Product Review: Quong Hop tofu »
Please welcome guest writer and frequent Vegansaurus photograph-provider Joel!
"In 1906, Sing Hau Lee established Quong Hop, the first tofu shop in America.” This was in San Francisco proper; the company now manufactures its soy products in South San Francisco. “He brought with him his family’s tofu-making secrets that had been a tradition for generations.”
Man! That is old! And old things are quality, unless they’re people! I mean really, what else do you need to know? I obviously consider that to be a rhetorical question cause I am about to tell you the rest of what you need to know.
I’ve been eating tofu for many years, friends, and I am pleased to say that Quong Hop tofu is the best I’ve had the pleasure of stuffing in my face. The irregular edges give it a welcome personality that is entirely missing from your average House-brand tofu bricks. And the flavor and texture are head and shoulders above the rest. Delicate flavor; firm, chewy texture. Great for marinating (it will not fall apart!), great for stir-frying (it still will not fall apart!). The texture becomes a thing of transcendent beauty should you venture to freeze the tofu.
While I’m at it, a quick lesson for those who don’t know. Freezing tofu gives it a meat-like texture, more porosity, and less water content. This means that frozen tofu will work better in almost any application. Why does this happen? A block of tofu contains many tiny droplets of water, totaling a good portion of the weight. When frozen, water expands. That means that these tiny droplets (a) create holes (“pores”) bigger than normal, and (b) compress the interstitial tofu-matter correspondingly. When the tofu thaws, the network of newly enlarged pores allows the water to drain out.
To freeze tofu, simply pop it in the freezer in its original packaging. Once it has frozen solid, move it back to the fridge to thaw. After it’s thawed, drain and use as normal. If you’re in a rush, thaw it in the microwave. If you’re feeling dedicated, leave it out to thaw and put some weight on it so that it newly melted water is immediately drained—this will yield the best texture but is probably not worth the work unless you’re showing off. The simplest thing to do is thaw in the fridge and then squeeze the water out with your bare hands, over the sink. The freezing will have toughened the tofu so it won’t crumble, and the porosity will be such that your hands can easily get most of the water out. This is cool because you can feel like some sort of macho he-man*, able to dry a block of tofu with nothing but a spasm of your mighty delts.
No matter what, you do want to drain some water, but this is where things get tricky. Depending on the application, you might want to treat it differently. For dishes where you’ll be cooking the tofu in a sauce—curries or soups, for instance—you want to drain all the water you can, lest it dilute the cooking liquid. If your recipe cooks the tofu over a fairly low heat, or for a fairly short time—pan-frying with vegetables, maybe—you’ll want to squeeze out most but not all of the water. And if you’ll be cooking over high heat, or for a long time, you’ll want to squeeze out only a little of the water. My example for this is stir-fries. I want my tofu to get nice and crispy, so I cook it over very high heat for about five minutes. If I had squeezed out all the water, it would end up hard and dry through and through. Instead, most of the water I left in steams out the top while the bottom crisps, and is then replaced by the stock or sauce added in the last portion of the stir-fry. Magic!
If this was too in-depth an exploration of cooking nerdery for you, just squeeze out about half the water. Everything will be ok.
Now! My minions! Take your new knowledge and show the tofu-doubters in your life what’s what! Although, for practical reasons, you might want to try it out once or twice by yourself. Get the technique down, and get all the he-man grunting out of the way in private.
*or, uh, a mucha she-woman?**
**obviously I know that the female counterpart to He-Man is She-Ra but that’s not exactly germane to a blog about veganism, is it? Why don’t you write your own blog post about it over at NerdsFightingAboutHe-Man.com and we can talk about it there.