“Meat from the fields”: Homemade tofu

The technical term for my first foray into tofu-making is “qualified success.”

The parallels between tofu and cheese-making are extensive. (I never used to understand why tofu was glossed as “bean curd,” but that’s probably because the first type of “curd” I ever encountered was lemon.) The biggest difference is, for tofu, you have to make the milk first: it turns out there’s no such thing as a soy cow.

Using the recipe in Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen, I took some soybeans I’d bought at a Japanese grocery and soaked them in the fridge overnight. (Knowing how the mineral content of water affects bean cookery, I used low-calcium bottled water.) The next day, I ground the beans in my food processor, cooked them with additional water, then strained the mass, pressing to extract as much of the resulting soy milk as possible. The leftover bean pulp, known as okara, is considered an ingredient in its own right, but apparently one that’s too prosaic for inclusion in recipes in most of my Japanese cookbooks.

To get from soy milk to tofu, a coagulant is added, much like the rennet in cheese. There are several different tofu coagulants (Modernist Cuisine lists three: calcium sulfate; glucono delta-lactone; and nigari, which is a mix of magnesium chloride and calcium sulphate derived from seawater), but it was nigari that I wanted to use. Unfortunately, this was also where I ran into a hiccup: nigari is available in both liquid and granular form, and all my tofu recipes call for the granules.

Naturally, it was the liquid form I had on hand.

Finding even that was difficult enough: Sanko always seemed to have “just sold out” or be “awaiting a new shipment,” and none of the health food stores I visited had any kind of tofu coagulant. (Do no Canadian vegetarians make their own tofu?) Which is why I ended up bringing a bottle of liquid nigari back from a trip to the US.

The end result was that I had to guess how much of it to use, and I guessed wrong, resulting in over-coagulated tofu. I continued anyway, carefully straining it and pressing it, which resulted in a thin, round cake of very fragile tofu. (It was reasonably tasty, but substantially lacking in the aesthetics department.) With this experience under my belt, though, I’m confident I can make the modifications I need to make a truly delicious homemade tofu.

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  1. Homemade tofu redux | Kayahara.ca - June 8, 2012

    […] to take another shot at making my own tofu. I followed the same process as before, but used less nigari this time. Not enough less, as it […]