What is Tofu?

Tofu is a soy bean food product that is widely used in Japanese and other East Asian cuisines. It is typically made by coagulating soy milk (also known as 'soya milk') and pressing or shaping the resulting mixture into textured blocks. High in protein and iron, it is often used as a healthy/vegetarian alternative to meat and other proteins, but in many Asian countries, it is also prized for its wide range of textures and delicate flavours. Although soy milk is by far the most popular choice for producing tofu, it can also be made with other ingredients, such as sesame seeds and almonds.

If you are curious about tofu calories and calorie content, you will be pleased to know that tofu is something of a 'win-win' food. Not only are the calories in tofu relatively low, but what calories there are composed mainly of protein, iron, calcium, and polyunsaturated fats.

If you are now wondering where to buy tofu, look no further than Japan Centre. We have one of the biggest ranges of tofu UK-wide, with products including organic tofu, fried tofu, fresh tofu, premium tofu, sesame tofu, and more. And if you are thinking about cooking with tofu or are not sure how to use tofu in cooking, we also have one of the most detailed collections of easy Japanese tofu recipes UK-wide, including plenty of tofu recipes vegans and vegetarians can enjoy.

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Silken tofu

If you have ever heard the term 'silken tofu' before, you might have asked yourself 'what is silken tofu exactly?' or 'how is silken tofu different to other tofu?'. Silken tofu is tofu that looks like a smooth, silky block. It is widely available and often sold in tetra-paks (which do not need to be refrigerated before opening). The ingredients and initial production processes used to make silken tofu are similar to those used to make standard pressed tofu (which has a less glossy, more uneven appearance). Towards the end of the production process, the soy milk in silken tofu is left uncurdled (where it would be curdled in pressed tofu), and the blocks are left unpressed.

The smooth, custard-like look and feel of silken tofu come with a delicate structure that requires gentler handling than pressed tofu. Although silken tofu comes in a range of consistencies (soft, medium, firm and extra firm) even the firmest silken tofu will be significantly softer than pressed tofu. While this means that some recipes using tofu will require more care if a silken variety is used, it also means silken tofu is uniquely suited to other applications, where its silky texture can shine.

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Soft silken tofu

Soft silken tofu is the smoothest, most delicate of the range. It will easily break apart when handled.

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Firm silken tofu

Firm silken tofu is made with richer soya milk and less water than soft silken tofu, which gives it more stability.

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Dried tofu

Freeze-dried tofu was developed as a way of preserving this nutritious food. It is made by repeatedly freezing and thawing tofu until all the water has been extracted. Dried tofu is a staple in most Japanese larders as it can be stored long-term at room temperature. A five-minute soak in warm water is all that is needed to rehydrate the tofu pieces, which can then be used just like regular tofu.

Dried tofu offers more than just easy storage. It also has a texture that is quite different to fresh tofu and excels in a number of cooking applications. After soaking, the tofu retains a hearty, dense structure and will not break down in the way even the firmest of fresh tofu can when subjected to high heat and rough handling. This makes it particularly suitable for sautéing or stir-frying, but it really comes into its own when the special chew of dried tofu is showcased. Try combining dried tofu with mashed edamame soy beans for a hearty, meaty veggie burger. Alternatively, cover dried tofu in batter and deep-fry for tempting tempura bites.

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The other interesting feature of dried tofu is that it is unsurpassed at soaking up marinades and other liquids. As all the water has been removed during processing, it is much easier to get flavourings right into the centre of the tofu, making it a wonderfully receptive sponge for whatever seasonings you think would best suit your dish. This also means it is particularly suited to simmering in soups and other brothy dishes, where it can absorb remarkable flavour while it cooks.

Healthy alternative to breadcrumbs

You can also grate dried tofu or blend it to a powder and use the resulting mixture as a protein-rich, gluten-free alternative to breadcrumbs or other binders. As it has considerable absorption powers it will soak up any excess moisture in these dishes making it excellent provision against unwanted sogginess.

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Tofu Recipes


Bring more nutritious Japanese tofu into your life with this exciting recipe for tempura tofu steak burgers. An ideal burger recipe for vegetarians and vegans, these tofu burgers are made by pan-fr...

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Bring refreshing citrus and herby flavours to your salads with this extraordinary silken tofu ceviche recipe. Ceviche is dish from Latin America made by curing raw seafood in spiced citrus juices. ...

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Enjoy a tasty sweet treat without the guilt with these healthy doughnuts. Made using spelt flour and oats as well as plain flour, and filled with a combination of sweet sesame tofu, raspberries, an...

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Turn roasted and steamed winter vegetables into something unforgettable with this unique aioli recipe. Aioli is a creamy sauce/dressing normally made with an olive oil and egg yolk base. This versi...

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Houmoto Tofu

This Nagasaki speciality tofu is based on recipes traditionally prepared by Buddhist monks, who favoured delicately flavoured dishes prepared with great care and precision. Typically served with a drizzle of brown sugar syrup and a sprinkle of kinako flour (roasted soya bean flour), this tofu can also be blended into a luscious, silky purée which adds a beautifully nutty, creamy sweetness to healthy desserts. When blended it takes on a gorgeous, shiny, pinky hue and can be used as a nutritious spread or filling.

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Nagasaki sesame tofu

Naturally sweet, made with lightly roasted sesame seed paste and soya beans, it is lightly set with a little jiggle in its natural state.

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Otokomae Tofu

Otokomae are a young, Kyoto based company that have exploded in popularity throughout Japan, shaking up the traditional tofu market.

Otokomae owner, who has affectionately become known as ‘Johnny’ says: “When I started my tofu business in Kyoto, I knew that I couldn’t compete with the so-called “shinise” or long-established tofu shops in Kyoto. I wanted to make tofu that tasted different, and I successfully achieved the taste I wanted to produce after a lot of research and testing. I then thought that it would be a pity to sell this great tofu with a general boring name.”

The maverick nicknamed ‘Johnny’ came up with ‘Otokomae’, which generally translates as “cool” or “handsome guy” tofu. So what sets this tofu brand apart from the rest? 

Fresh. Otokomae products are as fresh as it gets in the world of tofu. Silky texture. These ultra-cool tofu distributors choose the best soy beans and a fine combination of seawater and freshwater to create a super silky texture. Loved in Japan. Whilst other tofu companies decline in popularity, Otokomae is doing better than ever – a testament to its superior quality. Looks cool in the fridge. You don’t want to be looking at boring old packaging when fridge-gazing do you? Fill it with Otokomae and be dazzled.

Strong Ken Tofu Recipes >> Handsome Ken Tofu Recipes >>
World’s Coolest Tofu - It’s rare to see ‘cool’ and ‘tofu’ appear in the same sentence, but the Otokomae tofu team undoubtedly make this happen, with tofu that tastes out of this world. We’re proper chuffed to have our hands on brand new Otokomae products at Japan Centre.

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Recipes & content about tofu courtesy of Great British Chefs