When most people hear the word tofu, they think hippies, tree huggers and cardboard boxes. There are even vegetarians and vegans who avoid tofu with the same disgust they would a bowl of bacon -- the terrible textured, gelatinous beast that only Asians eat. But, Tofu has a long, impressive history in China. Some 1600 years before Jesus was multiplying fish to feed the masses, the ancient Chinese were cultivating soybeans -- a vital source of protein and other nutrients -- to feed the masses. Then, during the Han Dynasty (between 206 B.C. and 220 A.D., about the same time Emperor Tiberius was busy striking a deal with the Devil to build the indestructible Ponte di Tiberio–overnight, I might add), the Chinese production of bean curd went global.
The Buddhist monks brought soybeans and recipes for bean curd to Japan. And the word "tofu" is first mentioned in Japan in the diary of the Shinto priest Nakaomi. Then it spread it across the rest of Southeast Asia with the growth of Buddhism.
Tofu arrived in America during the 'All You Can Eat Buffet' invasion of the eighties; when the invasion was near crippled by the vast quantities of food consumed by the average American. Many buffet restaurants were forced to remove their feeding troughs and turn to dry cleaning. But at the 11th hour, the Chinese unleashed their secret weapon -- the terrible Tofu! It was cheap and could be shovelled onto plates...
Okay, that last part was bullshit. Too much coffee and I got carried away. Actually, the story goes that Benjamin Franklin sent soybeans to the US from France in a letter during the 1770s, referring them as a 'special cheese' made from the beans and 'which is called Tau Fu.' - a rather more borning tale, in my opinion.
Most of us risk trying tofu at a restaurant, and usually, it's good. But when we it at home, it tastes bloody awful. It is said that tofu takes on the flavour of whatever you marinade it in, so you soak it in soy sauce, and it still tastes bloody awful.
Well, the Daughter was sick of my soy soaked tofu and arranged for us to attend a tofu workshop this weekend.
'The first mistake you're all making is not pressing your tofu,' Chris and Eve, the creators of Rimini's finest vegan food, told us. 'You need to get all the water out of it. Squeeze in a colander, press it with a pot, put it under a pile of books ... just make sure you drain the liquid.'
'The second mistake you've made is hooking up with somebody who doesn't know how to cook tofu,' explained Chris. 'But don't worry we can fix that.'
Powered by tofu for over twenty years, Chris searched the Kingdoms of Asia to find Eve, his tofu Princess.
And for the first time in the year – since moving to Rimini – he let her out of the kitchen and into the light, where she shared her secrets with us ... like there is more to marinating tofu than soaking it in soy sauce!
We cooked: Smokey Tofu Bacon
General Tso's Tofu - Supreme commander of the All You Can Eat Buffet Invasion
Classic Chocolate Cheese Cake - the world's best Cheesecake and it doesn't have any cheese!
Now powered by tofu...Team Tofu!
Recipes to follow.