Tofu, like a lot of things in life, has some critics. In western society, it’s one of those foods the uninitiated will avoid without really giving it a chance. But – just like bungee jumping or bushwalking or yoga – once you give good tofu* a try, you often find there are some pretty powerful and enthusiastic converts in your corner.
So, how do you get someone at your table who’s not known for being adventurous with his or her food to take the tofu plunge? Creativity, patience, knowing how to prepare and cook tofu, and perhaps even a little bit of trickery... ahem... ingenuity are vital to turning people onto the tofu movement.
“I don’t eat tofu because it’s the culinary equivalent of boring”
The reasons people avoid tofu are many and varied but the most touted is a lack of flavour and poor texture. Take, for example, Jamie Oliver’s food development boss, Peter Begg, who once wrote that tofu was like “a slice of bath sponge… miserable, chewy and tasteless.”
After this initial rejection, part of Peter’s conversion to tofu involved trying dishes that were heavy on creativity and flavour: Mapo tofu; tofu dusted with dried red chilli or tomato; wasabi and shisho leaf; tofu pancakes; and even a tofu chocolate pot as rich and decadent as any other chocolate dessert.
Carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, pescatore… it doesn’t matter. Serve anything that’s bland and uninspiring, and people turn off. Tofu is no different. Invest in flavours and your converts will be many.
“I once had tofu that was sour and it made me feel sick”
Likewise, knowing how to prepare tofu properly is essential to turning family and friends into tofu lovers. Understanding the many quirks of storing and preparing tofu is a key part of creating dishes that are fresh and healthy, and will have people clamouring for more.
Cutting your tofu into the right dimensions for the meal you’re cooking, pressing the excess water out of it to prevent that ‘soggy’ consistency and storing your tofu after getting it home from the store are all important tricks to master.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by this, don’t worry – thankfully there’s a wealth of information available on the nitty-gritty of storing and preparing awesome tofu that will set you off on the right track to serving jaw-dropping tofu meals that can turn the most skeptical of diners into ardent fans.
“The look of tofu in my food really puts me off”
So, you’ve mastered the storage and preparation do’s and dont’s, and you’ve gone heavy on the herbs, spices, marinades and coating options, yet there’s still some tofu-resistance at your table. It might be time to revert to plan B: the ‘Fake it ‘til You Make It’ approach. Some people might call this trickery but we prefer to think of it as initiative (and pure genius)**.
Consider this example: one of our customers related a story to us earlier in the year about her hubby who needed to drastically change his eating habits but couldn’t eat eggs (it wasn’t an allergy as such – he could eat products that contained eggs but obvious egg dishes such as quiche, frittata and scrambled, fried, boiled or poached eggs literally made him gag).
Not being able to eat eggs presented him with challenges in undertaking an eating regime suggested to him by a doctor. So, his wife – a dedicated fan of tofu – knowing everything about her husband’s health and taste proclivities, put plan B into action.
One morning, she cooked up a plate of tofu scramble (using Earth Source Foods tofu, naturally) without telling him that eggs had been substituted for tofu. She cunningly said she’d come across a recipe for scrambled eggs that didn’t involve any eggs and he should give it a try. So he did.
With the plate demolished and a full belly, she couldn’t wait to disclose the secret ingredient: tofu. From this point on, he’s never looked back and has become much more open to exploring new ways of eating and cooking, not just tofu but many different foods.
Scrambled tofu isn’t the only dish you can pull a bit of a switcheroo on in order to win new fans at your dinner table. Cutting tofu into cubes and coating them in seasoned flour, breadcrumbs or crushed up ricemeal and frying them until they’re brown is a sure-fire way to get the kids to try something outside the square. Cooked properly, these tofu cubes are moist and tender on the inside, and nice and crispy crunchy on the outside.
Whether you choose to tell everyone they’re eating tofu or ‘surprise’ nuggets (tofu being the surprise) is up to you.
Just like any food, you’re not going to successfully convert everyone but, on the plus-side, the odds you’ll walk away from this process having improved your tofu cooking skills, as well as discovering new and exciting dishes, will be high. And that’s got to be worth it.
Click here for more tips on winning people over to tofu and busting tofu myths.
*Never underestimate the power of good quality tofu – it’s literally a totally different taste sensation.
**This approach should never be taken unless you have a full understanding of a person’s food allergies and/or dietary restrictions due to health precautions.