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Tofu, which is a form of bean curd, it is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many types of vegan tofu dishes. It is relatively flavorless and odorless on its own, so different types of tofu can be marinated, fried, blended, and even stuffed in pasta. For vegans, who abstain from eating any animal products, tofu can serve as a source of protein.
Tofu is made from hot soy milk that has been curdled and pressed into blocks in a process similar to making cheese. The resulting food is white and soft and has been a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine for millennia. Tofu, available in firm and soft or silken varieties, is a low fat food that is rich in iron and may also be a source of magnesium and calcium, depending on the coagulant used to curdle the soy milk.
In Western cuisine, vegan tofu dishes typically include marinated or seasoned tofu served as a meat substitute or used in shakes and desserts. Firm tofu can be pressed, marinated overnight in barbecue sauce or other marinade, grilled or baked and served in lieu of meat. Skewered cubed tofu and vegetables may be grilled and marinated like kebabs. When sliced thin and fried until crispy, tofu can mimic bacon while crumbled tofu seasoned with turmeric and cooked in a frying pan makes mock scrambled eggs. Silken or soft tofu, when blended in a food processor or blender, thickens shakes and fruit smoothies and can be used as a filling for faux cheesecake or as a base for vegan custard.
Firm tofu, once seasoned and crumbled, may be used as substitute for cheese filling in vegan tofu dishes with pasta like stuffed manicotti or shells, lasagna, and ravioli. The tofu can be crumbled by hand in a bowl to mimic ricotta or cottage cheese and seasoned with spices like basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. After adding a small amount of tomato paste and an egg substitute, the faux ricotta filling can be used according to the recipe's instructions.
As an ingredient in Asian cooking, tofu is consumed in a variety of vegan tofu dishes. In Japan, Korea, and China, it is common to eat raw cubed tofu with only soy sauce or almond syrup and a grated topping like scallions or ginger. Fresh warmed tofu may also be served sliced with a sweet syrup topping. Deep frying battered tofu in vegetable oil is another traditional cooking technique. The fried tofu is often served with fried vegetables and sauce or stuffed.
Braised or baked tofu is typically added to vegan tofu dishes like soups and stews. Mapo tofu, a Szechuan stew, combines cubed tofu braised in a spicy bean sauce. Traditionally served with minced pork or beef, a vegan version of mapo tofu may substitute vegetables. A vegan version of a Laotian and Thai spicy soup called Tom kha gai is made with coconut milk, lemon grass, yellow curry paste, and baked cubed tofu instead of the traditional chicken. Small cubes of tofu may also be added to miso soup or vegetable noodle soups.
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