Adventures in tofu

I spent the weekend making tofu from scratch and I feel very proud of myself :) I also feel like I’ve discovered some kind of mundane Mystery, so I’m going to post about it in great detail.

Why bother?
I lived in Japan for a couple of years and often ate tofu there; it was cheap and I liked it. By comparison, the tofu available pre-packaged here in North America is just plain nasty. I often missed it but thought it would be too difficult to make myself. Meanwhile, I got my own place and began to get more comfortable with my cooking skills. I eventually stumbled on a couple of Youtube videos and articles on making tofu, and it seemed simple, if time consuming.

The practice run
My first attempt was a proof-of-concept using a carton of soy milk and vinegar as a coagulant; I used a sieve as a mold. The texture turned out OK, but the flavor was … off. (Even the unsweetened soy milk I could find had unspecified ‘natural flavors’ in it, and the vinegar didn’t help.) I decided to shell out for more proper ingredients.

The First Stage

125 g dry soybeans
4 cups water (not counting soaking water)

Turns out making soy milk isn’t much more than “soak, puree, boil.” I did buy a nut milk bag especially for this, for $5. The soy beans were dirt cheap at the bulk store. From the above amounts, I got 1 liter of soy milk and about 300 grams of okara (bean pulp).

I did not expect fresh soy milk to taste like raw snap peas. It’s weird but not bad, and utterly unlike the boxed stuff. I still have no idea what those ‘natural flavors’ were supposed to be.

I fried up the okara with some vegetables for lunch, it was pretty good, though my resources were right about how much fibre it has. Beans don’t usually give me the stereotypical gas, but this stuff sure did!

The second stage

1 L soy milk
1 tsp nigari (magnesium chloride) (+ half a cup of water)

The nigari took a bit of hunting to find. I ended up ordering it on Amazon; shipping was a bit expensive, but it’s a liquid in a glass bottle so that’s understandable. It smells like swimming pool water and tastes super bitter. All there was to do at this point was pour it in the soy milk, wait for curds to form, then pack it in the mold and wait for it to set. Basically a lot of waiting. Instead of a purpose-made tofu mold, I got one of those berry keepers that’s a nested bowl and sieve (handy for rinsing and storing the tofu afterwards). Also, I lined the mold with coffee filters instead of messing around with cheesecloth.

The result
Fresh tofu is as amazing as I remember! With a cool, creamy texture (kind of like scrambled eggs). I ate it for dinner with some sliced cucumber and a bit of miso dressing; just the thing for a scorching hot day. Definitely worth the effort and I will be making it again when I have time.

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