Tofu is the weekly staple you didn’t know you needed

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

You can never have too many tofu recipes.

That may sound odd coming from a York County native, but since first eating tofu more than 50 years ago, I was won over. Everyone in my family is also a fan, and we eat some form of bean curd once a week.

Tofu is made with a process similar to making cheese — hence its other name, bean curd. Dried soybeans are soaked in water and then crushed and boiled. A coagulant is added to the soy milk to form curds. The curds are then pressed into molds to form blocks. The first “recipe” for tofu was recorded over two centuries ago.

Tofu is low in calories but high in vitamins and protein, making it a nutrient-dense food. For each 100-calorie serving, tofu has 11 grams of protein. A 100-calorie portion of ground beef provides only 8.9 grams of protein. Tofu is also loaded with calcium, selenium, manganese, iron and magnesium.

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With a mild flavor of its own, tofu is the perfect canvas to create any type of dish. Think of it as a sponge to soak up surrounding flavors. To add to all its other virtues, it is inexpensive.

There are several varieties of tofu you can buy in the supermarket: silken, soft, medium, firm and extra-firm. For stir fries, you will need the firm or extra firm so that it will hold its shape when cooking.

Since tofu contains a lot of water, it is necessary to drain and press it. One way is to place it on a tilted board with weights on top. I used this method for a while, but after a couple of incidents with curious cats, I bought a tofu press. If you eat tofu on a regular basis, it is a good investment.

The recipe below comes together in minutes. Oyster sauce lends a salty-sweet super savory flavor to the tofu. If you are allergic to shellfish, there is also a vegetarian version. Served with rice and a stir fried vegetable of your choice, it makes a filling and satisfying meal.

With little flavor of its own, tofu takes on the salty-sweet super savory flavor of the oyster sauce in this quick and easy dish.

Bean Curd With Oyster Sauce

  • 1 pound extra firm or firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1/2 cup stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 11/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

Cut the tofu into pieces about 1/2-inch square. Set a wok or frying pan over a high flame. Add the oil, and when hot, stir in the scallions and cook for 20 seconds.

Lower the flame to medium and add the tofu; stir gently. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, stock and sesame oil. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Then thicken with the dissolved cornstarch.

Turn off the flame and mix in the chopped coriander. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and serve with rice.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.