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Tofu

Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Tags: ,

Long popular in Asian cuisine, tofu is soybean curd valued for its high protein content. Often used as a meat substitute in many dishes, tofu is not all created equal. We compare different brands find out they do in a taste test.

The Basics

  • Types of tofu range from soft/silken to medium, medium firm to firm, extra firm, and fermented. 

  • Tofu is used in main courses, side dishes and also desserts, including dips, cheesecakes, ice cream. Extra firm tofu has the least amount of water but the highest amount offat, so it is considered the best for a meat substitute, eaten raw orcooked.Silken tofu is best used for dips and sauces.

  • To make tofu, nigari (magnesium chloride), calcium sulfate, and yeast or acid is added to soy milk and then pressed, which creates blocks of curd. The process is similar to making cheese with milk and so tofu is known as the “cheese” of Asia.

    • Calcium sulfate gives tofu a crumblier texture and adds calcium to the nutrient value. Calcium sulfate gives tofu a crumblier texture and is typically used in North American-produced products.

    • Nigari is magnesium chloride and other trace minerals, a natural compound in sea water. Nigari gives tofu a silkier, creamier texture and is typically used in Asian products.

    • Sometimes a blend of both calcium sulfate and nigari is used in one product.

  • As for health benefits, tofu has plenty, including:

    • 4 ounces of extra firm tofu contains approximately, 86 calories, 9.2 grams of protein (18.3% of daily recommended), virtually no saturated fat, and a good portion of the daily recommended intake for Omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, tryptophan, iron (which boosts your energy), manganese, and calcium. (Amounts vary by brand.)

    • Also, regular intake of any type of soy protein can help lower total bad cholesterol, help prevent blood clots, and raise good cholesterol levels, all of which helps prevent heart disease.

    • Helps reduce symptoms of menopause by mimicking the characteristics of estrogen.

  • Not every package of tofu is created equal. Here’s what to look for at the store:

    • Tofu has an expiration date. Buy the furthest out date you can find.

    • If the package seems bloated (like a balloon), or if the water in the package is cloudy or murky, it is likely spoiled.

    • Tofu is white or off-white in colour and doesn’t have a very strong smell. If it has an odour, it’s gone bad (unless it’s “stinky tofu”, which is a fermented type that smells like rotten garbage but has a blue cheese flavour.)

    • Once tofu is opened, it should be rinsed and submerged in water. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, but the water should be changed every day.

    • For an even more healthy product, look for calcium-enriched tofu (which uses the coagulant Calcium Sulfate) and tofu made from non-GMO (genetically-modified), organic soybeans.

Other Considerations

  • Pre-marinated tofu is also available in flavours like sesame ginger, teriyaki, strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate.

  • Tofu pouches or Aburaage is a Japanese food made from soybeans. It is produced when tofu is cut and deep fried twice, thereby creating a pocket. You can purchase aburaage or tofu pouches at specialty Asian grocery stores, but call ahead to make sure they have fresh ones available. They will often come canned or in bags.

Be Aware

  • Though there are many health benefits of tofu, there are also some risks to be aware of:

    • Many people are allergic to soy, which can lead to reactions such as eczema, hives, rash, itchy eyes, gastrointestinal trouble, and migraine headaches.

    • Tofu also contains naturally-occurring substances which may interfere with thyroid function, and a recent UK study links high levels of tofu consumption to memory loss and the development of dementia.

TEST CRITERIA

We visited a yoga studio and invited some students to taste test four brands of extra firm organic tofu to find out if there’s a difference:

  • Sunrise: $2.29/350g
  • Soyganic: $2.69/350g
  • Green Cuisine: $2.79/454g
  • Superior: $2.99/350g

Taste Test

  • The Green Cuisine tofu had a mushy, mealy texture that was very unsavoury. Nobody liked it.

  • The Superior tofu was better than the Green Cuisine, but had a plasticky texture and a bland flavour.

  • Sunrise was sweet and had a smoother, more enjoyable texture.

  • Soyganic had the most appealing texture. It almost melted in your mouth. It had the right balance of texture and flavour.

OUR TOP PICK

It was close between Sunrise and Soyganic, but Soyganic won out overall with our taste testers. It also had a blend of both coagulants: magnesium chloride and calcium sulphate. 

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