27 September 2023

In Love With Tofu

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In Love With Tofu

By Christine Salins


When Emma de Thouars was writing How To Fall In Love With Tofu, she got a lot of surprised reactions. A whole book about tofu? Yes, really.

“It seems especially difficult for everybody to imagine so many tofu recipes, an ingredient that plenty of people don’t know what to do with,” she says in the introduction to this ode to one of her favourite foods.

“It was actually the other way around. There are forty recipes in this book, but it could easily have been a hundred. Tofu is crazily versatile and is eaten in many ways in many Asian countries: fried, steamed, raw, with sauces, in stews, hidden in pancakes or in dumplings.”

A culinary writer and recipe developer in the Netherlands, Emma has Indonesian roots and a great fondness for Asian cuisines. Her previous books include Amazing Asia and Emma’s Amazing Asia: Vegan. You’ll also find recipe videos from her on Instagram @emmadethouars

Whereas tofu is mainly seen as a meat substitute in the West, in Asia people think of it differently. Thus, while most recipes in the book are vegetarian, some are not. “In any case, I don’t shy away from fish and oyster sauce, and sometimes a little minced pork or fish is added to a recipe,” says Emma. “If so, I usually include an option to make the dish vegetarian.”

Through her deliciously varied recipes, she demonstrates how tofu is much more than a meat substitute or a health food alternative, but rather how it can shine as the centrepiece of a meal, acting as the perfect canvas to soak up the flavours in a pan.

From Scrambled Tofu, Dumplings, and Omelettes with Chilli Sauce to a Japanese-style Tofu Sando, Stuffed Tofu with Minced Pork, and the Korean Tofu Pancakes featured here, there’s a mouth-watering assortment of dishes in which tofu plays the leading role.

There’s also a useful ‘Tofu 101’ explaining the different types of tofu available, how to prepare them, and even a guide to making your own tofu at home (which is not as difficult as you might think). “Once you know what you’re doing, I promise you’ll love tofu as much as I do,” she says.

Korean Tofu Pancakes With Prawns

Makes 6 to 8 pancakes

100g prawns, peeled and deveined, chopped into small pieces
250g firm tofu, crumbled into small pieces
2 spring onions, thinly sliced into rings
1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chilli powder)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
white pepper
neutral oil, for frying

50 ml light soy sauce
50 ml rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, mix the prawns with the tofu, spring onion, gochugaru, eggs, flour, salt and a pinch of white pepper.

Heat a generous layer of oil in a frying pan over high heat to 180°C. You can test if the oil is hot enough by tossing a piece of spring onion into the pan. If the oil immediately starts to sizzle, you’re good to go.

Spoon three chunks of batter into the pan and use two spoons or spatulas to form small discs. Fry the pancakes for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the outside is golden brown – be careful when flipping. Let the pancakes drain on a wire rack or paper towel, and repeat with the rest of the batter.

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce by mixing the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame seeds in a bowl. Serve the pancakes with the dipping sauce.

Recipe and image from: How To Fall In Love With Tofu, by Emma de Thouars, published by Smith Street Books, distributed by Thames & Hudson Australia, $39.99.

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