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Bean Curd: Is It Tofu? How Do You Cook It?

Last Updated on September 24, 2023

Bean curd, a versatile ingredient in most Asian cuisines, is popular among the vegan and vegetarian communities.

If you’re a fan of classic Asian cuisine, you’ve come to the right place.

Here we’ll explore the many uses and delicious flavors of this humble, yet versatile ingredient.

From stir-fried dishes to soups and desserts, there are plenty of ways for you to enjoy this unique food.

So pull up a chair and let’s get started on our delicious journey into the wonderful world of bean curd!

Bean Curd: What Is It?

So, is it tofu? The short answer is:

All types of tofu products are bean curd, but not all bean curds are tofu.

Besides fresh tofu (silken, soft, firm, extra-firm), other types of bean curds are as follows: tofu pudding, frozen tofu, tofu puffs, fermented bean curd, fresh bean curd sheet, dried bean curd sheet (yuba)

Bean curd is a staple ingredient in many Asian, vegan, and vegetarian dishes.

To make bean curds, first, wash and soak dried soybeans in water 7 times their volume overnight (or at least for 10 hours).

Then they are ground into liquid, filtered, and boiled to produce soy milk, which is then thickened (like making dairy cheese).

how to make bean curd

By adjusting the amount of coagulant (usually nigari) in the soy milk, you can get bean curds with different firmnesses.

As a result, bean curds are pressed into blocks, hence the term “bean curd.” The liquid is pressed out of the tofu to increase its firmness.

The final product of bean curd has a very mild flavor that allows it to easily be incorporated into dishes without overpowering the other ingredients.

What Does Beancurd Taste Like Overall?

Generally speaking, bean curd products have a mild taste, which is described as slightly nutty, yet bland.

It is a versatile food that can be cooked in various ways to bring out different flavors and textures. 

bean curd types

Depending on how it is prepared, it can range from soft and creamy to firm and chewy.

Bean curd is often used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian dishes due to its high protein content.

It can be marinated with sauces such as soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for added flavor, or it can be fried for a crispy texture.

It can also be added to soups, stir-fries, and salads for extra protein and nutrients.

Overall, beancurd has a unique taste that is quite subtle but very satisfying when cooked correctly.

Bean Curd Varieties

Tofu is a type of bean curd, available in different types from soft, firm, and extra firm.

We all know that bean curd, soy milk, and tofu are all made of soybeans. Soy milk is made by grinding soybeans and mixing them with water.

After cooking, it becomes soy milk; and small amounts of specific coagulants such as gypsum or bittern are added to the soy milk, and the protein in the soy milk can gradually solidify into tofu pudding.

If more gypsum is added and pressed, it will become tofu or firm tofu.

It is a versatile ingredient used to create many dishes, from soups to stir-fries. I have another article in depth on What does tofu taste like?

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu has a custard-like silky texture, which sets it apart from the other types of tofu discussed here.

As an all-purpose choice for recipes that require delicate textures. Silken tofu can also be used in sauces such as vegan sour cream or mayonnaise.

Plus, you can add flavorings to make silken tofu into creamy desserts like puddings, tofu cheeses, or chocolate tofu mousse.

Soft Tofu

Soft tofu has a smooth and jelly-like texture. It has a delicate flavor that pairs well with sweet or savory ingredients.

Use soft curd in eggless scrambles, smoothies, or creamy veggie dishes.

Or you can simply steam it and serve it with soy sauce, or add it to a flavored broth to make tofu soups like this tomato tofu soup.

Firm Tofu

Firm Tofu – This type of bean curd offers the most versatility since its texture absorbs flavors readily.

Plus, its shape is retained when it is handled during cooking or preparation.

Firm tofu can be grilled, fried, pressed, or baked before adding it to dishes like burgers and sandwiches (I used firm tofu for my vegan ramen topping, tofu lettuce wraps, and marinated tofu).

Firm tofu is often used in a variety of ways – from simmering in a sauce to panko breaded tofu frying in oil.

It also can be used as an alternative meat substitute when frozen and used as crumbles (which helps add texture) in place of protein in things such as stuffed tofu, soups, or stews.

Extra Firm Tofu (Pressed Tofu)

Extra Firm Tofu – Extra firm bean curd holds up well after freezing and thawing.

It can be used for stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, and more due to its dense texture that does not break apart easily when cooking tofu alongside other ingredients. It’s also suitable for deep-frying.

It would be best if you used paper towels to dry the surface of extra-firm tofu before pan-frying to prevent explosions.

Tofu Pudding (Douhua/Doufuhua)

tofu pudding types

Generally, the texture of tofu pudding is softer than silken tofu. It can be made sweet or savory.

The savory version is a flavorful Chinese breakfast by placing the tofu pudding with youtiao, chili oil, soy sauce, and spring onions.

Frozen Tofu

frozen bean curd

Slice leftover tofu into small pieces and arrange the cubes on a baking sheet, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze.

Be careful not to let the tofu overlap when freezing. Once it has frozen, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer.

Frozen tofu has a very chewy texture. Some people like to break them into small chunks to replace meat when cooking.

Tofu Puffs (Fried Bean Curd)

In China, tofu puffs are a traditional soy food. Tofu cubes are cut into cubes and deep-fried at a high temperature of 180 degrees.

Leave for a few minutes in order to get an ideal foaming effect.

puffed tofu (tofu puffs)

Tofu puffs are often used in stir-fries or added to soups to give dishes different textures and bites.

Fermented Bean Curd

The raw materials for fermented bean curd are soybeans and rice.

Soybeans are made into tofu, and the koji bacteria in rice koji and soybean koji are used to decompose protein into amino acids and starch into glucose.

chili oil added to fermentation

This produces a sweet taste. As long as non-polluting koji bacteria are used, the production process is not contaminated by bacteria, and the salt content is also properly controlled.

Eating fermented bean curd will not endanger your health. In fact, it is quite nutritious.

Fresh Bean Curd Sheets

It is said that tofu skin originated in the Tang Dynasty. During the process of making tofu, a chef found a film floating in the soy milk.

He carefully picked up the film, dried it, and cut it into squares. From here, tofu skin was born!

a stack of fresh tofu skin

Buddhism was prevalent in the Tang Dynasty, and tofu quickly spread. Until now, tofu has been a convenient source of plant-based protein for Buddhists.

To make fresh bean curd sheets, place soy milk in a shallow pan that is heated to about 85~95°C, a beige film will gradually float on the surface.

The principle of soy milk forming soy skin is that when soy milk is heated, it will decompose and destroy protein molecules. This will gather on the surface of soy milk to form a film.

As long as you know how to make tofu skin, you can easily make fresh tofu skin at home. You also can find noodles made from fresh bean curd sheets, called bean curd noodles.

Dried Bean Curd Sheets (Dried Tofu Skin/Yuba)

Tofu skin may be purchased in fresh or dry form. Dried bean curd sheets, also known as dried bean curd sheets or yuba.

dried bean curd skin
how to make yuba
How dried bean curd sheet (yuba) is made

After the films are collected from heated soy milk and dehydrated into yellowish sheets. By doing so, the shelf life is greatly extended.

Since tofu skin is not produced using a coagulant, it is not tofu per se; however, it does have a similar texture and flavor to some tofu products. 

When cooking, the tofu skin is rehydrated in water before use (like this Taiwanese cabbage stew).

Dim sum is often wrapped in fried tofu skin, and it’s often added to stir-fries to create a different texture.

Taiwanese-Cabbage-Stew_11zon
Taiwanese Cabbage Stew

Is Tempeh a Type of Bean Curd

No, tempeh is not a type of bean curd. 

Tempeh is a pressed cake of fermented soybeans with a hearty, chewy texture and a nutty flavor. Tofu is made from soy milk that’s processed into blocks and is flavorless with a soft texture.

Tempeh-the super food

Tempeh is still produced from soy but the whole bean is used in a fermentation process.

By using the whole bean gives tempeh its chunky texture which holds its shape better. Thus, it is perfect for crispy tempeh cubes or vegan bacon.

Health Benefits of Bean Curd

Being a tasty recipe addition, bean curd offers many health benefits due to its high nutrient content.

It provides a healthy source of protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus alongside having low levels of fat and calories.

A further benefit of bean curd is that it contains no animal products making it suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

This makes it an ideal choice for those following health-conscious diets or those looking for alternative sources of protein. Eating bean curd offers several health benefits including weight loss and improved heart health.

what does tofu taste like

Bean curd is a low-fat food with no cholesterol, meaning that it can help to reduce overall cholesterol levels and contribute to weight loss when eaten in moderation.

Furthermore, the high levels of calcium and iron found in bean curd mean that it can improve bone health by helping to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis. In addition, it provides necessary nutrients to your body too.

Overall, bean curd makes an excellent source of dietary protein which has several other health benefits too; making it ideal if you’re looking for something nutritious yet calorie-conscious.

How to Select and Store Bean Curd

They come in different kinds or in blocks of varying firmness and sizes. When selecting or storing bean curd properly you can maximize the flavor and texture of this unique ingredient.

As a general rule, choose bean curd products in the refrigerated section of grocery stores.

The right package to buy is one that is fresh, sealed, weighs a lot, and isn’t past its best-by date.

If any liquid has separated out of the container or there is an unpleasant smell—either strongly sour or ammonia-like—then it’s time to find another package as these are signs that the bean curd has spoiled.

types of tofu

Fresh bean curd should be firm to the touch yet still slightly dense and spongy when pressed with your fingers.

The color should be pale with no distinct odor.

If you are looking for firmer tofu then make sure that the product description on the label matches exactly what you’re searching for as some states use different names for their firmness (e.g., extra-firm).

Once you have selected a suitable fresh block of bean curd, it’s time to store it properly in order to keep its texture intact for future use.

Don’t forget to put it in the refrigerator.

It should always remain submerged in water in airtight containers. This is because dried-out tofu loses moisture quickly which results in an unpleasant texture when cooked later on.

sofritas recipe
Chipotle’s copycat Sofritas

You can also freeze bean curd products. However, this will change its taste and texture so it’s generally better suited to dishes that would be accepted like vegan chili or Chipotle’s copycat Sofritas!

Cooking With Bean Curd

Whether you are a novice cook or an expert chef, there are plenty of interesting ways to cook it.

Protein Bowls: Tofu is a convenient way to add protein to any bowl meal. For example, mix diced bean curd with dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach for a nutrient-packed vegan entrée.

You can also offer different sauces and toppings like sesame oil and crunchy vegetables for added texture and flavor.

Stir-frying Asian Dishes: Bean curd pairs well with a variety of Asian flavors including Thai green curry paste (like tofu green curry) and Chinese hoisin sauce (vegetable Chop Suey).

You can prepare bean curd dishes such as stir-fries, soups, or salads – the possibilities are endless!

Meats Replacement: Tofu has the ability to absorb flavor from umami seasonings like miso paste or tamari sauce – making it ideal for adding extra richness to meatless entrees.

Taco Tuesday: Have some fun with your Tuesday night meal by substituting shredded beef for marinated cubes of tofu wrapped in taco shells.

One flavorful marinade for tofu tacos includes softened garlic cloves, chili powder, and nutritional yeast flakes combined with some lime juice for extra zestiness!

Desserts: Did you know you can make deliciously creamy desserts with tofu?

Commonly used Asian ingredients like green tea powder liven up plain silken bean curds just in time for dessert!

Also, experiment with other ingredients like almond milk combined together to create healthy treats that won’t break the calorie bank.

4 glasses of vegan chocolate mousse
Tofu chocolate mousse with silken tofu

TO SUm Up

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that all tofu is bean curd, but not all bean curd is tofu.

There are a variety of uses for bean curd products, and these uses depend on personal preference.

Many people view it as a delicious addition to an array of dishes, and its versatility can be used for a number of different purposes.

In general, you should make sure you purchase the highest quality products available, as this will ensure that your dish tastes its finest. With proper preparation and cooking, you can create meals that taste delicious.

With so many options and recipes to choose from, make it a point to incorporate more bean curd products into your diet. This will enable you to discover how interesting this food item can be in your cooking.

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Bean curd is a staple ingredient in many Asian, vegan, and vegetarian dishes. All types of tofu products are bean curd, but not all bean curds are tofu.
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  • n general, you should make sure you purchase the highest quality products available, as this will ensure that your dish tastes its finest. With proper preparation and cooking, you can create meals that taste delicious.

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