When we think about Tofu, I guess most of us have an image of it being one of the top ten lists of health food worldwide. And, yes, its nationality seems to be branded as Japanese. Not that I have anything about this, just sayin.
I love tofu too….but probably less than meaty fish that i can keep on munching on. Prior to coming to Japan, I always the only representation I had of tofu was white squares that floats around in my miso soup at a Japanese restaurant (which wasn’t even authentic I supposed). Once I had been awakened by how extensive the store shelf is designated just for tofu in Japanese supermarket, I decided there must be something MORE to merely white square fake meat lol…. And indeed there are a lot more knowledge revolving around it, starting from types, products, and usages…The knowledge goes endless.
Maybe many of you who are new to Japan got confused as to how kinds of tofu are different and what to use them for. Well, let me start my series of Tofu posts! Today we would go with the most ubiquitous and versatile one that you would definitely find in supermarket around the world, not so esoteric – Momen tofu! (or firm tofu as it is usually called in the Youtube videos or recipe blogs.)
Momen in Japanese spells like this: 木綿
I got so confused the first time…
This might be more familiar to you. This is FIRM tofu. Press it and it’s kinda harder than another kind that is called SILK tofu or 絹豆腐(kinu-tofu). You would find or you could use momen in cooking dishes like Mabo-doufu (麻婆豆腐）or a Sichuan style bean curd stir-fry dish. It’s usually oily, contains minced pork, and a little bit spicy. It’s one of the must-have “Chinese” dishes in any Chinese restaurant in Japan. (So be careful of the calories!)
More easily found would be the Tofu burger (豆腐ハンバーグ）. Don’t be confused with the word burger as in hamburger than we usually know (from McDonald’s) because in Japan it is just a paddy of minced stuffs. In this case, Tofu burger is usually thought of as a healthier version of the usual ハンバーグ(Japanese read as Hamburger lol) which is made of beef and pork and can be higher in sat fat and so on. Normally, momen tofu is mashed with minced chicken and onion, sometimes renkon, then made into a paddy and pan-seared in the pan. My favorite fast-cooking menu!
You might also find Tofu steak when you go to an izakaya. That is also made with momen tofu, as well as other nabe dishes (hot-pot) and shabu-shabu. Due to its firm texture, it’s not likely to break easily when boiled, however, it needs to be pressed on by weight for about 30 minutes before use to rinse off all the water, and dried using kitchen paper. I found in some recipes that it is also possible to put the tofu in the microwave for a minute or less so the water would come out and then you dry it. (a lot faster way lol)
One block of tofu is called “chou” or “丁” and it is pretty heavy, usually used to cook for 2-3 people. One chou is in average 315 grams, around 230 kcal. Check out more about different sizes here; http://www.eiyoukeisan.com/calorie/gramphoto/mame/tofu_momen.html (This website is super useful in helping you familiarize with other foods in Japan too.)
Now….for food, most of it is usually cooked by using momen tofu due to the ease to handle. But for desserts!? Yes…in Japan tofu is not limited to food as we mostly think; it is used A LOT in many kinds of desserts as a substitution for cream, butter, and all sorts of dairy when girls are on a diet.
From cookpad.com, if you search “豆腐”together with “デザート” you will be amazed!（http://cookpad.com/search/%E8%B1%86%E8%85%90%E3%80%80%E3%83%87%E3%82%B6%E3%83%BC%E3%83%88?purpose=%E3%83%87%E3%82%B6%E3%83%BC%E3%83%88）
BUT…THIS IS NOT MOMEN TOFU…THIS IS SILK TOFU.
I made a few mistakes in the past by using momen instead of silk and the result came out weird and I decided not to eat it. T__T
I hope I helped save some of you some troubles!