One of the humbling things about Google is its ability to remind you that there is truly nothing new under the sun. Take me and my mind-blowing musings on tofu.
Backtrack a little bit to a reflection on the magical world of legumes. Along with your run of the mill kidney, navy, black, and garbanzo varieties, there’s a plethora of other pulses waiting to be enjoyed. Tiny, tender green mungs. Fat, fleshy favas. Gorgeous white and red cranberry beans. Plain little pigeon peas like the ones that show up all through Bahamian cooking. And of course, even when considering a particular bean, one can explore varieties within that variety. I recently picked up a bag of small, dark brown chickpeas. I’m growing (and recently harvested a tiny batch of!) black chickpeas. More on these later. I’m already getting sidetracked (i.e. excited).
With all these beans, it struck me one mind-blowing day how strange it is that I’d never encountered tofu made from anything other than soybeans. Why wouldn’t one make a delicious sliceable, marinadeable, malleable chunk of nutritionally dense goodness from any of those dozens of other legumes?
Now, tofu, and soy in general, has (like many foods) become a highly debated ingredient. Should you eat it? Shouldn’t you eat it? Is it good for you? Is it bad for you?
I personally love standard, soy-based tofu. The firmer the better. Slap some garlic and seasonings on that bad boy, toss it in flour and pan fry, and you’ve got yourself some good, tasty, savoury stuff. I shell out a bit more for an organic and non-GMO brand, and include it in my without concern. Tofu has been enjoyed in Asian cuisine for quite some time (unlike highly processed soy products, and genetically modified varieties) so I don’t feel I’m branching out into a nutritionally risque food when I sit down to a dinner that includes a tastily prepared organic dish of this protein-rich, iron-rich good stuff. I have no problem with tofu.
I do, however, have a problem with kitchen laziness. I make much more of an effort now that I make meals for fella and me, but when life gets busy, I could easily make the exact same thing every single day for about four consecutive days (fine, seven). There have been times when I’ve leaned a little too heavily on tofu due to being busy, not wanting to use beans from BPA-lined cans, and not having time (i.e., not planning ahead properly) to soak and precook dried legumes. And while I have no problem with tofu, I know that at my healthiest times, I’ve been eating a varied diet that gives me access to a nice selection of foods and the specific nutrients each of those foods provide.
I first researched tofu made from other beans a couple of years ago. Nothing turned up and I was surprised (flattered?) that I’d clearly come up with an entirely new concept.
Curiosity (disbelief) got the better of me again this summer, and I revisited the situation. I learned two important facts:
1. I conducted lazy research the first time, and;
2. Burmese cuisine includes Burmese tofu, or Shan tofu.
After mourning the loss of my innovation points, I got to trying Shan tofu. Shan tofu is made from chickpea flour and water, with a pinch of tumeric and salt. It’s prepared in much the same way as polenta: create a thick mixture, bring to a boil and cook, then spread in a pan, cool, slice, and fry.
I tried a few different recipes, and eventually found a recipe from Bestoodles that fit my needs. I liked it even more when I reduced the water slightly, as I found the firmer tofu this yielded was easier to slice, dice, and cook with. I’m not much one for frying, but I did find that shallow-fried, the Burmese Tofu was especially tasty, served with a variety of dipping sauces.
You can find the original recipe over at Bestoodles here.
The adaptation I made included a few changes: halving the recipe, using less water, and using a Bob’s Red Mill flour that is a chickpea and fava bean blend. I’ve since also experimented with a Black Bean flour, though I’m still tweaking that recipe to get it share-worthy.
Chickpea Fava Tofu