A Taste of Tofu: Bruny Style.
Inspired by the colour in Dave’s garden at Roberts Point, and knowing how generous he always is in letting people help themselves to whatever has taken off as a result of his green fingers, Brunyfire helped herself to some of the multitude of marigolds, with a particular project in mind.Dave had also given Brunyfire a wooden tofu press after hearing about the tofu making workshop she’d attended, so this post explores the taste of tofu – not necessarily a Brunyfire favourite, as experience with tofu tasting to date has been limited to the rubbery products of the supermarket.
However, this all changed with the workshop held at Bruny Island’s Community Health Centre, run by the indomitable Mhrylyn Hanson-Wallis and her team – which ended up in a lunch spread fit for royalty.Mhrylyn demonstrated to the participants in eager attendance, just how versatile three simple ingredients could be. Tofu is made up of water, soy beans and a coagulant (an agent that helps to form a liquid into a semi-solid). The alchemical magic behind tofu is that of fermentation – whereby soy milk is curdled by a coagulating agent that can be made up of a number of different products.In the above shot, the white crystals are nigari (magnesium chloride), the lemons and the apple cider vinegar (from Bruny) are all coagulating or fermenting agents, and all have different end results in taste, texture and colour.
But for starters, tofu originated during the Han dynasty in China and owes its invention to prince Liu An (179-122 BC). The word is actually a derivation from the Chinese dòu fu, (dòu in Mandarin – meaning bean; and fu meaning fermentation). The English have called it ‘bean curd’ since 1840 and in Portuguese it is known as ‘queijo de soja’ (‘soy cheese’). (For a more detailed history of tofu, check out Soyinfo Centre’s Histoy of Tofu.
Tofu then found its way into Korea and then Japan during the Nara period (710-794) – possibly into Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries and spread into other parts of East Asia. Tofu’s popularity and its widespread distribution is likely attributed to the the spread of Buddhism, where it contributed an important source of protein into the vegetarian diets of the monks.
The process for making tofu is relatively easy, but time consuming and all starts with making the soy milk……..………which comprises of soaking 500gms organic soy beans in 2 litres of pure water (not the chlorinated stuff from the tap) for 8 -12 hours. This is then finely ground in the soaking water till it looks creamy.Another couple of litres of water is placed in a large pan and brought to the boil – the blended soy bean pulp then added to the water. On a medium heat, keep stirring the blended soy pulp (to prevent the mixture from catching and scorching) until the mixture starts to rise to the surface……..……it is then removed from the heat and strained through a muslin lined colander. Or – in the case of the workshop, a stainless steel wine press was used to extract all the liquid – the remaining pulp is called okana – once the soy milk has been allowed to cool to 68 degrees celcius, a coagulant is added. In this instance, the coagulant was made up of 6 tablespoons of Apple Cider vinegar in a standard cup, topped up with water. Half of the mixture was poured into the soy milk, stirred, and then the remaining amount of coagulant then added. Stir until curdling occurs. The curdled soy milk is then ladled into a muslin lined colander or press to extract as much liquid, or whey, as possible.
Armed with fresh marigold petals and Dave’s wooden tofu press, Brunyfire set out to create a firm tofu with the idea of using it in a vegetarian salad.
In this version, an organic soy milk was used (just to save time) – and once it was coagulated using nigari, Dave’s mould was lined with muslin and the marigold petals laid in the base……….………followed by the gently ladled curdled soy milk. The muslin was then folded over, the wooden lid placed on top and a couple of tins from the store cupboard to add the weights needed to press out the whey. The texture of the finished tofu is dependent on how much pressure is exerted – the whey is great to use in vegetarian stocks.