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Why Is Tofu so Tasteless? Because You Have a Wrong Idea About This Food

There was a time in which meat and fish were commonly believed as something that should be always featured in a lunch or a dinner. Nowadays, deciding to eat meat and fish or deleting them from a diet is up to personal choice and, with this in mind, there is a considerable number of people who choose to go vegetarian and say goodbye to burgers, sausages or pepperoni on their pizza. Some other people are vegan too, meaning they have managed to completely delete anything related to the animal world, including milk, cheese and eggs, from their diet.

Tofu Is One of the Commonest Vegan Food

When it comes to knowing what are the commonest kinds of food vegan people eat, it is easy to fall in prejudices like thinking they only eat salad, raw vegetables, pasta and nothing more. The reality is that there are a lot of vegan recipes that make these people able to eat and enjoy a rich variety of dishes. Two of the commonest ingredients that can be used for preparing a vegan meal are surely tofu and seitan: the first one is a food prepared with the curds resulted from the coagulation of soy milk, while the latter is derived from gluten, so from wheat.

Slices of raw tofu served in a Chinese hotpot restaurant

Slices of raw tofu served in a Chinese hotpot restaurant

Tofu Is Considered Tasteless by Many People

Despite the prejudices that see vegan meals as something based on just some salad, pasta and nothing more, things do not get better even when considering people who know the existence of food like tofu and seitan. Especially when talking about tofu, one of the commonest statements one can hear from those who have tried to eat it is 'tofu is tasteless'. This statement is true, still it is based on a completely misunderstanding of this food: at the end, if tofu is just a bland stuff, why is it sold on supermarkets? Is it that vegan people love to eat bland? Of course no, just like vegan people don't just eat raw vegetables or bland pasta: as always, a prejudice based on the lack of knowledge of vegan food is the main reason why many people talk about tofu as a tasteless food, without going further.

Raw tofu meant to be cooked in a Chinese hotpot

Raw tofu meant to be cooked in a Chinese hotpot

Why Is Tofu Considered Tasteless?

The answer is obvious: if someone buys tofu from the supermarket and eat it like if it was a packet of crisps, of course they are going to get a tasteless experience.

Still, there are various elements that are often ignored when talking about tofu as a food:

  • there are several kinds of tofu: this may surprise people who are used to go to their local supermarket and see just 'tofu' in the fridge. Nothing wrong, as in most Western supermarkets it is effectively sold a white block of soy-based food that is commonly called 'tofu': brands change, but the food is always the same. Sometimes it may be sold also in versions featuring herbs or other additional ingredients that make it tastier, still it is always the same white block called 'tofu'. The truth is that tofu is a Chinese food and can be made in different ways (for example, dried tofu and tofu skin sheets): what is sold in Western supermarkets is just one kind of tofu that is commonly appreciated in the Western culinary vegan traditions.
Dried tofu sheets meant to be cooked in a Chinese hotpot

Dried tofu sheets meant to be cooked in a Chinese hotpot

  • tofu is tasteless, yes. It is undeniable that going to the first supermarket you find on the road, buying a block of tofu and eating it directly will result in finding it all but tasty. What about pasta? Would someone argue that pasta is a tasteless food? Of course pasta is considered tasty and the basis of several delicious recipes, this because nobody would think at the taste of 'raw pasta', so what is wrong with the common consideration of tofu? Tofu, just like pasta, is a basic ingredient that is meant to be cooked and employed in several recipes: of course, being tofu a Chinese food, it is more than clear than one should focus mostly on Chinese authentic culinary tradition (which is often completely different than how is Chinese food perceived in Western countries) in order to find delicious Chinese recipes featuring tofu, including those that are vegetarian or vegan.
Dried tofu sold in a shop specialized in Chinese shop specialized in artisanal soy-based food

Dried tofu sold in a shop specialized in Chinese shop specialized in artisanal soy-based food

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Some Delicious Chinese Dishes Featuring Tofu

Chinese culinary tradition features several kinds of tofu and recipes involving them: this is more than enough to stop talking about tofu as a tasteless block that can be found on supermarkets. With this in mind, here are some delicious Chinese dishes featuring tofu as the main ingredient, despite they still represent maybe 1% of all the tofu recipes one can try in China:

Stir-fried dried tofu with chives

A simple and vegan Chinese dish involving dried tofu and chives. This dish is a clear example of how a vegan mean can be tasty with even not many ingredients.

Stir-fried dried tofu with chives

Stir-fried dried tofu with chives

Fresh tofu with century eggs

Some people are afraid to eat these particular eggs that are the result of a process involving preservation in a mixture of ingredients like clay, salt and ash. Of course these eggs are not preserved for a century, still some weeks or months are required in order to get the final result. These eggs are completely safe to eat and they are delicious too, still, they are not exactly the favorite Chinese food of most people, as they are afraid in advance to even give them a try. One way to eat these delicious eggs is in a simple raw dish featuring fresh tofu, soy sauce and sesame oil. Something really quick to prepare, as no cooking is involved: it's just assembling the different ingredients in order to get the final dish, just like one would do with a salad. Another example of how a meat-free dish made with very few ingredients can be really delicious, even if of course this dish cannot be eaten by vegans, but only by vegetarians (vegans could still try tofu without adding eggs).

Hotpot

Also commonly known as the 'Chinese fondue', hotpot is more than food: it's a convivial experience. A large pot is put at the centre of the table, then raw ingredients are cooked and eaten at the moment. Hotpot is often associated to meat or fish, still also many vegetables and kinds of tofu can be added to hotpot too: there's nothing wrong in even enjoying a vegetarian or vegan hotpot with just vegetables and tofu.

A Chinese hotpot

A Chinese hotpot

Ma La Xiang Guo

Also known as the spicy numbing stir-fry pot, Ma La Xiang Guo features several ingredients: again, the recipe may involve meat and fish in addition to vegetables and tofu but, considering everyone can choose what to put in their Ma La Xiang Guo, a vegetarian or vegan recipe is possible too and dried tofu is really delicious inside a Ma La Xiang Guo.

Ma La Xiang Guo featuring dried tofu

Ma La Xiang Guo featuring dried tofu

Conclusions

Is tofu tasteless? Yes, just like raw pasta or pure flour. Of course, pasta recipes or pizza are all but tasteless, the same, many vegetarian and vegan dishes involving tofu are delicious. It's time to see tofu in a different way, just like it's time to stop having prejudices towards a vegan meal, as it can be very delicious and with even not many ingredients.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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