In planning the release of our new SMOKED TOFU – where we’ve worked hard to perfect some very sophisticated smoking techniques – we looked into the history of smoking foods and realised smoking has come a long way…
Is there anything else quite like the flavour you get from food cooked over a campfire or BBQ? The delicate tastes that come from wood smoke can add a rich complexity of flavour that cannot be achieved through any other method of cooking.
Nowadays, smoked foods are more popular than ever thanks to ambitious chefs and a range of portable smoke ovens that are cheap to buy and easy to use for those who don’t have access to the same kind of large-scale, commercial technology as Earth Source Foods. But smoking foods isn’t anything new – in fact, we’ve been doing it for thousands of years.
A history of smoke
It is believed the Sumerian tribes and the Chinese learned how to smoke fish as far back as 3500BC and, by 2000BC, it had spread to Ireland. The Romans were big on smoking cheese in caves and cellars, and in China apricots were smoked as a treat for the royalty of the Tang dynasty.
During those times, the method was used more as a form of food preservation than to add extra taste but, once discovered, the love of the taste of smoked foods spread globally.
Every country has its own smoked delicacy that locals favour:
• In Northern Europe and Britain, smoked herring – or ‘kippers’ – are hugely popular;
• In Turkey, a type of smoked mutton called ‘pastirma’ is a favourite;
• In the Andes, locals feast on smoked llama charqui;
• The Chinese enjoy a cup of smoked tea called ‘lapsong souchong’;
• The Germans smoke their hops to make ‘rauch’ beer, and;
• Smoked jalapeños, known as ‘chipotles’, are king in Mexico.
Smoke it your way
While the flavour imparted to food from the smoking process is always dense and complex, there is more than one way to seal it in. Smoking enhances flavour by adding a protective coat to the food that locks out moisture and locks in taste. This can be done through both hot and cold smoking.
In smoking our tofu, we employ a high-tech hot smoking method, in which the smoking process is controlled through a specially designed cabinet. This technology gives the tofu a subtle flavour, as opposed to harsh smoke, ensuring consistency of product as well as the permeation of smokiness through the body of the tofu (not just the edges).
Along with the two main methods of hot and cold smoking, there are alternative processes. Tea smoking is the Chinese technique, which creates a smoky cloud of smoldering tea leaves inside a wok to help flavour chicken. Smoke roasting is another method that uses indirect heat to smoke large cuts of meat.
Would you like flavour with that?
Historically speaking, smoking has been big with meat and fish lovers, as hot smoking is an easier process for home chefs to undertake. If trying cold smoking at home, it can take a lot of care in getting the temperature right and not accidentally melting your cheese!
However, there are a heap of foods that can be enhanced through the smoking process – almost anything in fact. Vegetables such as potatoes, corn, carrots, broccoli, asparagus and even tomatoes do well in a smoker, as do cheeses, nuts, stone fruit, olives, tofu and eggs.
When it comes to the taste, you can draw different flavours from your food depending on the type of wood you use to smoke.
In the US, the most popular woods for smoking are hickory, mesquite and apple, which each have their own distinct flavours that match up well with different types of food.
In Australia, we’re a little more limited with our native species. For Earth Source Foods’ SMOKED TOFU, we use an Australian hardwood that came up trumps after some extensive testing of our new product.
Whatever your choice of wood, method of smoking and kinds of food you want to smoke, the end result will always be a deeper, richer flavour that improves on the natural taste. You might like to experiment yourself… or just eat our SMOKED TOFU and let us do all the hard work for you!
When it comes to food and cooking, smoking can actually be good for you.
Click here for more information on Earth Source Foods tofu products, including our newest addition: SMOKED TOFU.