Looking for a protein-rich meat alternative that is easily available, inexpensive, low in fat, nutritious, and able to play many roles in the culinary theatre? In part one of a three-part series on meat alternatives, we explore versatile tofu.

Silken tofu can play a starring role in creamy sauces, desserts, dips, dressings, and smoothies, while extra firm can hold its own even under vigorous stir-frying.

Medium-firm and firm tofu give character and texture to scrambles, fried dishes, vegan quiches, and frittatas, and in baking cast as fat and/or egg substitutes.

Meanwhile, smoked tofu is a star in sandwiches and wraps.

Tofu is a natural product that you can easily make in your own kitchen. It is no more processed than butter, yogourt, or soft cheese and can be made from organic soybeans. And yet there are so many varieties of this simple and ancient food.

Tofu type is primarily determined by the amount of time it is pressed. A variety of coagulating agents (natural mineral salts) and fermenting methods produce products such as blue cheese-like Chinese fermented tofu sold in jars of brine.

A bonus is that all tofu products are good sources not only of high quality protein, but also of many other nutrients including calcium (especially if the tofu is coagulated with calcium sulphate); iron; omega-3 fatty acids; and selenium.

You can keep a variety of tofu in the refrigerator, ready at a moment’s notice for a nutritious, taste-tempting snack, main dish, or even dessert. Why not take another look at our old friend tofu and try these snappy new internationally inspired recipes?

Recipes

Natural liquid smoke

If you’ve never heard of natural liquid smoke, you may be wondering how it’s made.

Natural liquid smoke can be used in place of bacon or ham to flavour beans, tofu, and many other foods.

Smoke from smouldering wood chips is channelled through a condenser that quickly cools the vapours, causing them to liquefy. The water-soluble flavour compounds are trapped within the liquid. The nonsoluble carcinogenic tars and resins are removed by a series of filters.

See results with soy-based proteins

A recent study followed 40 healthy middle-aged men who either participated in resistance training, resistance training paired with soy-based protein, or lifestyle education only. After 12 weeks those who supplemented with soy experienced the most pronounced improvements in strength and glycemic control. They also experienced reduced fat mass and waist circumference as well as increased lean body mass. Incorporate more soy-based protein into your diet with these spicy, Korean-inspired kebabs. Green pepper, mushrooms, and onion up the nutrition content, plus a bed of quinoa provides an added protein punch.

About the Author

Bryanna Clark Grogan is the author of World Vegan Feast (Vegan Heritage Press, 2011) and eight more vegan cookbooks. veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.ca