A culinary staple for many Asian cuisine, tofu is also known as beancurd or soybean curd. They usually come in blocks and are white or off-white in colour. The main ingredients of tofu are typically a combination of soybeans, water and coagulant. Depending on the types of tofu you purchase from the supermarket or grocery store, some tofu has high absorbency in terms of flavours and marinades while others are more suitable for all kinds of frying. Also versatile for different types of cooking, its plant-based protein (with the exception of egg tofu) makes them suitable for vegan/vegetarian-friendly meat substitutes as well. And now, check out the 6 Types of Tofu You Should Know.
1) Silken Tofu
The tofu that holds the most amount of moisture, this silken variety isn’t just pillowy soft but also has the jiggly outlook. The texture of silken tofu is best described as creamy and custardy. Made from coagulated soymilk, silken tofu is versatile enough for different kinds of recipes. Silken tofu can be both a great substitute and alternative for the likes of milk, cream, egg or butter.
Best for: Steamed tofu with soy sauce & spring onions, tofu scramble, tofu smoothies/shakes, tofu pudding and tofu dressing. Silken tofu also pairs well with soups and any vegetarian/vegan dishes.
2) Firm Tofu
Just like the name suggests, firm tofu has both a more solid texture and appearance compared to the more delicate silken varieties. Unlike the latter, they do not crumble or break apart easily. That means firm tofu can retain their shape even if you are using them for grilling, sauteing and stir-frying. Firm tofu contains less water too, which in turn, is suitable for cooking them to a crisp.
Best for: Crispy baked/deep-fried tofu, stir-fry tofu with vegetables, pan-fried tofu with garlic sauce, tofu burger, tofu scramble, tofu curry and mapo tofu.
3) Extra Firm Tofu
If there’s one notable difference between firm and extra-firm tofu, the latter doesn’t absorb flavours and marinades that well. And of all the tofu above, extra-firm tofu contains the least amount of water. They hold their shape better than the firm varieties, making them ideal for all types of frying methods from pan-frying to stir-fry and deep-fry. And given the firmer texture of this tofu, it is also suitable as vegan-friendly meat substitutes.
Best for: Crispy tofu, baked tofu, grilled tofu and stir-fry tofu with vegetables.
4) Tofu Pok (Tofu Puff)
Otherwise known as tofu puff, you can typically find them in cube forms. They are actually made from soft tofu, which has its excess water content drained before being cut into cubes. The tofu is then deep-fried in oil until golden brown on the outside. The inside or the core, however, has the light and airy, yet bubble-like texture.
Best for: Tofu pok absorb flavours and marinades well, making them suitable for tofu curry, tofu stew and braised claypot tofu with mushrooms or/and vegetables. And of course, tofu pok tastes the best when comes to stuffing or better known in Malay as tauhu sumbat. You can stuff them with various fillings of your choice, namely vegetables (e.g. chopped cucumbers and carrots) and minced meat (e.g. chicken, beef or pork). Best dipped with a sauce of your choice, say chilli, peanut or even rojak.
5) Egg Tofu
Made from the combination of soy milk, eggs and water, egg tofu is typically sold in a plastic tube. It has a distinct cylinder shape reminiscent of a scallop upon slicing. Unlike the usual white/off-white tofu appearance, egg tofu has that bright and creamy yellow colour. And since it contains eggs, this gives the tofu an added rich flavour. Egg tofu, which is also commonly known as Japanese tofu, can be found in many Asian dishes.
Best for: Hot plate/sizzling egg tofu, pan-fried egg tofu, boiled egg tofu with vegetables/noodle soup, braised egg tofu and egg tofu with sauce/gravy (e.g. mushroom, soy or egg).
6) Tofu Skin (Beancurd Sheet)
Tofu skin comes in many different names such as beancurd sheet and beancurd skin. In Cantonese, tofu skin is known as fu chuk. Made from heated soy milk, it is typically shaped like a long, crumpled sheet. The taste characteristic of a tofu skin can be described as chewy and tender. Tofu skin absorbs flavours well too, making them suitable for braising, stewing or tong sui (Chinese dessert soup).
Best for: Fu Chuk Yee Mai (tofu skin with barley water), stir-fried bok choy with tofu skin, braised tofu skin with shiitake mushroom & black fungus, stewed pork belly with tofu skin in soy sauce and deep-fried fu chuk with fish paste filling.