact texture of regular tofu means that it can easily absorb flavours and can be transformed into a variety of different meat-like replacements.

Fermented tofu

Fermented tofu may sound a little off-putting at first, but it can be a wonderful, flavourful addition to sauces and hot pots, adding a mouthwatering umami flavour to your dishes. It has the texture of soft cheese and provides a deep, salty taste.

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