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Homemade Tofu with Andrea Nguyen


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#1 jamesglu

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 05:23 PM

Last week I bought the Kindle edition of Andrea Nguyen's newest book, "Asian Tofu", after hearing her interviewed on a radio program. Living in rural New Zealand, we have little access to good tofu, so the prospect of being to make my own was very appealing, especially after I tried a recipe that appeared a year or so ago in one of the US food magazines and found that the results were far from satisfactory.

I am very pleased to report that my results so far with Andrea's recipes have been stellar. I started off with probably the second-hardest of the varieties of tofu in the book--block tofu--which requires a certain amount of finesse in addition to an unusual ingredient (nigari, which I happened to have bought while overseas last year). This tofu was easily the best I have had, and I should point out that I used to live in Beijing and New York, two cities with ample tofu supplies. Emboldened, I next tried her silken tofu, which is probably the easiest recipe in the book, since the tofu gets coagulated in its serving dish and requires no pressing. This also was delicious, and makes an incredible version of hiya-yakko, the Japanese cold tofu dish that is often found in sushi bars. Finally, I made the tofu pudding, which is the hardest recipe in the book, according to Andrea, but which I found to be quite straightforward, especially since her instructions are very clear.

Making tofu looks set to be in my regular weekly routine now, especially since it is really not very time-consuming, as long as you remember to soak your soy beans overnight. I would recommend this book very highly, and now am embarking on trying some of her recipes that use the tofu in the book.

I should point out I have no relationship with Andrea Nguyen, other than being a new big fan of her books!

#2 LindaK

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 06:06 PM

Thanks for starting this topic. I'm a big fan of her other cookbooks too, as well as her web site Viet World Kitchen, but wasn't sure that I wanted to plunge into tofu. This is very tempting!


 


#3 TheTInCook

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 06:13 PM

I bought this on kindle too. Even built my own tofu press for it, but haven't had a chance to make tofu from scratch yet.

The ma po tofu from the book is very good. I used to use mince pork for that dish, but beef pairs really really well with the bean sauce.

You should also try the bear paw tofu.


I've got some ideas for making my own nigari, since it's not readily available here.

#4 mkayahara

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 06:29 PM

I bought this on kindle too. Even built my own tofu press for it, but haven't had a chance to make tofu from scratch yet.

How did you build the press?
Matthew Kayahara
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#5 TheTInCook

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 06:53 PM


I bought this on kindle too. Even built my own tofu press for it, but haven't had a chance to make tofu from scratch yet.

How did you build the press?


I got some cheap cuts of poplar and glued them together with gorilla glue. I didn't have any plans, just eyeballed the pic of the wood one in the book. I only had a dremal to cut with, so my cuts aren't as neat as I'd have them. Once I get a saw, I think I'll make more refined one.

http://thetincook.bl...tofu-press.html

#6 kbjesq

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:39 PM

I love Andrea's books and recipes. Is anyone using one of these to make the soymilk? It saves a lot of time.

"]Soyabella Soymilk Maker from Amazon

#7 TheTInCook

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:54 PM

I love Andrea's books and recipes. Is anyone using one of these to make the soymilk? It saves a lot of time.

"]Soyabella Soymilk Maker from Amazon


She recomends against those.

#8 kbjesq

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 08:02 PM

Oh, no. It saves a lot of time for people like me who have to work. Is there a reason that the soymilk makers are discouraged? Temperature or consistency or ??

Unfortunately for me, it will be a choice between making homemade tofu using soymilk from the Soyabella machine or buying old tofu in a plastic box from my US grocery store. :sad:

#9 Will

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 08:30 PM

The soymilk maker is a little gimmicky (and I have to say, we don't use ours as often as we probably should), but it works well, and it seems a lot easier to me than making soy milk the "hard" way (something I've never had the motivation to do). Especially if you don't have a good local source for fresh, hot, doujiang (soy milk), the machine is a nice thing to have, though clearly not an "essential" kitchen gadget. We have a "Homesmart" brand (probably $60 or so locally), and it works pretty well. Really only useful if you go through a ton of soy milk and / or consume it plain; for cooking it's probably easier to just buy it.

You can use the pulp ("okara" in Japanese) to enrich baked goods, to make mock crab cakes, or for other purposes.

If you don't clean the little container the beans are strained through quickly, it can be really unpleasant to clean!

Edited by Will, 12 March 2012 - 08:31 PM.


#10 TheTInCook

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 08:47 PM

Oh, no. It saves a lot of time for people like me who have to work. Is there a reason that the soymilk makers are discouraged? Temperature or consistency or ??

Unfortunately for me, it will be a choice between making homemade tofu using soymilk from the Soyabella machine or buying old tofu in a plastic box from my US grocery store. :sad:


In the book, she objects because

-doesn't make a large enough volume in a batch
-only good for a set ratio of beans to water. (I guess it's a problem if you wanted to make richer soy milk, for say silken tofu or pudding)
-still had to strain the soy milk.

#11 jamesglu

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 09:21 PM

My first contact with Andrea was over the question of whether I could use my Midea soy milk machine (that I bought in China expressly for the purpose of making tofu) with her recipes. She got back to me right away with the advice not to use it, and I have to say that while the tofu I had made earlier using the machine's soy milk were unmitigated disasters, the tofu I have made with Andrea's recipes has been perfect. I don't know if it's her technique or the soy milk that's making the difference, but why mess with perfection?

I will continue to use the machine for making soy milk to drink, and may just do an experimental batch to see if it can be used for tofu as a fall-back, but honestly, the non-machine recipe is dead-easy, so I cannot see any particular reason not to just hunker down and do it.

#12 TheTInCook

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 04:21 PM

Anybody got any plans for what they are going to do with their o-kara and whey?

I'm definitely going to try the o-kara fritter type recipes. I also dug up a chapati recipe that uses okara to try.

Would the whey be good in soup?

#13 SJMitch

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 06:00 PM

One of our local ramen shops makes an okara salad. It's quite refreshing and good. This recipe looks similar to what is served there.

#14 Shalmanese

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 01:06 AM

I've never found a good use for okara & whey. It seems like all the recipes were created just because there was okara/whey that needed to be used up, never to take advantage of the okara/whey as an integral ingredient in some way. It's telling that even the industrial food system that has a reputation for being able to use everything can't even come up with good uses and most of it goes towards animal feed.

The one reasonable tip I've heard is that you can use the hot whey to rinse dishes as the lecithin will emulsify fats.
PS: I am a guy.

#15 TheTInCook

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 03:49 PM

The one reasonable tip I've heard is that you can use the hot whey to rinse dishes as the lecithin will emulsify fats.


I've also heard that okara makes a good wood polish. After you press out all the soy milk, you keep it in the rage, and rub your wood surfaces with the bundle. Something about the oil content.

Most of the okara dishes sound ok. I've never had it before, so I don't have a metric to judge.* Sounds like okara is the lesser cut of the soy bean.

Have you guys decided what coagulant you're going to try? I picked up some Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) the other day. Somewhere I've got some calcium chloride from cheese making. If I remember my chemistry, if we mix the magnesium sulfate and calcium chloride, most of the calcium will precipitate out as calcium sulfate (gypsum), which we can use for Chinese style tofu. The liquid should be pretty close to the original nigari being mainly magnesium chloride, with a little calcium sulfate still in solution.

*I went to a fancy Japanese restaurant a few years ago, and the Japanese waitress was telling us about the 'okara' special. I ordered one, and was excited to try something I'd just read about. Turned out, it was just okra.

#16 TheTInCook

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 05:03 PM

I'm making the Twice Cooked Coriander Tofu (Pressing as we speak) tonight, and serving it with garlic spinach.

Since I have to fry stuff anyway for the above, I bought something called 'Soy bean cake.' It was on a styrofoam tray. I cut it into tiles, and I'm going to fry it, and use it for later dishes.

Also picked up 3 different brands of soy beans, lol. Welpac, Asian Taste, and some Korean brand. Pretty affordable. Prices ranged from 1.80 to 1.25 a pound.

I couldn't find my calcium chloride, so it looks like I'm stuck with epsom salts.

#17 TheTInCook

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:49 PM

Just finished making, and eating some Twice Cooked Coriander Tofu. It's pretty good, I especially like the dark edges. I used ginger instead of galangal as the book suggested, and I added some serrano chiles because I like the heat. This dish would be amazing with galangal. I might try it with the powdered stuff the next time I make it. If you don't want to fry it, I think it could work pretty well in the broiler. I ate it with hot rice, a bit of the reserved spice paste, and a squeze of lime. Very good. Reminds me in a way of fresh char sui and hot rice.

My main quibble, is the process. You press the tofu, then you add it and the spice paste to a bunch of water, and cook it down until the 'sauce' gets thick. Then you scrape the thick sauce off the tofu, and deep fry it. All that moisture the tofu absorbed is detrimental to a good deep fry, and the simmering/reducing step adds almost an hour to the cooking time.

I'm thinking press, marinated overnight in the undiluted spice paste, scrape the paste off, deep fry. Make the sauce by sauting the paste in some oil till cooked, and thin with a little lime juice.

This dish is definitely a make again, especially if I can remove the simmer step.

#18 TheTInCook

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 10:15 PM

Found a couple of other uses for the okara.

1)You can parch it in the oven to make granola.

2)You can add some liquid and steam it to form a psuedo tofu.

#19 TheTInCook

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 08:19 PM

My homebrew nigari is almost ready. I just dissolved a bunch of calcium chloride in water, then added epsom salts while stirring until it could no longer dissolved. It turned milky due to the formation calcium sulfate. Now, I just gotta wait for it to settle out. After I decant my 'nigari,' I plan on recovering the sediment. I'm just not sure if I should wash it to get rid of any excess epsom salt.

#20 TheTInCook

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 11:07 PM

I made Andrea's tofu palak paneer (called Simmered Greens with Fried Tofu) for dinner tonight, in my wok. It's very good, and makes a point that I've always missed when making saag or palak dishes, that they need simple spicing. The only dry spice she uses is cumin, but I ended up adding a touch of garam masala at the end to make it pop. My Indian-food-novice spicyfood disliking (I made it mild) guest enjoyed it. I used only spinach, as that is what I had, but she suggests a range of greens as alternatives.

It only suffers because when you taste the saag, your mouth expects to bite into a nice bit of paneer, but ends up with a cube of tofu.

I rate this dish as a qualified make again, only because I'd swap out the tofu for paneer if available. I'd make the greens portion the same way.

#21 TheTInCook

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 03:37 PM

Just attempted my first block of tofu. It's pressing as I write. I made a 16 oz dry soybean batch (go big or go home, right?). Turning it into soymilk was pretty easy, though, next time I will puree the go a bit longer as my okara turned out a bit coarse. Since I needed to use the a big stock pot to cook all my soy milk, I decide to use the 'mainland' method (as described in the book of tofu, by Shurtleff and Aoyagi)vs the 'island' method used in Nguyen's book. In the 'mainland' method, the soy milk is cooked all in one stage, then pressed from the okara. In the 'island' method, the soy milk is cooked until the first big foam up, then is pressed from the okara, and then cooked again. Thorough cooking is a must, because soy beans contain a toxin that interferes with our protein digestion and it needs to be deactivated with heat. There are two consequences you have to deal with if you choose to use the 'mainland' method. Firstly, you have to manage the foam ups, which I did by spraying it down with the water spray bottle I use for bread baking. Second, your soy milk is generally cooler then that produced from the 'island' method, so you may need more coagulant (or I suppose you could heat it up). The book isn't joking about how fast it boils up. I took a glance at my kindle to see why it was taking so long, and boom, it almost overflowed.

For coagulant, I used about 4 tablespoons of the clear part of my home brew nigari mixed into 1.5 cups of water. The soymilk was at 179 degrees F. I stirred in 2/3s of it and held back 1/3 in reserve, according to the book. It started coagulating almost immediately, even got some big curds. I let it sit for a bit while I washed up and put stuff away, and readied the mold. There were no milky pockets, and the whey was clear yellow, so I hit the minimum amount of coagulant and had the right stirring technique. 16 oz of dry beans yielded enough unpressed curd to fill my big home made press to the rim. I had to wait a little for the curd to settle and drain a bit before I could add the last of the curd. I tasted the curd at this point. It was soft, warm, bland, but with a slight ghostly sweetness. There was also a little bitter aftertaste, which makes me think I used to much nigari. As a side not, I'm thinking I might have to sand down the ends of the mold's top. I think it might be swelling too much despite the oiling I gave it last week.

I haven't decided on soaking or non soaking.

Pics later.

#22 TheTInCook

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 04:14 PM

It tastes like tofu!
tofu first attempt and other stuff 010.JPG

Now I just gotta figure out what I want to do with the okara.

#23 TheTInCook

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 11:20 PM

I ended up tossing the okara with a little sugar and a little salt and parching it in a slow oven until it got golden.

It's pretty interesting stuff. Surprisingly light and fluffy. Nice nutty taste. It's got a gentle crispness to it, almost like eating puffed grapenuts. The crispness dies very quickly when exposed to moisture, as I found out when I dumped a handful on my yogurt this morning.

It'd make a great addition to granola. Might even make a good hot cereal. On her blog, Andrea Nugyen is using it as a gluten free 'panko' for frying.

#24 ...tm...

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 03:13 AM

I can't remember if I mentioned this here before, but I like okara blended about 1:1 with an egg and seasoned/herbs added. It produces a light-textured egg 'pancake' when griddled (and I didn't expect to like okara at all, seeing it as some sort of health-only food).

#25 TheTInCook

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 10:51 PM

I can't remember if I mentioned this here before, but I like okara blended about 1:1 with an egg and seasoned/herbs added. It produces a light-textured egg 'pancake' when griddled (and I didn't expect to like okara at all, seeing it as some sort of health-only food).


Cool use! I too am surprised at how tasty it can be. For dinner, I made some 'kibbe' kabobs with a couple of handfuls of my parched okara. Came out great.

#26 Andrea Nguyen

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 03:41 PM

Hello everyone,

It's Andrea Nguyen, author of Asian Tofu. Thanks so much for delving deeply into bean curd goodness.

WOW. I knew that TheTinCook made his own press but the DIY nigari impresses extra. I wish I could award you a special tofu star. Really.

With regard to soy milk machines, I bought one for $125 and used it just a few times. It's really because I manipulate the soy milk richness and the machines fabricated for a limited ratio of water to beans. The machine now sits in my garage.

For a block tofu shortcut, find a tasty fresh soy milk (sold refrigerated in plastic 2-quart containers) and make tofu from that. I look for soy milk made from non-GMO or organic beans. Artisan tofu makers and Asian markets are good sources for excellent soy milk.

Once you get the hang of making soy milk from scratch, it's not that time consuming. Seriously. Soaking the beans is passive cooking time. Active cooking is about 1 hour. The deal with going from the bean is that you can control/tinker with the beans, water, coagulant. Freshly made tofu is akin to fabulous bread or cheese that you made yourself. Treat it simply to fully enjoy its deliciousness.

On the other hand, many tofu dishes can be prepared with store bought tofu.

Love your curiosity and creativity with okara. (I'm going to play around with the egg and okara concept.) In the main, you can use soy milk lees (okara) like wet wheat germ in baked goods to lessen the use of eggs and flour (up your leavening though); you're adding fiber and a little protein via the okara. For okara-based savories, feature it in croquettes (think of it as the bread binder) or an old fashioned Japanese bar snack called unohana. I recently turned okara into a gluten-free soy panko. Keep okara frozen.

If I feel like discarding okara, I sprinkle it my garden. Same goes for the whey, which is good as a light stock.

Again, thanks for hopping on the tofu train. Ping me if you have questions, etc.

Andrea
Andrea Q. Nguyen

Author, food writer, teacher
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, Oct. 2006)
Vietworldkitchen.com