Big deal! So what? That’s what you thought, eh?
If you like tofu (bean curd) like me, you will know why I’m making a fuss about it. I know we can buy these ready packed, but the taste of homemade tofu surpasses that of any store-bought bean curds or tofu or tau-hu, as we called it in Hokkien. Tofu (or doufu) is the Mandarin word for bean curd, and is a popularly known word understood and used in the West.
How it all started
I had lunch one day with some colleagues at work, and our conversation, strangely enough, delved from bean sprouts to soy milk to bean curds. Yeah, somewhat beany conversation, but what the heck, I learnt something that day!
I have made soy milk many times, but not bean curds. I know there are loads of recipes on the net on how to make your own tofu. I’m sorry, but the coagulant substance called gypsum (calcium sulphate) really puts me off. Why? Because gypsum is one of the main elements used in the making of cement. Yes, cement! You know – the binder – the substance that sets and hardens the walls of our homes? Although these additives used in making bean curds may be of food grade quality, but the thought of having gypsum in my tofu is way too bizarre. No, thank you!
Now, thanks to my colleague, I will share with you a gypsum-free tofu recipe. I made mine from scratch and using very basic kitchen tools and utensils. No miracle soy milk maker. The only miracle is vinegar!
You will need …500g soy beans 3 to 4 litres Water (this is only an estimation) White vinegar (I used Chinese wine vinegar) Kitchen Blender Clean kitchen towel Cheese cloth (I used a clean muslin bag) Plastic container as mould (where I drilled holes at the base of the container)
You need to soak the dry soy beans in room temperature water, preferably, overnight. After 8 to 10 hours, you will notice the beans swelling, doubling their original sizes.
Rinse the soy beans at least 2 times with clean tap water. At this stage, you will notice the skin of the beans will come off quite easily. Do NOT remove the skin. I have made my soy milk with and without the skin intact, and trust me, your soy milk will taste more superior in flavour and texture, blended with the skin on. Much tastier and sweeter.
Blending or Wet Grinding
Scoop a handful or two of the swollen soy beans into a kitchen blender. Add enough water and let the blender do the job or get a kitchen helper to assist, like me 😉
The reason for blending the beans with water is to process the soy milk. Once you have finished blending the soy beans, place this is a big bowl.
Milk Processing and Cold Filtration
This is about the only time-consuming part of the entire process. You need to separate the insoluble residue from the milk. I am more familiar with the cold filtration method, which is traditionally, Chinese (which I learnt from my shifu – mummy dearest).
Get a clean kitchen towel and ladle the milk. Pass this through the kitchen towel and collect the milk and then transfer the milk into a clean cooking pot. Use your soul and energy to squeeze the towel to collect as much soy milk as possible. What is left in the towel is the insoluble residue or soy pulp fiber, which you can either discard or make vegetarian burgers. I discarded mine as I was not in the mood for vegetarian burgers. Maybe next time. Because of the high content of protein in soy beans, a layer of froth or foam will be floating on the milk. You need to remove the foam until you get clear soy milk.
Heating or Boiling
I had two cooking pots ready at the time, one to make the tofu and the other, the ‘bonus’. As that was the first time I made tofu, I was just being prudent, and used two thirds of the milk for tofu and the other third, for my bonus – right, my tau-hu chui (soy milk drink or beverage). I always feel a tinge of nostalgia when sipping my homemade tau-hu chui – the Kuching Open Air Market re-visited. LOL!
Let the soy milk boil until about 80°C. Then let it cool down to about 40°C.
Coagulating or Curdling the milk
In fact making tofu is quite similar to making cheese. Once the boiled soy milk is cooled down to about 40°C, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of vinegar and stir really well until the soy milk is separated into small white curds. At this stage, allow the mixture to stand for 15 to 20 minutes. You will notice the vinegar doing the job, by curdling the milk even more.
Firming the Tofu
Once the soy milk is separated into curds and whey, transfer the curds into a mould lined with cheese cloth. I have neither a fancy cheese mould nor a cheese cloth, so I made my own mould from a plastic container. I drilled some holes at the base of the container, like so.
No cheese cloth? No worries. I used whatever was available in my house. I found a muslin-type bag and it did the job wonderfully. Put some weight on the cloth and allow sitting for about 20 to 30 minutes. You will notice the whey dripping through the holes. The longer you let your curd stand in the mould under a weight, the firmer it will get.
Seeing is Believing
Voilá! The end result. My very first and successful homemade tofu. If I can make it, I’m sure you can, too.
Okay, it’s hard work, but if you got the hang of it, I guess nothing else matters, if you’re craving for a DIY tofu. Boy, am I proud of my achievement 😛
Simplicity at its Best!
I made this healthy and yummy tofu soup which became an instant hit with my guys. If you are wondering if it tasted vinegary from the vinegar, the answer is “NO”.
The versatile Soy Bean
Here’s my bonus. Served hot or cold, with or without sugar does not matter. My favourite tau-hu chui, with no artificial flavours of vanilla, banana, chocolate or mokka, but the real McCoy! The way I like it.
By the way, how do you like your soy milk?