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Pressed Tofu (Tau Kwa)


Pressed TofuWhy you do it
Pressed Tofu is a sturdy form of tofu used in situations where normal tofu would fall apart and disintegrate, such as in salads or in stir-fried dishes. Commercial tofu already comes in different levels of firmness and manufacturers control tofu’s hardness by varying the amount of water they press out of it. What you are simply doing is squeezing more of the water out of your tofu to increase its firmness even more. The hard part is how you can squeeze tofu without smashing it.

Pressed tofu is actually quite common in East Asia outside of Japan. In Southeast Asia it is called Tau Kwa. There is a style of Haka cuisine from China called Yong Tau Foo where minced fish is stuffed into Tofu. Obviously if the tofu is not firmed up beforehand, there would be no way to stuff anything into it.  In Teochew cuisine, also from China, pressed tofu is stewed in soya sauce together with goose. Often pressed tofu is deep fried. Fried pressed tofu is an essential ingredient in Pad Thai, a common type of fried noodles from Thailand found worldwide. It is also used in a dish called Mee Siam, which is a ‘Thai’ style vermicelli dish popular in Singapore and Malaysia (but paradoxically not in Thailand/Siam).

How you do it
Pressing TofuPlace a block of tofu onto a flat bottomed tray or dish after draining away the water it comes in. I usually use the tray from my toaster oven. It should be of the firm type, sometimes labelled as ‘stone’ tofu. In any case, be very careful not to damage the tofu in anyway as any localized weakness in structural integrity will cause the tofu to crack when it is pressed.

Wrap some cling film tightly around the side of the tofu, twice. Don’t wrap the bottom because that’s where the water escapes from and cut away most of the extra cling film protruding at the top. You are only interested in constraining or reinforcing the side walls so the tofu doesn’t bulge sideways and burst. Some people use towels but I find that cling film is the best way of preventing the tofu block from crumbling under pressure.

Place a stiff cutting board over the tofu, making sure the tofu is exactly at its centre. Place a can of food on the cutting board to start off with and gradually increase this to 6 cans over the course of an hour. When you notice the cutting board tilting to any particular side, adjust the position of the cans to bring it level again. Wait another hour after you reach six cans and you are done. Your tofu should be sitting in a pool of water about half as high as it was when you started, but twice as firm.

One example of a recipe that uses pressed Tofu is my Chinese Pork Rib Curry recipe.

 

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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in cooking, Ingredients, Oriental, Salad

 

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Singapore Chinese Pork Curry


(serves 6)
Singapore Chinese Curry is a culinary relic of the British colonial era in Singapore. Many of the British officers had previously been stationed in India and developed a taste for curry. The British Army in Singapore however had to rely on Chinese cooks who out of neccesity concocted their own curry recipes. The result was the unique Singapore Chinese Curry which contains many common items of South-east Asian cuisine. In such curries you’ll find strange ingredients such as pork, dried shrimp, bean curd and cabbage. If you are a fan of curry, this is definitely a novel curry variety you must try. 
IngredientsChinese Curry

  1. Pork Spare Ribs (1 kg)
  2. Yeo’s Minced Prawn Sambal (2 x 140g cans)
  3. Cabbage (1 small head)
  4. Firm Tofu (2 standard blocks)
  5. Fried Bean Curd Puffs (2 cups)
  6. Fishcake or Fishballs (200g)
  7. Glass Vermicelli (50g dry weight)
  8. Coconut Milk (300ml)
  9. Chinese Wine
  10. Five Spice Powder
  11. Cumin
  12. Chicken Stock Cubes (2)

Preparation

  1. Begin by pressing the tofu as explained here. You cannot use soft tofu as it will completely disintegrate and disappear.
  2. Open the two cans of minced prawn sambal into a large pot. Add 1kg of raw pork ribs and allow to marinate for at least an hour.
  3. Dissolve 2 chicken stock cubes and 1 t sugar in 2 cups of hot water. Add the stock, coconut milk and fish balls/cake to the pot and heat to a low simmer.
  4. Sprinkle in 1T of five spice powder and 1T of cumin and simmer for 90 minutes. Top up with water as necessary.
  5. Cut your cabbage into quadrants and manually break the quadrants into individual leaves. Cut the pressed tofu into large cubes, about 8 per block.
  6. Add the cabbage, fried bean curd puffs and pressed tofu cubes and simmer for about 15 minutes before turning off the heat.
  7. Before serving, soak the vermicelli in cold water for 7 minutes and then drain away the water. Bring the pot of curry to a simmer again add the vermicelli and 3T Chinese wine. Simmer for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. This dish is best served with steamed rice or egg noodles.
Ingredients

Bean Curd Puffs and Dried Vermicelli

 Notes

  • This recipe is pretty easy if you can get all the semi-prepared ingredients as they are listed. If not….
  • The spiced minced prawn a.k.a. prawn sambal is a key ingredient but unfortunately its not that easy to find in some parts of the world. You can order Yeo’s Minced Prawn in Spices from Amazon. One other option is to make your own. If you have access to a Chinese food store, buy some dried shrimp. Soak a cup of the shrimp in cold water for half an hour before mixing in half a chopped onion, 4T chili paste, 2T Oil, 1T Five Spice Powder and 1t sugar. Put the mixture in the blender for a few seconds and then finish off by frying in a pan.   
  • The other uncommon ingredient is fried bean curd (aka tofu) puffs, also known as Tau Pok in some Asian countries. If you can’t find any bean curd puffs in your local supermarket, you can make some yourself. Freeze then defrost 2 blocks of silken (i.e. not firm) tofu. Next dry and cube the resulting spongy tofu and then deep fry them as you would French fries.
  • Take note that the vermicelli to be used is the glass type (white when raw and transparent when cooked) which doesn’t get mushy even if it is cooked for quite a while. When in doubt, the ones to get are those made in Thailand.
  • For additional flavour, I often add a tin of smoked clams at step 3. Sometimes I also add some baby corn. Its a very flexible dish so experiment with any extra ingredients you fancy.
  • There is another similar style of Singapore curry known as Nonya Curry. That is a fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisine while this is a fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisine. The two should not be confused. 
 

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Red Bean and Tofu Pudding


(serves 6)
This pudding it is somewhat exotic as compared to its jello and milk pudding cousins, but is nevertheless a very simple to make dessert. The problem with using tofu for a dessert is….. well, it has no taste. But when you use tofu together with some red beans that have been stewed in syrup to form azuki paste, the result is a splendid marbled oriental style pudding.
 
Ingredients
  1. Soft Tofu (400g)
  2. Canned Azuki Bean Paste (400g)
  3. Gelatine Powder (3t)
  4. Cream (0.5 cup)

Preparation

  1. Put to boil 1 cup of water in a pot.
  2. Pour away the water the tofu is soaked in and place the tofu into the boiling water. Stir till the tofu is broken up.
  3. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in 3t of gelatine powder (which is just a type of jello powder which has no flavour) while stirring. Also add half of your azuki beans and half of your cream.
  4. Blend the whole thing lightly with a hand blender in the pot itself. I’m assuming it has an anti-splash cowl, or else do the blending in a food processor.
  5. Refrigerate uncovered for a few hours after pouring into the appropriate moulding container. If you are refrigerating overnight, after the puding has solidified, cover with plastic film pushed right down to touch the pudding.
  6. You have 3 options for containers. One way is to use a single big casserole after which you dice the pudding into cubes. Or you can choose single person-sized containers which you can serve as is, or with the pudding flipped onto a plate. To get them out of a container, suspend the container in warm water for half a minute and the pudding should plop right out.
  7. Serve topped with the remaining half of the azuki beans. Spoon on the leftover(unwhipped) cream as a final touch.  

Notes

  • Do you have no idea what Azuki Bean Paste is? Look here.
  • Please note, there are two types of plain tofu. The soft type (sometimes labled silken tofu) is what you want for this recipe. It breaks up smoothly. The hard type (which is a misnomer since it is still soft) is suitable for things like stir fry, but not this.
  • You can try replacing the cream at the end with ice cream, but retain the bean paste. Have the pudding cubed for best results in this case.
 
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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Desserts, Japanese, Recipe

 

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