In our part, speaking of tofu, we are more or less certain that we are referring to the same product. At most we can specify whether it is smoked tofu, plain or with some ingredient inside like olives or maybe seeds. That's all.
Ma what we discover by going to his homeland, China (where it is called doufu), is that there are infinite varieties, all very different from each other, and that in order to extricate ourselves in the world of tofu we should take a series of lessons.
Meanwhile, let's try to understand the characteristics of tofu, without getting lost in technical details.
Tofu is a plant food, although it resembles cheese, it is produced from soybeans, which are curdled with one or more chemical mixtures, both natural and synthetic, which define their organoleptic characteristics such as flavor and consistency.
Among the various tofu marketed in the country we always find products of similar consistency, which mostly differ in terms of taste: some are sweeter while others tend to be salty or bitter. As mentioned, tofu is sometimes smoked or flavored.
In some cases it is made with other types of seeds other than soy: broad beans, beans, hemp, etc. Tofu is a product also used in Japan (which gave it its universally used name), Vietnam, Korea and other neighboring countries. We will therefore see a couple of varieties typical of these places.
There are actually numerous varieties of tofu that we will now study. First of all seasoning makes the difference: even among the classic tofu sold in blocks there are at least some four different types: soft, medium, hard, extra hard.
It all depends on the level of drying, or rather, dehydration, which can occur through the action of time, a mechanical dryer, pressure or the use of special salts.
But that's not all, to these is added the spreadable tofu, which in China is called with a name that can be translated as “silk tofu”.
It is generally very sweet and is used fresh, immediately after having bought it from local producers, which is why it is rarely marketed in the country. Let's move on to "Five-spice tofu". It is a very compact tofu covered with a mixture of spices typical of Chinese cuisine and steamed.
A very dark thin crust matures, similar to the color of the liver. It has a very chewy texture and pleasant to chew but is the best type of tofu to cook.
We will hardly see in the country fupi, or tofu skin. It's about a highly protein membrane which is produced on the boiling surface of soy milk before adding the rennet.
It is used both dry and fresh, instead of meat or as a wrap for special rolls. Let's talk about Japan inari and aburaage. They are thick blocks of tofu used as a snack, fried until it looks like puffed rice and finally processed with salt or sugar or soy sauce.
Smoked tofu, of which we have already spoken, is often produced in the country with the use of special woods with which the cheeses are also smoked. It is worth remembering that in countries like China in Japan, however, tofu is smoked using tea leaves.
It also exists marinated tofu, often sold in small touches and ideal for salads. It is marinated in brines rich in local spices according to the different producing countries.
E fermented tofu? It exists, even if it is not popular with us. Also called tofu pickle, generally it is left to ferment water and rice liqueur, which gives it the typical flavor called umami. Most of the time it is used only for seasoning and flavoring and not as a real food.
In China it can also happen to find the tofu sticks. What are? Small cylinders of sun dried tofu, used as if they were noodles in soups and broths. Still talking about noodles, they exist i noodle di tofu, often marinated and brownish in color, with a very spicy color. Ideal with egg.
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