When my family and I Chinese takeout, we are usually limited to the same thing, time after time - fried rice with mixed vegetables and a vegetable spring roll. Sure, we like it, and it's a pretty handy and quick meal when we are so inclined. But I have to admit, it does get boring. Some places will offer a few other vegetarian selections we could choose from, but honestly, I have just not been that impressed with them. So as we usually find, being a vegan is mostly best served by cooking at home. Lucky for my family I love to cook!
I got in the mood for some barbecue the other day, but didn't want to make the seitan for it, since I was kind of hungry right then. After glancing through my recipes, I settled on this:
Asian Barbecued Tofu
One onion, chopped
One garlic clove, chopped
1 can tomato sauce
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. Dijon mustard
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne
One package extra firm tofu, frozen, boiled, squeezed and sliced about 1/4" thick
In a food processor, combine onion, garlic, tomato sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, salt and cayenne and process until saucy. Put in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
Fry tofu in olive oil in batches, until nicely brown on both sides. Add barbecue sauce to the tofu, simmer together for about 10 minutes. Serve.
I actually expected this to be more traditionally barbecue tasting than it was. It would have gone nicely with some rice, but I served mine instead with some vegan mac and cheese and green beans. I realized it was more Asian when my daughter came home, asked what was for dinner and before I could respond said, "It's Chinese food, isn't it?" So, Asian Barbecue Tofu was born.
If you are new to tofu, I think it may be initially an acquired taste. I have to admit I didn't care for it at first. It wasn't until I learned about the freezing and boiling technique that I begin to not only like it, but love it! I still prefer it sliced thin to cubed, and for any dish that doesn't call for creamy, like lasagna, I always get the extra firm variety.
Tofu is very popular in the Orient today but was first used in China over 2000 years ago. While the details of its discovery are uncertain, legend has it that it was discovered by accident when a Chinese cook added the seaweed nigari to a pot of soybean milk, causing it to curdle; the result was tofu.
The oldest evidence of tofu production is a Chinese mural incised on a stone slab. It shows a kitchen scene that proves that soymilk and tofu were being made in China during the period A.D. 25-220. The oldest written reference to tofu appeared also in China at about A.D. 1500, in a poem "Ode to Tofu" by Su Ping.
Kento priests, who went to China to study Buddhism, brought tofu back to Japan during the Nara era (710-794). Tofu was eaten as part of a vegetarian diet for priests for their protein content. The word "tofu" is first mentioned in Japan in the diary of the Shinto priest Nakaomi. Tofu was used as an offering at an altar. In 1489 the word "tofu" was first written in the actual Japanese characters. Tofu gradually became popular among the nobility and the samurai class. During the Edo era (1603-1867), tofu became popular among ordinary people. The cookbook "Tofu Hyakuchin" was published in 1782 and sold very well.
In 1603 the Spanish dictionary "Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam" was the first European document with reference to the word "tofu". Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete described in his book "A Collection of Voyages and Travles" how tofu was made. The first English reference to tofu was in 1704, when Navarrete's book was published in English.
Tofu was first produced (non-commercial) in France by Paillieux in 1880. Hirata & Co. started to make tofu in San Francisco in 1895. The first Westerner who produced tofu on a commercial scale was T.A. Van Gundy in 1929 when he started the company La Sierra Industries in California.
Tofu is sometimes called "the cheese of Asia," because of its physical resemblance to a block of farmer's cheese. Tofu is a highly nutritious, protein-rich food that is made from the curds of soybean milk. Off-white in color, it is usually sold in rectangular blocks.
Research on soy protein in recent years has shown that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35-40%, lower triglyceride levels, reduce the tendency of platelets to form blood clots, and possibly even raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol).
Soy has also been shown to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms associated with menopause. Soy foods, like tofu, contain phytoestrogens, specifically the isoflavones, genistein and diadzein. In a woman's body, these compounds can dock at estrogen receptors and act like very, very weak estrogens. During perimenopause, when a woman's estrogen fluctuates, rising to very high levels and then dropping below normal, soy's phytoestrogens can help her maintain balance, blocking out estrogen when levels rise excessively high, plus filling in for estrogen when levels are low. When women's production of natural estrogen drops at menopause, soy's isoflavones may provide just enough estrogenic activity to prevent or reduce uncomfortable symptoms, like hot flashes. The results of intervention trials suggest that soy isoflavones may also promote the resorption of bone and therefore inhibit postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Additionally, most types of tofu are enriched with calcium, which can help prevent the accelerated bone loss for which women are at risk during menopause. Calcium has also been found useful in rheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which calcium may help to reduce the bone loss that can occur as a result of this disease. Tofu is a good source of calcium. Four-ounces supply about 10% of the daily value for calcium and contain only 70-90 calories.
Think a meal without meat equals a meal without protein? Think again. Four ounces of tofu provides 9.2 grams of protein, that's 18.3% of the daily value for protein, and it comes virtually free of saturated fat (less than 1 gram), and at a cost of only 86 calories. Here's how it compares to a few other foods. For each 100 calorie serving, tofu contains 11 grams of protein. By comparison, 100 calories of ground beef provides 8.9 grams of protein, and a 100 calorie serving of cheese contains 6.2 grams.
Tofu provides 14.4% of the daily value for omega 3 fatty acids in just 4 ounces.
A large percentage of the conventionally grown soybeans in the United States come from genetically modified (GM) seeds. If you are limiting your exposure to GM foods, choose organically grown soybeans (and foods such as tofu, tempeh and miso made from it), since the current USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of GM seeds for growing foods to be labeled as organically grown. Many commercially available brands of tofu are made from organic and non-genetically modified soybeans, and, as an added bonus, most organic and non-gmo tofu brands are the same price as conventionally produced tofu. Look for Nasoya brand, Mori-nu organic and other organic tofu brands.
Try some the recipes I've posted using tofu. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised!