A Love Letter to Tofu
I have always been intrigued by the white, slightly gelatinous substance that is tofu, but it wasn't until the moment I tasted freshly made soft tofu that I truly fell in love. I will admit that I once thought tofu, was a limp, lifeless and dare I say flavorless food. It seemed that no matter how long I marinated it or how hard I tried to imbue it with different flavors, it always fell flat. It was never terrible eating tofu, but it was also never spectacular.
However, when I was lucky enough to taste fresh tofu, my relationship with the soy-based food changed forever. Much softer than any of the tofu I had ventured to try in the past, this dollop of soy goodness came to me in a small ceramic bowl and jiggled as it was placed in front of me. Garnished with nothing but a splash of soy sauce, I wondered whether so simple a dish could really be all that tasty. But as my spoon cut into it, soft, but just firm enough, I knew this was tofu unlike any other. It melted in my mouth and the flavors, though simple, were truly extraordinary. I realized that in all my attempts to make it flavorful I had been ignoring the true beauty and elegance of the tofu itself. Since then my lust for tofu has become insatiable and I am determined to experience it in all iterations in hopes of finding the perfect tofu.
Through this revelation I have finally learned to respect tofu. There is a distinct sophistication in its simple, soy-licious versatility. Yes, tofu does have a quite subtle taste, and yes it can easily be used as a complement to other more powerful flavors, but it’s also a delicious force of its own. Served simply with a dash of soy sauce, it is the ultimate appetizer. Small melt-in-your-mouth chunks in miso soup transform simple broth into a textural experience. Lightly pan-fried it’s a deliciously greasy treat, adding crunch and light sweetness to heavier dishes. And there are no doubt countless more ways to enjoy tofu.
One of the things that used to scare me the most about tofu was the texture. I often chose harder versions thinking they would be more palatable, but this was my biggest mistake. In fact, I have found that the softer the tofu, the more I enjoy it. The smooth, soft, gelatinous texture adds a new element to my tofu eating experience, ultimately enhancing the inherent flavors, regardless of the dish.
Now that I have become aware of the power of tofu, the possibilities are truly endless. How will I cook it next? What new discoveries lie ahead in my tofu-eating life? No matter what new forms or techniques I find in my ongoing tofu explorations, I will never forget the tofu that opened my eyes. The soft, delicately sweet, nearly perfect, fresh tofu that helped me realize all that tofu could and should be.