Whether you are serving Chinese food at a party or a home gathering, Chinese tofu dishes are a staple appetizer or main dish. They are also served in a number of other forms, such as stir fries, salads, sandwiches, wraps and more. There are quite a few reasons why Chinese tofu dishes are so popular, but for the beginner chef or cook, there are several simple guidelines to follow to create wonderful Chinese food using tofu.
Chinese food frequently uses soy sauce. Since soy sauce is typically flavored with ginger, chili or garlic, it is an excellent addition to Chinese foods. It adds a depth of flavor that is not overpowering, creating an interesting balance for your meal. Additionally, sesame tofu is commonly used to create the distinctive Chinese flavor, sweet and sour that is so common in Chinese cooking.
Most people like their soy sauces to be a little sweet, a touch on the sour. However, by adding a little ginger, chili or garlic, you can take this same recipe and make it much more sour. This brings out the unique flavor of these dishes without overwhelming it. Try preparing a dish with sticky rice, cooked with vegetable stock and adding a hint of soy sauce. Then, smell the sweet and sour taste of this simple dish.
Learn About Chinese Cuisine
Chinese cuisine is the cuisine with an abundance of spices. From ginger to garlic and much more, the possibilities for adding spices to your Chinese tofu dishes are endless. For example, dried mango is often added to stir fry sauce. Just remember, a little spice goes a long way. Ginger and garlic are easy to find at your local health food store and supermarket, while chili peppers can also be found at Asian markets around the country. You can also find unique seeds and pods of annato (chocolate chip) at specialty stores and even online.
Of course, there is also the question of texture. Traditional Chinese dishes often have raw tofu on the bottom, a clear sign of a lack of texture. But, today, many Chinese restaurants will replace the raw tofu with a mixture of steamed white rice or wheat pasta. The end result is the same – less texture, but a richer flavor and more flavor than one would get from just eating raw tofu. Another option is using wheat tortillas for Chinese toasts or breads, which bring out the flavor of the toasted grains but retain the fiber and chewable texture.
Preparing Chinese Tofu
When preparing Chinese tofu recipes, you need to keep in mind the fact that they are not all straightforward vegan dishes. Some will use vegetable oil (especially Chinese vegetable oil) to cook the tofu. Though a common practice, this is not a good choice for a number of reasons. First, using vegetable oil instead of plant-based oils causes unneeded calories and oils to be burning, creating more fat and oil used to cook the other ingredients in the dish, creating yet more unneeded calories and oil to cook the tofu.
Second, using vegetable oil will not give you the same texture and crunch that you would get from using a cold pressed product like seitan, which has more texture and natural taste. Third, it is a lot tougher than pressed vegetable oil, meaning that it will take longer to prepare and will result in a dish that tastes more like the original Chinese versions that have been passed down for centuries. Finally, using pressed vegetable oil means that the product will have been subjected to much cooking, resulting in a product that has had a lot of its nutrients leached out of it and that is no better for you than if you had simply used a piece of raw fish. By contrast, by preparing your tofu in its natural state, you are allowing the nutritional value to stand up to the heat and the flavor.
Last But Not Least
Another very popular option is to use coagulating soy milk, which is a simpler, easier way of getting the exact same result that you would get when using the aforementioned tofu. While coagulating soy milk adds a little bit of extra thickness to your dish, it also helps the textures to stick together more naturally and creates a more pleasing texture and taste as well. As a side benefit, coagulating soy milk tends to create a smoother consistency in your dishes, which helps with getting the coagulated soy milk to hold up better to the heat. With the right seasonings, textures, and amounts of spices added to the mixture, coagulating soy milk can be very helpful in creating many of the most popular Chinese vegetarian dishes.