I remember when the only people who ate tofu were the turbaned hippis who ran the local health store. Even under swathes of fabric their skins glowed with health. But as much as I stared at the white wobbly tofu on the shelves, I couldn't get myself past the time I bought a pack and ate it spoonful by spoonful. It was bland and a chore to get down. I figured I'd just have to buy a good face cream.
Today's tofu is quite different; lower priced, available in variety from your local supermarket and best of all, it tastes great. If you're already a convert you'll know that it's made from soybeans and is reported to play a role in lowering your risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. You'll know that it's a natural refrigerant, which means it has a cooling effect on your body, so is the perfect heat-combatting tool. Maybe you'll also know that studies have proven it to be beneficial to the diet of post-menopausal women, as well as being low in calories.
If you're not a convert, you'll say that it's tasteless and boring, and if you have to shave a few years off your life to avoid eating it, then so be it.
But if you increase your intake of soy protein to 40 grams a day, it will help to increase bone density and mineral content. That makes it worth one more try right?
There are many ways to eat – or drink – soy beans. Here's what you can do:
* Change your choice at your local coffee shop to soy milk, which contains half the calories of regular milk.
* Eat Soy Protein Chips. They're tasty and a great alternative to the potato chip. (I love the cheddar cheese flavor).
* Make yourself miso soup. It's the Japanese staple that plays a role in keeping the population's life expectancy so high. On the shelves you'll see mainly two different types of tofu; momendofu, which is firm, and kinugoshi, the more silken and soft of the two. Kinugoshi is best for miso soup. You'll also need miso,, and stock like dashi, available from most Asian supermarkets. Add dried seaweed too if you like it.
Measure a bowl of water and heat it to boiling point. Add about a teaspoon of dashi and reduce heat. Add a blob of miso about the size of a large grape. The rule of thumb is a big grape size per serving. It's not a good idea to boil the miso because it loses flavor. Sprinkle in the seaweed (wakame) and add the cut-up tofu. Depending on how you like it, you can either cut it up into small or big cubes. I like it broken into small pieces because the texture seems to absorb a little of the miso flavour. Your miso soup is done.
* Fried tofu is also delicious and easy. Use momendofu for this. Drain from the package and place tofu on a slightly skew cutting board. Cut it in half horizontally to form two white steaks. Use another cutting board or anything handy to lightly weigh them down and drain excess water. Leave for about five minutes. Then coat with flour or katakuriko, a starch flour, and fry in a hot pan, until they turn golden brown. Serve with soy sauce and grated Japanese radish, or Ponzu sauce and sliced green onions.
* If you're still not tempted, try a chocolate tofu pie. All you do is melt about a cup and a half of bitter chocolate and mix it with two packs of blender-softened kinugoshi tofu. Put filling into a ready-made pie crust and leave to set in the fridge. I actually make this in small containers without the crust like a chocolate mousse.
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