Tofuworld Transcript

Stanley Farms

GUEST: Narrator

    When I was a kid the future was where it was at. I don't know if it was all of the those Apollo launches, maybe it was all the Tang I drank, or maybe it was those popular science films. You know the ones where the narrator was always making big promises about the marvels of tomorrow?

NARRATOR: With the push of a button tomorrow's commuter will simply hop over pesky traffic jams via personal jet packs.

    Personal jet pack. There you go. Of course, what I was really hot for was one of those food synthesizers. You know, like they had on the, on the Enterprise, right? I used to wonder, what would you fuel that with? I mean, what could you put in there that would be that versatile? Then I get it, tofu.

N: Formulated from that super legume of the future, glysine max.

    Or to you and me, the soy bean. I know, I know, I know. It's not high tech. But, bear with me. I mean, besides a 95 percent digestibility rate, 8 essential amino acids, and all those health-trendy phytochemicals, tofu is a profoundly, plastic, proto-staple that is as flexible as any old, I don't know, Spacely Sprocket. So, join us, won't you, as we probe deep into the heart of a food that's got ...

N: ... the Future ...

... written all over it, tofu. It may not be a giant leap for mankind, but it sure is good eats.

Stanley Farms: Vidalia, GA - 11:17 am

N: Let's meet tofu's parent, the soy bean. The most nutritious and easily digested of the bean family. And with the possible exception of plankton, it is the world's most ...

    Whoa, whoa. Okay. That's enough. This is a half hour show. Now, it's true. This little oil seed does lend itself to almost as many applications as maize, the only crop that out-acres it in the U.S.

Glysine max

    And yet, Americans only eat 3 percent of their soy product. And that's just not right. Now, as far as our hero tofu goes, it all begins with dried, shelled soy beans, which are soaked overnight in water. The next day ...

N: ... following a ritual as old as the Han Dynasty ...

dry beans
soaked beans

... the beans are boiled, crushed, and then separated into a solid called okara and soy-milk or extract. Now, various coagulants such as calcium sulfate—a very pure form of gypsum, the same stuff that's in sheet rock ...

N: ... the miracle building material of tomorrow— ...

... are added to, uh, to further separate the milk into curds and whey, much like in cheese making. In fact ...

N: In fact, the soy bean is often called the cow of China.

soy milk

    [sigh] It's true. Okay, so the soy milk is then poured into molds where the carbohydrate-rich whey is allowed to drain off. Now, when the tofu sets we find ourselves at a culinary crossroads. If it's cut as-is without pressing, a fine protein network is formed trapping liquid in a creamy soft but relatively un-porous block. Now, the Jell-O like texture and clean, soft flavor of this "silken" style tofu goes over big in Japan where it's a favorite summertime dessert.


silken tofu

    Now, if the tofu is pressed immediately following coagulation—the way that cheddar cheese is—water is forced out of the compacted curd leaving a network of tiny openings. Now, since it contains less moisture, this "firm" style tofu has a, uh, has a much higher nutrient content than, say, silken tofu. Now, although the differences in flavor are very subtle, the differences in texture greatly affect the way that that tofu feels in mouth or reacts to outside flavors. More on that shortly.

firm tofu

tiny openings

silken       firm

    Now, if you don't have a tofu master hanging around your neighborhood, do not despair. The future is here.

Kroger: Alpharetta, GA - 10:50 am

N: The mega-mart of the future is a convenient and exotic world bizarre of sights and flavors.

    The grand old nineties witnessed a high-speed, head-on, culinary collision between traditional Asian cuisine and traditional health store foods. Uh, as a result, just about every mega-mart in the country now has a soy or soya food section where you can pick up such delights as, uh, oh, soy chips, soy milk, soy margarine, soy cheese, tofu pups, and, of course, tofu, both regular tofu and silken tofu.

soy = soya

soya chips, soy milk, soy margarine, soy cheese, tofu "meat", soy beans, soy oil.

    But of course, the choices do not end there. Take, for instance, regular tofu. It almost always comes in two varieties: soft and firm. The main difference here being the amount of moisture that was squeezed out of the curds pre-packaging.

regular (firm) tofu

soft          firm

"Soft" regular tofu is prefect for crumbling on salads.
"Firm" regular tofu can be sliced and seared or sautéed.

Sea of Japan - Dawn

    [attacking monster sounds and bubbling] Uh, the point is that, um, um, where silken tofu is like a slab of Jell-O, regular or Chinese tofu is a lot like a sponge. You see, even if you were to look at it with a microscope, the protein matrix of regular tofu would look just like this. And it also shares some other spongy characteristics. For one thing, it'll absorb whatever liquid it's sitting in. And this is how we're going to take advantage of a very, very old Italian word which means, "a dunk in the sea" or 'marinade.'  Of course, before we can marinade it, we've got to wring it out. Now, um, I'm going to go stomp all over Tokyo.

Since they lack central nervous systems,
giant sponges rarely (okay never) attack boats.

The Kitchen

    Of course, the word 'marinade' and the word 'brine' share the same etymological roots, but there is a big difference in practice. You see, a brine really just refers to a salty liquid. But a marinade always includes acid, either citrus juice or vinegar, wine, something like that in order to tenderize the proteins of tough cuts of meat. But here's the thing, tofu's proteins are already coagulated, i.e. cooked. So, tenderizing is not really an issue. However, flavor injection is.

brines always contain salt

marinades always contain acid

    Of course, if we're going to consider this a sponge, we've got to wring it out good before we can expect it to soak up anything, right? Now, we could kind of squeeze it as one whole block but it would take longer. So, I like to cut into portions. I'm going to fry this up in fours, so 1, 2, 3, 4. Now, we need something to soak up what comes out of it, otherwise it's just going to kind of sit there in its own juice. You can use a tea towel or dish towel or ... that's probably a little fuzzy. I like to use paper towel. The stuff's really pretty darned absorbent.
    So, just lay it out 2 and 2. Give it a little room. You do not want them touching. Fold it over in both directions so it's got plenty of room to soak. And then it would help to weigh this down with something so that we can really give it a good squeeze. And for that, I like just, uh, an ordinary sheet pan, baking sheet, cookie sheet, call it what you will. But, uh, that's pretty darn light. Hey, it's a piece of aluminum, so we need some weight. And nothing's better than, of course, a 28-ounce can of tomato which I use for weight as much as I cook with them. So, down for one hour.

Once opened, tofu will keep for 5 days if its water is changed.
Frozen, it will keep up to 3 months.

    Now as for the marinade, Asian flavors are the tradition which, as far as I'm concerned, is a darned good reason to not use them. In fact, my very favorite is Worcestershire sauce in even proportion with sherry wine vinegar. Now, believe it or not, a 10 dollar bottle of sherry vine vinegar will just about make you forget about that 100 dollar bottle of balsamic vinegar.

    Okay, maybe not forget about it but you get the point. We only need about 2 tablespoons of each. There we go. And the other thing that tofu likes since it is just a little on the bland side, is some heat. So, give it a few good dashes of your favorite pepper sauce. There you go. Now, all we have to do is wait an hour.

2 tbsp. each Worcestershire Sauce & Sherry Vinegar . . .

. . . plus hot sauce to taste

    Well, it's been hour and now our slabs not only posses high surface to mass ratios, but powerful thirsts. So, a short soak in our marinade will be sufficient. As you can see, the paper towel is pretty darn wet. Just kind of tear it right off of there and move this directly to the marinade. Now, if this was a piece of meat we'd be talking about hours. But, again, this is going to be a very short time since these little guys are going to soak that up fast. So, 15 minutes on this side and then 15 minutes on the other side and that will be it. No need to refrigerate.

15 min. side A
15 min. side B

Kroger: Alpharetta, GA - 10:53 am

    Aside from subtle differences in flavor and texture, the biggest thing that separates silken tofu from its cousin, regular tofu, is this:

N: The amazing aseptic container keeps perishables fresh for months. No refrigeration needed. How is this possible?

    Well, I'll tell ya. You see, the hot soy milk and the coagulant are poured in and the carton is sealed before the tofu has a chance to set. Now since it can't be pressed after the fact, regular tofu is not available in this packaging. Stunning versatility and a 3 month shelf life makes this a pantry must. But, before we can show off its full potential, we need to visit a friend.

Somewhere in Cyberspace

GUEST: "W", Big-headed gear head

  N: Today's blenders are chock full for forward thinking design.
AB: W, fill in the blank: lustrous salad dressings, rich smoothies, silky pie fillings ...
 W: Blender. What's in the cooler?
AB: Oh, um, nothing. You know, there sure a lot to choose from. Any criteria?

W: Well, despite the trend towards multi-tasking, all you should really ask for in a good blender is liquefaction and aeration. The rest is just counter candy.

Liquification [sic] & Aeration

AB: Oh, well, that means maximum food/blade contact and high RPMs. Don't food processors do the same thing?
 W: If they could, bartenders and soda jerks would be using them. Besides, ever try and puree hot soup in a food processor?
AB: Yeah, it's ugly.
 W: Not to mention painful.
AB: So, any suggestions?

W: Look for a model with a tapered canister ...
 N: ... to promote food/blade contact ...
W: ... wide range of speeds ...
 N: ... for the ultimate in texture control ...
W: ... simple, well placed controls ...
 N: ... for ease of use and snappy clean up ...
W: ... and a wide footprint ...
 N: ... for safe, incident-free operation.

tapered canister
range of speeds
simple controls
That means a stable base.

W: Who is that?
AB: Oh, uh, it's just, uh, a narrator. All these future product shows have them. It's, it's code.
 W: Well, I don't like him.
AB: Bye. [leaves] Whew.

    Although I'm not about to advocate that you replace your Thanksgiving turkey with a big hunk of tofu, there are certainly some circumstances in which tofu can switch hit for some pretty major culinary players. For instance, since it's smooth and contains emulsifiers, um, silken tofu, when properly pulverized, is a perfectly acceptable replacement for the raw eggs in Caesar salad dressing. And, um, unlike the traditional version which is best built in a bowl, this one just screams blender. You think W would mind us ... ah, of course not.

    Now, first two ounces of cubed parmesan cheese. You don't think this can be done in a blender? Well actually, a blender is better than this than even a food processor. The secret when you're chopping up anything that's big, whether it be cheese or ice, is to start on the lowest setting that you've got. [turns the blender on] There you go. As it slowly gets chopped into pieces, you'll notice that it's going to start settling into the bottom of the blender. That's when you can turn up the speed. Just let them take their time. They'll get there. Go for 2 cloves of garlic and send them right down the chute. This is a great feature. There we go. Now, once that is all minced together, kill the blender. Well, turn it off. You get my point.

2 oz Parmesan cubed

2 cloves garlic

    Now, we go with 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Just scrape that right into the bottom. About a half a tablespoon each of white wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, that is a teaspoon and a half of each. There we go. A pinch of kosher salt, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. There we go. Now comes the tofu. We're going to need about half a block or one cup of tofu.

2 Tbls. Dijon Mustard

1 1/2 Tsp. each
white wine vinegar
Worcestershire sauce

a pinch of kosher salt

a big pinch of black pepper

If in doubt, measure by filling a 2 cup measuring cup 1/2 full with H20.
Then add tofu until the H20 rises to the 2 cup line.

    In that goes with whatever liquid happens to seep out of it. And, work this until it is smooth. Now as soon as it's smooth, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. This is a time to break out the good stuff. And pour it right down the middle of the vortex, the little funnel, the little tornado thing that's formed. Now what you're looking for is basically salad dressing consistency. It may take a little less, a little more than 2 tablespoons. There you go. That's it. Now, you've got a Caesar salad dressing that will keep perfectly well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

blend on medium speed
until smooth

2 Tbsp XV olive oil

Vortex: A region within a body of liquid or gas possessing angular velocity.

Speaking of salad, the first manufactured
soy food in the U.S. was "Baco - Bits".

Somewhere in Cyberspace

    Of course, one of the true tests of a blender is how does it handle high viscosity substances. Well, I can't think of anything more high viscosity than pie filling. So, let's see how it handles one block, that's 2 cups, of silken tofu combined with 2 cups of chocolate chips melted Art of Darkness style along with a third of a cup of coffee liqueur and a teaspoon of vanilla. Now, since the protein inside tofu tends to deaden the sweet flavor of mixtures like this we're going to add a tablespoon of honey. There we go.

1 block (2 cups) silken tofu

2 cups chocolate chips (double boilered)

1/2 cup coffee liqueur

1 Tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. of honey

    Now, we'll see what this machine is made of. Of course, I can't help but notice that it doesn't have numbers. But it does have words like 'mix', 'chop', 'puree', 'liquefy' ... oh, I like the sounds of that. Now bad.
    [tastes] Mmm. Now, all you have to do is pour this into a cookie crumb crust, refrigerate for a couple of hours, and uh, hey, you've got a chocolate pie that's actually good for you. Next up, the bane of all blenders: big icy things.

    Well, this pricey little number seems to combine retro-deco styling with Zen-simple controls. See, off, on, and really, really on. Wow. And an engine by Sopwith Camel. But, can it handle the Tall Tangy Tofu Thang. Let's see. It all starts with one small can of fruit cocktail in light syrup—frozen. To that we add one teaspoon of instant lemonade mix. Now, you can use sugar-free or sugar or any kind of drink mix you want, or even Jell-O for that matter. Just for a little tang and a little color. Then we go with six ounces of cranberry juice and one block of silken tofu.

1 small (8 1/4 oz) can of fruit cocktail

1 Tsp. lemonade mix

6 oz cranberry juice

that's 2 cups

1 block silken tofu

    Now, we'll find out if this thing is all just looks. Of course, here's the test: did it make a smoothie or did it make a chunky? [tastes] Beautiful and brainy.

30 seconds later

    Of course, this leads us to the final blender test, and that is ease of cleanup. Of course, I think maybe we should leave this one for W. I have to say that this little guy right here is probably my favorite. [keeps another, too] Uhh ... I like them both.

The Kitchen

    Now grilling, searing, sautéing would all be viable options for our tofu. But there's only one cooking method that I can think of that would not only lock in the flavor of the marinade but bring on a whole 'nother layer of texture and that is pan frying.

grilling, searing, sautéeing [sic]


    So, here is the hardware: a nice big fat pile of paper towels, two containers suitable for dredging, one large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-high heat, one set of spring-loaded tongs, and a fork.

paper towels
2 containers
1 large skillet
tongs & a fork

    The software: enough canola oil to cover the bottom of the pan by about an eighth of an inch, two eggs and half a cup of all purpose flour. Oh, and kosher salt? We don't need any. There's plenty of salt already in the marinade.

1/8" canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup AP flour

  Speaking of the marinade, we need to get some of it off of the tofu before we can actually do anything else. So, take it out and just lay it right on more paper towels just to get the excess off of there. Once you've got that done, you can turn your attention to the eggs.
    The egg is going to act as a basic batter to coat and protect the tofu from invasion by hot oil. But unfortunately, the egg is wet and even though we've given this a good blot, the tofu is still wet. So, they're not going to stick to one another. It's kind of like a batter ... uh, the person, not the thing. Uh, they put dirt on their hands to get a good grip on the bat. We've got to do the same thing here. That's where the flour comes in. By getting a small layer of flour on the tofu, the egg is going to be able to get a grip. Skip this step and the egg will not hang.

    But, there's a little bit of danger here, which is that you want the layer of flour to be as thin as possible. I mean, if you get a big, ole, hunkin layer of flour on there like this, the egg will stick here and then just peel off leaving raw flour which is not good eats. So, you want the layer to be as thin as possible. So once you've dredged, knock off everything. Just kind of wiggle it around. Get off as much as you can before sliding it into the egg.

thinner is better

To prevent "club hand" when bettering, use one hand
for the dry ingredients & the other for the wet.

    Just flip these over. And you can see the egg, a very, very thin layer of egg is perfectly stuck to the side of these. That is exactly what you want to see. There. Now, we're going to slide these gently into the hot oil. Do not splash them in or you will get a nasty burn. Just lay them right in like that.
    We're going to let these go for about two minutes or until they are, as they say in the restaurant business, G. B. D., Golden Brown Delicious. And that will take about 2 minutes. Be very, very gentle here.

Freezing & thawing firm tofu will give it a chewy, meaty texture.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Carolyn Connel, Dietitian
             Dr. Cybil Brown, Important Number Cruncher
             Stephanie Boyd Phd., Expert

    Two minutes later and the tofu is ready to roll. Just grab them with your tongs and gently flip. Don't use a spatula for this. You'll just flop them over and make a mess and burn anyone standing within, you know, five feet of the cook top.

By the way, soy bean oil is a great choice for this job.

 N: There it is, friends, the food of the future, today. Does it taste as delicious as it looks?
AB: [eating some] Mmm.
 N: You bet it does. But is it healthy?
AB: [indicates towards CC]
CAROLYN CONNEL: Absolutely. Tofu is rich in antioxidants to help prevent several cancers such as colon, breast, prostate, and uterine. It's also rich in phytochemicals to help with hot flashes and PMS. Even the FDA agrees that as little as an ounce a day could lower your risk of heart disease.
 N: So, it's delicious and healthy. But is it economical?
AB: [indicates towards CB]
CYBIL BORWN: Pound for pound, the cheapest form of complete protein around.
 N: While we're talking to the experts ...
STEPHANIE BOYD: [begins to say something]
AB: You know, I think that that's probably enough of the experts, okay? Thank you.

Stanley Farms

    The soy galaxy may not be the final frontier, but it is ready and willing to feed us into the new century. As for tofu, well just think of it as tomorrow's white meat today: nutritious, versatile, good eats through and through. [tries to drink smoothie through space suit hood] [sighs] Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a shuttle to catch.

Proofreading Help: Susan Libretti

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010