Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chinese Staple Food: Bean Curd (Tofu) & How to Make Your Own

After eating Ma Po Beancurd, and being asked how tofu was made, I thought we'd try making it ourselves.

Tofu Stand
Photo Credit: Xymox
Bean curd is made from soybeans, which have been eaten in China since 3000 BC. Tofu originated in China, speculated at about 2000 years ago.

Tofu is an important source of protein in most Asian countries, and is known as "meat without bones". It has a very subtle flavor, and takes on flavor of other foods or marinades. It can be eaten fresh, cooked, chilled and fermented (such as "stinky tofu").

How to make bean curd

Recipe adapted from Perennial Plate

To make tofu, all you need are three ingredients: water, soybeans and gypsum. Strange ingredient indeed, it's what breaks down the soymilk into curds. I bought ours from a brewing store (the kind that sells make your own beer or wine kits). I picked up dried soybeans from a bulk store.

Dried soybeans
2 cups dried soybeans
3 tsp gypsum

Soak the soybeans overnight in twice as much water as beans. Ours soaked overnight into the next evening. They more than doubled, to a little over four cups. Strain any water that is left. Put beans in blender with 4 cups of water and blend well.

Pour blended beans into a large pot and add 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Skim the foam as it heats up. (Or have your daughter stir while you tidy up the kitchen.  Do be sure someone is stirring and paying attention, because if the person "stirring" isn't paying attention, you can get a mighty mess :)

After it has come to a boil, take it off the heat and strain through a cheesecloth - I put a strainer over another large pot and lined it with cheesecloth. Solids will be left behind in the cheesecloth, and this can be discarded. You now have soy milk. 
Bring the soy milk to a simmer, and simmer for 10 min. While it simmers, whisk the gypsum into 1 cup of water. 

When the soy milk has simmered for 10 min, slowly add the gypsum mixture to it while stirring. Take off the heat and let sit for 20 min. The soy milk will coagulate, forming curds. Set a strainer over a bowl again, and line with more cheesecloth. Pour the coagulated milk into the cheesecloth, wrap it and place a weight over it to press it. We uses two heavy bowls with a bag of onions inside as a weight.

Keep it weighed for 2-3 hours, or longer. The longer it's pressed, the firmer it will be. We left ours overnight. And we had firm tofu -  in the funny shape of our strainer :) Keep it refrigerated, and use it within a few days. 

What do you do with the tofu? We will be using it in some hot and sour soup this weekend. Here are a couple of recipes we already made that used bean curd:

Ma Po Bean curd - this dish calls for soft tofu, so would only need a couple of hours of pressing.

Buddha's Delight - a vegetarian stir fry with some interesting ingredients, among which is firm tofu


  1. Nope, still don't like the look of it! But good for you for making your own...rather you than me!!

    1. Haha! Pea did most of the work, though cleaning up required a razor blade (!) so we took care of that :) Still, I always like to see the process of how something we eat is made.


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