Dear Soyinfo Center,

I wanted to introduce a tofu variety that I researched last summer in Guizhou, China, that I think is extremely distinctive and could have wide commercialization potential in the United States. In Chinese, it is called suantang doufu (酸汤豆腐), which literally translates to “sour soup tofu.” I think a better translation might be acid curded tofu, but since the food is rare outside of the region, it doesn’t have an established English name.

Unlike most tofu varieties that are curdled using neutral salts, this variety uses acid, traditionally the leftover juice from making Guizhou-style suancai (酸菜) or…

Tofu is one of most healthy, economical, and versatile plant-based proteins. Yet, western cooks tend to use just one variety — firm or extra firm.

While a lot of people enjoy firm tofu, there are other types that are easier to use and better suited towards non-Asian cooking styles. Below is an explanation of why firm tofu is challenging, as well as some recommendations for finding and using other varieties.

Challenges with Firm Tofu

Firm tofu has three downsides.

First, it is naturally bland and needs to be well seasoned. In China, these problems are overcome by steaming with salty sauces, frying then stir…

(part 2 of 3)

Most American grocery stores sell just 3 types of tofu: firm, soft, and silken. It’s a shame! China has 24 other varieties!

Here are 5 of the most popular, 5 other rare and unusual varieties, followed by the complete list. In our third post, we will describe how to cook a few of them.

5 Popular Chinese Tofus

Pressed Tofu

Pressed tofu (dougan):
Dougan is a category of extra firm tofu, pressed very dry and then smoked, stewed, or salted. While low in water content, many varieties are tender, rather than tough. …

Maple Pecan “Suji” Tofu

Over half of Americans are trying to eat more plants and less meat, whether to fight climate change, improve their health, or boycott factory farming. Yet, despite growing demand for plant proteins, American tofu is a monolith.

Most mainstream grocers carry just 3 varieties — firm, soft, and silken — and none of these varieties are particularly well-suited towards grilling, dry-frying, and other western cooking techniques. As a result, many home cooks are confused as to what tofu is, what varieties there are, and how to use them.

This first post will about what tofu is. …

Over the last 1000 years, China has created an ingredient more powerful than chicken, using nothing more than plants.

The ingredient has more varieties. More culinary uses. Fewer saturated fats. Requires less land to grow.

That ingredient is tofu.

Tofu is misunderstood in the west. To many Americans, tofu is just a white block — firm, soft, or silken.

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

I still remember the eggplant I ate for my second breakfast in Chongqing, China. Thin strips of purple flesh, steamed until just cooked but still decidedly firm, dressed and refrigerated, waiting, until someone like me would come in to eat. The eggplant was beautiful, as was the liquid at the bottom of the plate. It had a deep red hue, fearsome and spicy, but also lustrous and warm. This was Sichuan red oil.

Sichuan red oil is a beautiful, indispensable ingredient. Used to dress cold dishes, finish off stir fries, it’s used across the cuisine almost like salt and msg…

I remember the moment I got up to leave.

“I’m going to Guangzhou,” I told Master Chen. “I want to see what they have to offer.”

He was hurt, and almost immediately, the openness he once had towards me changed entirely. He seemed more closed off, more vulnerable.

I had flown across the world to Xiamen, China, with the purpose of learning the Chinese culinary arts. Master Chen was a Buddhist chef, who after 30 years of toil had left his monastery kitchen to take on students. I had been studying under him, one-on-one, for almost two months, and I was learning so much — a full cannon of…

The message behind soy — according to the World Wildlife Foundation — is dire:

“Behind beef, soy is the second largest agricultural driver of deforestation worldwide. From the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. to the Amazon of Brazil, forests, grasslands, and wetlands are being plowed up to make room for more soy production. “

The WWF explains the consequences:

“As these ecosystems are lost, so are the wildlife they support and the vital ecological services they provide, like clean water, carbon sequestration and healthy soils. Species that are threatened include the jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteater, but also…

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Not enough greens in your diet? Bored of boring boiled broccoli? Try these 6 simple Chinese techniques that provide both nutrients and flavor.

Suanrong / qingchao (garlic sauce)
The most classic vegetable preparation in China — greens stir fried with garlic and seasoned lightly with salt and msg (or bouillon). Feel free to throw in a little dried red pepper. This technique is common with almost all leafy greens, but baby bok choy, yam leaf, A-cai, and pea tips are some of the most popular. Crisp, fresh, and warm.

Baizhuo (water scorched)
This variety builds off the American “steamed” or “boiled”…

It was late, but I had not eaten dinner at the restaurant. A block from my old rickety tower, I detoured north, peddling past the Haagen Daz and its beckoning $5 mango sorbet, a retailer that claimed to be the American Walmart, and the noisy waves of people crashing in and out of the SM mall. I peddled up the little mountain that hugged it from behind, through a vertical canopy of green, until the mall, though only 500 meters away in distance, felt much further than that. …

George Stiffman

Researching Chinese tofu @ | vegan Chinese food @ IG: msgisvegan

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