Not Just A Bland Cousin Of Paneer: Why Tofu Is Finding Many Takers
Rich in nutrients, tofu can blend well with a variety of dishes
Until a few years ago, most Indian kitchens would look down upon tofu as the poor, bland cousin of paneer or cottage cheese, only meant for lactose-intolerant people. However, with the rising popularity of Asian cuisine and the growing awareness about the many health benefits of tofu, this plant-based protein source is becoming a staple in many homes.
Derived from soya milk, the process of making tofu is similar to that of cheese. The milk is curdled, pressed into a solid block and then allowed to cool.
Tofu traces its origin to China. “Legend has it that it was discovered about 2000 years ago by a Chinese cook who accidentally curdled soy milk when he added nigari seaweed. Introduced into Japan in the eighth century, tofu was originally called ‘okabe‘. Its modern name did not come into use until 1400,” writes registered nutritionist Jo Lewin for BBC Good Food.
The nutrient profile
A rich source of protein, tofu or bean curd contains all the nine essential amino acids which your body cannot produce and must be sourced through your diet. Tofu also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
A recent Harvard study, led by Qi Sun, an associate professor at the Department of Nutrition, has found a possible link between tofu consumption and lower risk of heart disease. The study, which analyzed data from over 2 lakh participants in existing health studies, found that “those who ate tofu more than once a week lowered their risk of heart disease by 18 per cent.”
The many ways to have tofu
A tofu can come in various forms. You can choose from firm, shredded and silken varieties, to name a few. For grilling and stir-frying, go for firm tofu that won’t break into pieces during cooking. In soups and stews, you can add silken tofu which, as the name suggests, is soft and has a delicate flavour. The shredded variety can go best with noodles.
From desserts to sauces and smoothies, you can use tofu in any way you want. Because of its neutral taste, it can blend with any dish while adding to its texture and nutrient profile.
Pro-tip: Tofu is an oxalate-rich food. If you have been diagnosed with kidney stones, check your soya consumption. You can also refer to your doctor before consuming soya products like tofu.