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World and National Tofu Day 2021

Packages of tofu sit in a grocery cart seat, with a package of tempeh on the far left and right sides.

Show of hands, who here’s heard of tofu? Ever tried it? Like it or don’t like it? Ever heard of the national observance about it? Well, guess what? Now you have! Today’s World and National Tofu Day 2021.

According to this website, in the U.S., today’s the day of the observance. However, for those of you reading over in the U.K., your turn will be on September 1st.

Like the saying goes, the waiting is the hardest part. But no buggin’ here! Maybe now you can have twice the fun, both today and September 1st.

For those of you unfamiliar with tofu, it’s a soybean product that can come in many different versions and forms. There’s the silken tofu, like the stuff in the aseptic (or shelf safe) packages on the left and right in the picture above. Regardless of the firmness of it, those are the kinds that work best in soups, dips, and smoothies.

For stir-frying, the firm varieties like what’s in the middle in the plastic package reign supreme. There’s also medium, and I’ve even come across extra-firm variations during my sojourn in vegetarianism and veganism.

Regardless of the consistency of it, there’s a distinct flavor to it. There isn’t much of it, but the way I’d describe it, it has a fresh, nothingness to it. It’s basically a blank canvas that takes on the flavors of whatever else it’s prepared with.

On top of the stuff in the plastic and the shelf-safe juice box type packaging, there’s also other varieties like bean curd sticks (which I used in this recipe for mock ribs one time), sheets, noodles, and knots.

For those of you just joining us, I’ve talked about how I went vegetarian in high school, and that was when I tried tofu for the first time. I remember reading about it in an issue of Jump* when I was in 8th grade, and I wanted to try it sometime. It wasn’t at the store we were going to at the time, and in a lot of cases, my family felt like if that store didn’t carry it, it didn’t exist.

On top of that, I kept forgetting about it whenever we were there anyway, so it was pretty much moot in the scheme of things.

Junior year of high school, I saw that Wally World carried it, and it could be had for relatively cheap compared to some places’ asking prices for similarly-sized and packaged offerings. We got a package of it in the firm variety, and I was at a loss on what to do with it. My cooking skills weren’t really worth writing home about, at least I didn’t think so.

So instead I cut it up, and had some of it as a salad topping. To be honest, it was actually quite tasty. Now that I think about it, I may get some and have it as a salad topping for old time’s sake.

After that, I saw it on the takeout menus, and that’s what I’d get on our takeout runs (which were frequent). One of my favorites was the MaPo, with Kung Pao as the runner-up at this local restaurant we frequented for several years.

Then I learned to make my own stuff with it, and since we didn’t have a stove anymore on account of a family member getting the bug in their head where it was a fully electric stove or bust, only to find out that our house at the time was too old for it, it was in a thrifted electric wok, or the microwave.

In college, I actually wrote a paper about the history of tofu for a class. I know I still have it knocking around in my file box of college work, and the flash drive I used for school at the time as well. I just gotta find it.

Off the top of my head, I remember touching on the affordability of tofu for the working-class citizens of China, and how they all came to regard it for its’ health benefits. According to the holiday page link above, there’s references that date back to the 10th century talking about the existence of tofu in both China and Japan.

During that time, I would make stir-fries with it, particularly with the extra-firm variety, along with tofu scrambles. I also remember trying out tofu puffs in one variation I made. I’ve made smoothies, sauces, and dips with the silken stuff, some of which I may just have to revisit sometime.

I don’t get a chance to have it often, but the last time I got some, I meal-prepped it as a side dish.

While doing my research for this post and to refresh my memory, I knew that this post called for some recipes to either spark some inspiration for you readers, or to try out in honor of National and World Tofu Day.

Tofu scramble

General Tso’s tofu

Firecracker tofu

Over to you, readers. Got a favorite tofu recipe? Drop it like it’s hot in the comments, and let’s give each other some inspiration. Not a fan of tofu? No worries, it’s admittedly an acquired taste. Anyway, you’re still welcome here. Just sound off below either way, and let’s talk.

*This was a magazine that existed for like 3, maybe 4 years in the late 90s and super-early 2000s. The mention of tofu wasn’t in this issue.

 

 

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