Legend of Thousand Layer Tofu

What kind of tofu is this?

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Why so many holes?

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It's Thousand Layer Tofu, which is really a fancy way of saying 'tofu that has been frozen then thawed out' – but wait! – there’s more to the Thousand Layer Tofu story…

As discussed in our post on How to care for your tofu, freezing tofu is not just a way of preserving it for later use. It’s also a cooking technique in itself.

When firm tofu is frozen, a unique reaction occurs. Tiny holes are created as the water in the tofu expands. Upon thawing, and the excess water carefully squeezed from the tofu, these holes then remain in the block and allow flavour additives, like marinades and so on, to be absorbed much more efficiently than they normally would. This gives you increased opportunities to enhance your tofu eating experience and stretch your culinary skills.

How to prepare your Thousand Layer Tofu

We’ve talked in a previous post about how to freeze your leftover tofu. There’s really not much to it. If your recipe calls for a more soggy or crumbly consistency (as a salad topping, for example), you can just place your pack of Earth Source Foods FIRM, PRESSED or SOFT tofu directly in the freezer.

If you want a somewhat firmer product after thawing, the best results – in the opinion of most tofu connoisseurs – come through draining excess water out of the tofu before it goes in your freezer. It’s not going to make a big difference to the taste but it will give you a more stable block once thawed and, as we’ve mentioned, gives you more options. 

Try these simple steps for the most hassle-free way of removing excess water. We suggest you use Earth Source Foods SOFT tofu for the best results:

1. Unwrap your tofu and drain the excess water from the packaging.

2. Line a bowl or a plate with paper towels or some kind of absorbent paper. You’ll probably need five or six layers, depending on the thickness of your paper.

3. Wrap your tofu in the paper towels and gently squeeze the excess liquid into the towels. Don’t go too light on the squeeze but, at the same time, don’t press too hard either.

4. With the liquid removed, pop a heavy bowl or something from your kitchen with a bit of weight in it (again, not too heavy and not too light) on top of the tofu and leave for around 15 to 20 minutes to make sure all those hidden liquids are removed from within the block.

After water removal, wrap your tofu in a few layers of cling wrap or pop the block in a freezer bag and place in your freezer. Some people prefer to cube the tofu prior to freezing.

If you want to pre-cut, place baking paper between the pieces before you freeze the tofu to stop them sticking together. Pre-sliced tofu can also be stored in cling wrap or a freezer bag. The tofu can be stored for up to six months.

Thawing your Thousand Layer Tofu

Thawing usually takes about two to three hours. Once thawed, grab your plate and paper towel, and gently squeeze out any remaining liquid. This helps prevent the tofu from becoming too soggy during cooking.

What to expect from your Thousand Layer Tofu

As mentioned above, one of the advantages of freezing tofu is its ability to absorb marinades more thoroughly than unfrozen tofu. You don’t necessarily need to use more marinade than usual but you do need to keep an eye on the absorption if you’re cooking with a recipe that suggests using leftover marinade as a sauce. Set aside some of the sauce from the recipe, just to be on the safe side.

Frozen tofu can take on a yellowish colour and a different texture. Rest assured, it’s not going to negatively affect the taste when it comes to eating. Thawed tofu can sometimes become chunky in consistency and difficult to slice, much like some cheeses. This is why a lot of advocates suggest Thousand Layer Tofu for a crumbly salad topping or as a sandwich filling. With this in mind, it’s best to avoid using thawed tofu for dips, spreads or smoothies. 

So that’s frozen tofu. Correction: Thousand Layer Tofu. 

Many of the no-nonsense recipes on this website can use Thousand Layer Tofu as an ingredient but, to save you poking around, here’s one to start you off: Tofu, Cashew Nut & 3 Pea Stirfry