• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

  • product-image-quickten.png.a40203b506711f7664fc62024e54a584.pngDid you know that these all-volunteer forums are operated by the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Society for Culinary Arts & Letters? This holiday season, consider a tax-deductible Quick Ten Bucks to support the eG Forums and help us remain completely advertising-free. Thanks to all those who have donated so far!

mcohen

Almond tofu

14 posts in this topic

When I go to a Chinese restaurant, I always hope they end it almond tofu for dessert. Fortune cookies aren't even really Chinese, and I could eat oranges at home.

However, I can't seem to duplicate making almond tofu at home that tastes as good as the really good ones in a Chinese restaurant. I've searched on the internet and followed the recipes, and bought the almond tofu that came in a can or a box that they sell in Chinese grocery stores. But, none of them contained that same elusive almond taste in a really great almond tofu.

What am I doing wrong? What's the ancient Chinese secret to making almond tofu?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it traditonal dim sum restaurants where you've had the great almond tofu?

In dim sum restaurant, they usually serve tofu fah - which is totally different from the almond tofu you can buy, or make at home, unless you are making tofu from scratch at home. That's the ancient Chinese secret. :wink:


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My husband makes it out of a box and it's fantastic. He uses heavy cream + milk (instead of just plain milk) and throws in extra almond extract. I think that's the secret - a liberal pour of almond extract. He also claims that the brands from Taiwan are better than the Chinese ones (unfortunately, the name escapes me - will have to check).

I guess technically the almond "tofu" that you get for dessert or at dimsum isn't really tofu, since it's made with dairy, not soy. Although you can buy almond-flavoured soft tofu dessert - tofu fah, as Dejah mentions - which is made with soy and tastes distinctly bean-y.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if it's the stuff that's served for dessert after a meal then that's definitely almond tofu. Sometimes they make it with gelatin, but mostly I think it's made with agar. In general I've never really thought it was all that hard to make. I would think the majority of restaurants use either a mix or flavor it with almond extract. What recipes are you using?


Edited by sheetz (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The characters are 杏仁豆腐.

I found this video on Youtube of a woman making almond tofu the very traditional way using almond milk, agar, and rock sugar. It's in Cantonese but it should be pretty self evident what's going on.


Edited by sheetz (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In general I've never really thought it was all that hard to make. I would think the majority of restaurants use either a mix or flavor it with almond extract. What recipes are you using?

The recipes I found on the internet used almond extract, canned fruit, gelatin, etc.. I don't doubt that that's what most chinese places do, but I'm not interested in that- most of the almond tofus in those places aren't that good.

Instead, I'm searching for the trick, technique, secret, or whatever you want to call it when you stumble upon really great almond tofu. Out of 10 chinese places that serve almond tofu, maybe only 1 of them has the almond tofu I'm looking for. Its got this elusive, deeper almond taste that I haven't captured yet when I try to make it at home.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found this video on Youtube of a woman making almond tofu the very traditional way using almond milk, agar, and rock sugar. It's in Cantonese but it should be pretty self evident what's going on.

Can somebody please translate what she's saying. I think she's using two different types of almonds?!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What you probably tasted was bitter almonds in the almond tofu.

According to FDA rules and regulations, they're not supposed to use it in a dish much less sell it in the grocery market because of the cynaide in those bitter almonds. But, you can find in Chinese supermarkets, although they may be mis-labeled to avoid FDA regulations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, the only I can eat authentic almond tofu if I'm willing to poison myself? What is this, the Chinese version of fugu?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As mentioned in the youtube video, she only used "a few" of the bitter almonds because it is stronger in almond flavour. I don't think anyone has to worry about cyanide poisoning. My grandmother-in-law always put bits of apricot pits(cyanide)in her peach and apricot conserve for a touch of bitterness to the sweetness. And she lived to be healthy 87. I've also added a few to one of my Chinese herbal soups.

If you are concerned, I am sure you can substitute a good quality almond extract for the flavour boost.


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My mom always used to make this and if I remember correctly, it's just out of a box.

35hhjr7.png

This is the brand we always got, I think. You should be able to find it in most Chinese stores. I'm not really sure what the deeper almond taste you mean is, but this stuff always tasted pretty good. Just make sure you use less liquid (milk, water or whatever) than the recipe indicates so you end up with a more dense "tofu", both in firmness and flavor. And no, it's definitely not tofu. More like an almond-flavored jello.

As for bitter almonds, they do contain trace amounts of cyanide, but poisoning is rare and the amount of cyanide is affected by soil conditions, watering, etc. Looking it up, it IS possible. There's 4 to 9 mg of cyanide per almond and a minimum lethal dose is 50 mg or 0.5 mg per kg of body weight, so you wouldn't have to ingest many to make you sick. But then again, they do contain essential oils which might be that missing flavor you want. Up to you if you want to risk it, but anecdotally, I used to eat them all the time as a kid and never got sick from them, and it should have taken only 1-2 almonds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a related questions for our experts here :-)

I have just got myself a packet of nigari. Can I make tofu using home made almond milk? Not with agar-agar but with nigari (Magnesium chloride)?

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      An old friend from England contacted me yesterday via Facebook with a couple of questions about Five Spice Powder.

      Thought there me be some interest here, too.

      Is there anything more typically Chinese than five spice powder (五香粉 - wǔ xiāng fěn)?
       
      Well, yes. A lot.
       
      Many years ago, I worked in an office overlooking London’s China town. By around 11 am, the restaurants started getting lunch ready and the smell of FSP blanketed the area for the rest of the day. When I moved to China, I didn’t smell that. Only when I first visited Hong Kong, did I find that smell again.
       
      In fact, FSP is relatively uncommon in most of Chinese cuisine. And if I ever see another internet recipe called “Chinese” whatever, which is actually any random food, but the genius behind it has added FSP, supposedly rendering it Chinese, I’ll scream.

      I get all sorts of smells wafting through the neighbourhood. Some mouth-watering; some horrifying. But I don't recall ever that they were FSP.
       
      But what is it anyway? Which five spices?
       
      Today, I bought four samples in four local supermarkets. I would have would have preferred five, but couldn’t find any more. It's not that popular.
       
      First thing to say: none of them had five spices. All had more. That is normal. Numbers in Chinese can often be vague. Every time you hear a number, silently added the word ‘about’ or ‘approximately’. 100 km means “far”, 10,000 means “many”.
       
      Second, while there are some common factors, ingredients can vary quite a bit. Here are my four.

      1.


       
      Ingredients – 7
       
      Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Sand Ginger, Dried Ginger, Sichuan Peppercorns.
       
      2.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Cassia Bark, Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Coriander, Sichuan Peppercorn, Licorice Root.

      3.
       

       
      Ingredients – 15
       
      Fennel Seeds, Sichuan Peppercorns, Coriander, Tangerine Peel, Star Anise, Chinese Haw, Cassia Bark, Lesser Galangal, Dahurian Angelica, Nutmeg, Dried Ginger, Black Pepper, Amomum Villosum, Cumin Seeds, Cloves.

      4.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Pepper (unspecified – probably black pepper), Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, Cassia.
       
      So, take your pick. They all taste and smell almost overwhelmingly of the star anise and cassia, although there are subtle differences in taste in the various mixes.
       
      But I don’t expect to find it in many dishes in local restaurants or homes. A quick, unscientific poll of about ten friends today revealed that not one has any at home, nor have they ever used the stuff!
       
       
      I'm not suggesting that FSP shouldn't be used outside of Chinese food. Please just don't call the results Chinese when you sprinkle it on your fish and chips or whatever. They haven't miraculously become Chinese!

      Like my neighbours and friends, I very rarely use it at all.

      In fact, I'd be delighted to hear how it is used in other cultures / cuisines.
    • By liuzhou
      For the last several years Cindy's* job has been to look after me. She takes care of my residence papers, my health insurance, my travel, my housing and associated repairs. She makes sure that I am supplied with sufficient cold beer at official banquets. And she does it all with terrific efficiency and great humour.
       
      This weekend she held her wedding banquet.
       
      Unlike in the west, this isn't held immediately after the marriage is formalised. In fact, she was legally married months ago. But the banquet is the symbolic, public declaration and not the soul-less civil servant stamping of papers that the legal part entails.
      So tonight, along with a few hundred other people, I rolled up to a local hotel at the appointed time. In my pocket was my 'hong bao' or red envelope in which I had deposited a suitable cash gift. That is the Chinese wedding gift protocol. You don't get 12 pop-up toasters here.
       
      I handed it over, then settled down, at a table with colleagues, to a 17 or 18 course dinner.
       
      Before we started, I spotted this red bedecked jar. Shaking, poking and sniffing revealed nothing.
       
       
      A few minutes later, a waitress turned up and opened and emptied the jar into a serving dish. Spicy pickled vegetables. Very vinegary, very hot, and very addictive. Allegedly pickled on the premises, this was just to amuse us as we waited for the real stuff to arrive.
       
       
      Then the serious stuff arrived. When I said 17 courses, I really meant 17 dishes. Chinese cuisine doesn't really do courses. Every thing is served at roughly the same time. But we had:
       
      Quail soup which I neglected to photograph.
       
      Roast duck
       
      Braised turtle
       
      Sticky rice with beef (the beef is lurking underneath)
       
      Steamed chicken
       
      Spicy, crispy shell-on prawns.
       
      Steamed pork belly slices with sliced taro
       
      Spicy squid
       
      Noodles
       
      Chinese Charcuterie (including ducks jaws (left) and duck hearts (right))
       
      Mixed vegetables
       
      Fish
       
      Cakes
       
      Fertility soup! This allegedly increases your fertility and ensures the first born (in China, only born) is a son. Why they are serving to me is anyone's guess. It would make more sense for the happy couple to drink the lot.
       
      Greenery
       
      Jiaozi
       
      There was a final serving of quartered oranges, but I guess you have seen pictures of oranges before.
       
      The happy couple. I wish them well.
       
      *Cindy is the English name she has adopted. Her Chinese name is more than usually difficult to pronounce. Many Chinese friends consider it a real tongue-twister.
    • By liuzhou
      A few days ago, I was given a lovely gift. A big jar of preserved lemons.
       
      I know Moroccan preserved lemons, but had never met Chinese ones. In fact, apart from in the south, in many parts of China it isn't that easy to find lemons, at all.
       
      These are apparently a speciality of the southern Zhuang minority of Wuming County near Nanning. The Zhuang people are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live in Guangxi. These preserved lemons feature in their diet and are usually eaten with congee (rice porridge). Lemon Duck is a local speciality and they are also served with fish. They can be served as a relish, too. They are related to the Vietnamese Chanh muối.
       
      I'm told that these particular lemons have been soaking in salt and lemon juice for eleven years!
       

       

       
      So, of course, you want to know what they taste like. Incredibly lemony. Concentrated lemonness. Sour, but not unpleasantly so. Also a sort of smoky flavour.
       
      The following was provided by my dear friend 马芬洲 (Ma Fen Zhou) who is herself Zhuang. It is posted with her permission.
       
      How to Make Zhuang Preserved Lemons
      By 马芬洲
       
      Zhuang preserved lemons is a kind of common food for the southern Zhuang ethnic minority who live around Nanning Prefecture of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. The Zhuang people like to make it as a relish for eating with congee or congee with corn powder. This relish is a mixture of chopped preserved lemons, red chilli and garlic or ginger slice in soy sauce and peanut oil or sesame oil.
       

       
      Sometimes the Zhuang people use preserved lemons as an ingredient in cooking. The most famous Zhuang food in Guangxi is Lemon Duck, which is a common home cooked dish in Wuming County, which belongs to Nanning Prefecture.
       
      The following steps show you how to make Zhuang preserved lemons.
       
      Step 1 Shopping
      Buy some green lemons.
       
      Step 2 Cleaning
      Wash green lemons.
       
      Step 3 Sunning
      Leave green lemons under the sunshine till it gets dry.
       
      Step 4 Salting
      If you salt 5kg green lemons, mix 0.25kg salt with green lemons. Keep the salted green lemons in a transparent jar. The jar must be well sealed. Leave the jar under the sunshine till the salted green lemons turn yellow. For example, leave it on the balcony. Maybe it will take months to wait for those salted green lemons to turn yellow. Later, get the jar of salted yellow lemons back. Unseal the jar. Then cover 1kg salt over the salted yellow lemons. Seal well the jar again.
       
      Step 5 Preserving
      Keep the sealed jar of salted yellow lemons at least 3 years. And the colour of salted yellow lemons will turn brown day by day. It can be dark brown later. The longer you keep preserved lemons, the better taste it is. If you eat it earlier than 2 years, it will taste bitter. After 3 years, it can be unsealed. Please use clean chopsticks to pick it. Don’t use oily chopsticks, or the oil will make preserved lemons go bad. Remember to seal the jar well after picking preserved lemons every time.
    • By liuzhou
      Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, where I live, is sugar central for the country. Over two-thirds of China's output of sugar is grown right here, making it one of the largest sugar production areas on the planet. I have a second home in the countryside and it is surrounded by sugar cane fields.

      Much of this is produced by small time farmers, although huge Chinese and international companies have also moved in.
       
      Also, sugar is used extensively in Chinese cooking, not only as a sweetener, but more as a spice. A little added to a savoury dish can bring out otherwise hidden flavours. It also has medicinal attributes according to traditional Chinese medicine.
       
      Supermarkets have what was to me, on first sight, a huge range of sugars, some almost unrecognisable. Here is a brief introduction to some of them. Most sugar is sold loose, although corner shops and mom 'n pop stores may have pre-packed bags. These are often labelled in English as "candy", the Chinese language not differentiating between "sugar" and "candy" - always a source of confusion. Both are 糖 (táng),

      IMPORTANT NOTE: The Chinese names given here and in the images are the names most used locally. They are all Mandarin Chinese, but it is still possible that other names may be used elsewhere in China. Certainly, non-Mandarin speaking areas will be different.

      By the far the simplest way to get your sugar ration is to buy the unprocessed sugar cane. This is not usually available in supermarkets but is a street vendor speciality. In the countryside, you can buy it at the roadside. There are also people in markets etc with portable juice extractors who will sell you a cup of pure sugar cane juice.


       
      I remember being baffled then amused when, soon after I first arrived in China, someone asked me if I wanted some 甘蔗 (gān zhè). It sounded exactly like 'ganja' or cannabis. No such luck! 甘蔗 (gān zhè) is 'sugar cane'.
       
      The most common sugar in the supermarkets seems to be 冰糖 (bīng táng) which literally means 'ice 'sugar' and is what we tend to call 'rock sugar' or 'crystal sugar'. This highly refined sugar comes in various lump sizes although the price remains the same no matter if the pieces are large or small. Around ¥7/500g. That pictured below features the smaller end of the range.


       
      Related to this is what is known as 冰片糖 (bīng piàn táng) which literally means "ice slice sugar". This is usually slightly less processed (although I have seen a white version, but not recently) and is usually a pale brown to yellow colour. This may be from unprocessed cane sugar extract, but is often white sugar coloured and flavoured with added molasses. It is also sometimes called 黄片糖  (huáng piàn táng) or "yellow slice sugar". ¥6.20/500g.
       


      A less refined, much darker version is known as 红片糖 (hóng piàn táng), literally 'red slice sugar'. (Chinese seems to classify colours differently - what we know as 'black tea' is 'red tea' here. ¥7.20/500g.


       
      Of course, what we probably think of as regular sugar, granulated sugar is also available. Known as 白砂糖 (bái shā táng), literally "white sand sugar', it is the cheapest at  ¥3.88/500g.



      A brown powdered sugar is also common, but again, in Chinese, it isn't brown. It's red and simply known as 红糖 (hóng táng). ¥7.70/500g


       
      Enough sweetness and light for now. More to come tomorrow.
    • By Dejah
      [Host's note: This topic forms part of an extended discussion which grew too large for our servers to handle efficiently.  The conversation continues from here.]
       
       
      Supper: Yeem Gok Gai:

      Mock Fried Rice - grated cauliflower

      Baby Shanghai Bok Choy and ginger

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.